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04 July 2012 Employment advice

Gill Reid continues to answer some tricky questions from employers regarding employment procedures and maternity leave: What do I do about bonuses during an employee's maternity leave? This is a difficult area and the answer depends on the reason for the bonus. If it is to reward work done, payment only has to be made on a pro rata basis for the weeks when the employee was at work plus the two week compulsory maternity leave period immediately after the birth. Other types of bonus - such as a loyalty bonus or a Christmas bonus - will be payable in full. What happens if I need to make a woman on maternity leave redundant? This is permitted but an employee who is at risk of redundancy while on maternity leave has the right to be…
15 June 2012 Employment advice

The rules regarding maternity leave and pay are complex and employees are increasingly knowledgeable about their rights.  In addition, the rules change on a regular basis, all of which means that it is easy for employers to get it wrong.  This month and next month, we look at some common questions employers ask and provide the answers: What happens to holiday entitlement during maternity leave? Both statutory and contractual annual leave entitlement accrue during maternity leave.  A woman cannot take holiday while on maternity leave but can take it immediately before her maternity leave starts and after it ends.  If holiday cannot be taken in the current holiday year, an employee should be allowed to carry it forward to the next leave year. Can an annual pay rise wait until an employee returns from maternity…
15 May 2012 Employment advice

Last year 71,300 claims for unauthorised deductions were brought in front of the employment tribunal, the second most common claim brought by employees. The most common examples of unlawful deductions made by employers are: Bonuses - many of the reported cases relate to the payment of bonuses.  The employment tribunals have decided that, if the amount of the unpaid bonus can be quantified, the employee can claim it as an unlawful deduction. Underpayment of commission - if the employee is paid less commission than is due, this may be an unlawful deduction. Tips - if a worker is entitled to tips (or part of a "tronc"), which are not paid, he can bring a claim. Holiday pay - a failure to pay outstanding holiday pay when the employment terminates has been held to be…
06 April 2012 Employment advice

The main change made this month was to increase the qualifying period for employees to claim unfair dismissal from one year to two years. This only applies to new employees who started work on or after 6 April, which means that it is fairly straightforward - anyone already employed before then will retain the one-year qualifying period. Employers will need to check an employee's start date carefully before dismissing him or her to establish whether they have the right to bring a claim or not. The change in the period of qualifying service also applies to the right to a written statement for the reasons for dismissal. The Government has estimated that the number of claims will drop by around 2,000 per year, saving employers around £4.7 million per year. This change was made to…
24 March 2012 Employment advice

The CBI estimates that the annual cost to British business of sick days is £13 billion, and the average worker takes seven sick days a year. Twelve per cent of sick days are estimated to be bogus by the CBI. Sickness is a sensitive issue which requires correct handling if you are to avoid any inference that you have been unfair or heavy-handed: on the other hand you cannot be expected to stand back and watch absenteeism decimate the work force and extinguish your profits. Absence through sickness costs businesses a huge amount of money and wastes management time, placing a burden on those employees who conscientiously soldier on. So what can be done? The most important thing is to have an appropriate policy, not a dusty piece of paper lingering in a filing cabinet…
03 February 2012 Employment advice

Employers can dismiss employees under one of six potentially fair reasons for dismissal: conduct, capability, redundancy, breach of a statutory enactment, some other substantial reason and retirement. However carefully these dismissals are carried out by the employer, there is always a possibility that an unfair dismissal claim will be brought either because the dismissal is not for a fair reason or because it was not procedurally fair. To circumvent this, the parties can enter into a settlement agreement which effectively waives an employee's right to take their case to an employment tribunal in exchange for a sum of money being paid to the employee.  Settlement agreements can also relate to a number of other claims. Even if the employee has less than 2 years' service, there might still be a risk in dismissing them if their circumstances…
11 January 2012 Employment advice

More than 1.3 million workers have lost their jobs during this recession and there are substantial public sector job cuts to come, as the recession continues to bite. Cutting any jobs is usually a last resort and needs to be handled sensitively and carefully as navigating the plethora of employee rights can be a minefield for any employer. Staff with more than one year's employment, may be able to claim unfair dismissal if the redundancy is not genuine or if their employer fails to follow the correct procedures - so it is vitally important to ensure that you do.  If you are at all unsure, then it is best to seek legal advice. For example, staff should be consulted in a series of meetings.  This gives them a chance to come up with suggestions for…
10 November 2011 Employment advice

Whether or not we see a repeat of last year's big freeze, it makes sense for employers to ensure that they have a policy regarding adverse weather conditions.  As an employer you need to be clear of your obligations and your employees will welcome clarity regarding what is expected of them. The position for your business will depend upon the particular terms within your employee's contracts of employment.  Key issues that should be set out include: the procedure for reporting to managers obtaining authorisation for an absence working at home the policy on pay; or the use of holiday entitlement or flexi time   Employees who are absent from work due to extreme weather or other travel disruptions are not generally entitled to be paid for lost time, however it is also important…
09 September 2011 Employment advice

When a business wants to make a change to the terms and conditions of its employees, it often goes through a process of consultation, seeking agreement to the changes. If, after the consultation period, all or some of the employees do not agree to the proposed changes, the business may be able to dismiss these employees fairly for some other substantial reason (SOSR), offering employment on new terms and conditions. In a recent case, a company asked its employees to take a 5% pay cut after a fall in the company's sales and profits. Following a company-wide consultation, only two employees refused to agree to the change. The company terminated their employment and offered new terms and conditions on the reduced pay. The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that the dismissal was fair for SOSR. The…
07 September 2011 Employment advice

A settlement agreement is the formal name given to a termination agreement between an employer and an employee. Although marked "Without Prejudice" (ie off the record), once signed the agreement becomes binding upon you and your employer. The effect of you signing a settlement agreement is that in exchange for a termination payment and any other benefits which your employer agrees to give you, you will be giving up most, if not all, of your employment-related legal rights. This means that once you have signed the agreement, you will not be able to bring any claim in respect of your employment or its termination in an Employment Tribunal, County Court or High Court. For example, you cannot bring an unfair or wrongful dismissal claim, any form of discrimination claim, any breach of contract claim or claim for…
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