the latest briefs.....
Check here for the very latest news on all employment issues…
Latest Brief - Week Ending 6 December 2013
When is it fair to dismiss for ill health?
Employers are often faced with the difficult question of just when is it fair to dismiss an employee who is absent on grounds of ill-health?
In the recent case of BS v Dundee City Council, the Scottish Court of Session has provided useful guidance on the questions an employer should consider before taking the final decision. The key question is whether a reasonable employer would have waited longer before taking the decision to dismiss.
Specifically, the main points for employers to consider are:
1. Could the employer reasonably be expected to wait any longer? If so, how much longer? The size of the business will be relevant to this question, as will the extent to which the employee is still receiving sick pay and how far the employer is able to cover the absence with temporary staff;
2. The extent of the consultation with the employee about the absence and potential consequences of it, whether their views have been taken into account, and balancing this against the professional medical opinion;
3. Has the employer taken reasonable steps to understand the nature of the medical condition and the likely prognosis?
Ultimately, any decision to dismiss needs to be shown to be reasonable in all of the circumstances, but this case gives a useful steer of the key issues to take into account.
New System of Shared Parental Leave
In the spirit of seeking opinions before bringing in new legislation, the government has recently been through a period of consultation on proposals to introduce a new system of shared parental leave. Its response to that consultation has now been published.
Under the new rules, which won't apply until 2015, mothers and their partners will be able to take a total of 52 weeks of parental leave between them, in order to care for their new child. They will also be entitled to share up to 39 weeks of parental pay.
Both mother and father will be able to take the leave at the same time if they wish, or one can take the balance of the leave when the other returns to work. Formal notification will have to be given to the employer of the employees' intention to take shared parental leave and how they intend to share that leave. To try to make the new system more manageable for employers, the government has said that employees will only be able to change their plans twice, once they have notified their employer of the dates they intend to take their leave.
Employers will understandably be wary of further changes to the family friendly legislation, but the government is set on making leave more flexible and relevant to the modern family, so communication with employees will be key to effectively planning for the absence.
Latest Brief - Week Ending 29 November 2013
Is Zero the Hero after all?
Following the negative publicity that zero hour contracts have had recently, it now seems that zero hours workers are genuinely happier than other employees. Well, that's what a recent survey undertaken by the CIPD seems to confirm.
It is believed that there are one million people employed on zero hour contracts (which works out to be 3.1% of the UK workforce). Most of those employed on a zero hours contract were as satisfied with their job as the average UK employee, and preferred the flexibility and work-life balance.
Given those statistics, it would seem that employers should not be put off from entering into this type of arrangement, providing that there are clear business reasons for doing so. However, it is advisable to undertake regular reviews to ensure that they remain appropriate for the business and/or role.
Used in the right way, these arrangements benefit both the worker and the employer. They allow employers to respond quicker and better to the demands of their business, which in the current economic climate can be the difference between survival or failure.
The key to avoiding poor practice, according to the CIPD, is to ensure that organisations do not restrict staff from working for another employer when they have no shifts available, and to ensure pay parity with permanent employees doing the same job.
Christian Beliefs v Gay Rights
This is round three of the long running battle between Christian beliefs and gay rights. Mr & Mrs Bull who owned a guest house in Cornwall, had a strict policy that only married couples could stay in rooms with double beds.
The Supreme Court held that Mr & Mrs Bull did directly and indirectly discriminate against the civil partners (Hall & Preddy) by refusing to allow them to share a double bed on the basis that they were not a heterosexual married couple.
The couple have previously lost fights in both the County Court and Court of Appeal. In 2011, the County Court ordered them to pay £3,600 to Mr Hall and Mr Preddy.
However, this was not a unanimous decision but rather a split decision 3-2. Lady Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court, said: "Sexual orientation is a core component of a person's identity which requires fulfilment through relationships with others of the same orientation."