The 6 April is a day for change for employers because it is one of the Government's two annual 'common commencement dates'. We take a look at the key changes in employment law which have been introduced this April.
Pay rates increased
The annual increase in statutory payments for sick pay, maternity, paternity and adoption pay took place on 6 April. The weekly rate of statutory sick pay is now £87.55, and statutory maternity pay, ordinary and additional paternity pay, and adoption pay is now £138.18 a week. In addition, the annual increase in statutory compensation limits also took place so that a weeks' pay is now capped at £464, the maximum statutory redundancy payment increased to £13,920 and the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal claims increased to £76,574 (or a years' gross pay if lower).
Early conciliation (EC)
Other change which took place on 6 April was the introduction of ACAS conciliation before a claimant can lodge most types of employment tribunal claim. Although the EC scheme itself came into force on that date, EC compliance (i.e. the requirement to notify ACAS first before lodging a claim) will only be mandatory for claims presented on or after 6 May 2014.
Financial penalties for employers
This April also saw the introduction of the ability for employment tribunals to award financial penalties up to £5,000 on employers found to have breached employment law where the tribunal considers that the breach had 'one or more aggravating features'.
Abolition of statutory discrimination questionnaires
The repeal of statutory discrimination questionnaires also took place in relation to acts of discrimination occurring on or after 6 April 2014. A complainant may still ask questions of his or her employer and a court or tribunal can still draw adverse inferences from a refusal to respond or from evasive answers, despite the lack of any provision for a statutory questionnaire, so it is difficult to see what practical impact this change will have. ACAS has issued guidance explaining how 'informal' questions may be asked of employers.
Increase in Tribunal fees
The Government also announced an increase in tribunal fees for some claims to correct a drafting error, so that the higher Type B issue fee and hearing fee will apply to a number of claims (including equal pay) to which the lower Type A fees applied when fees were first introduced.
Recovery of sick pay
The abolition of the statutory sick pay percentage threshold scheme also took place. This scheme enabled employers to recover amounts of statutory sick pay. Transitional and saving provisions enable employers to continue recovery of statutory sick pay until 6 April 2016 for days of incapacity falling before 6 April 2014.