Thank you to those who joined us yesterday for our first HR Informed: Coffee and Catch-up webinar, we hope you found the 30-minute session informative.
The session looked at recent updates and topical matters in the world of employment law, including workplace culture, changes introduced in April, trends in Tribunal claims and National Stress Awareness Month. Please see below for more information and links.
April is typically a month in which we see a number of changes in employment law and, in particular, National Minimum Wage and Employment Tribunal rates. The increase in Employment Tribunal rates is one of the largest we’ve seen in recent years with the statutory cap for ordinary unfair dismissal exceeding £100,000 for the first time, this being a significant increase of 12% from the previous year. Of course, some unfair dismissal claims, such as whistleblowing, are not subject to the statutory cap. It’s important for employers to be aware of the potential financial consequences, for example, if you are proposing to dismiss someone or you’re having settlement discussions.
|Ordinary Unfair Dismissal (Lower of 12 months pay or statutory cap)|
|Statutory Redundancy Pay (SRP)|
|Vento Bands (for injury to feelings awards)|
|Lower||£990 – £9,900||£1,100 – £11,200|
|Middle||£9,900 – £29,600||£11,200 – £33,700|
|Top||£29,600 – £49,300||£33,700 – £56,200|
As a team, we have seen an increase in the employees with less than 2 years’ service (including in their probationary period) pursuing claims for discrimination and whistleblowing. However, the Employment Tribunal system remains under pressure with the case load remaining at a record high, with approximately 600 – 700 claims being presented each week. This inevitably creates long waiting times and, from our experience, a multi-day hearing tends to take 2 years to deal with – from presentation of the claim up to the final hearing.
In the press there has also been a number of large organisations dealing with allegations of bullying and harassment. This highlights how important it is for your organisation to have the right culture, to have the correct policies and procedures in place to ensure a fair working environment and that staff are appropriately trained on those policies and procedures. The new Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill has had its first reading in the House of Lords. The Bill aims to introduce a positive obligation on employers to prevent harassment in the workplace by employees and third parties. Given the current debates, it is highly likely that this Bill will become legislation in due course. We understand that if the Bill becomes legislation, this will be supported by a statutory code of practice and guidance on sexual harassment and harassment in the workplace, and that a failure to apply the statutory code will attract an uplift of up to 25% (similar to the ACAS code of practice for disciplinary and grievances).
Organisations, therefore, have an opportunity to take pro-active steps to review their policies and procedures to ensure that they’re well equipped to deal with future changes to the law. Ensuring you have the right culture is so important for a multitude of reasons; as it minimises the risks of claims and associated negative publicity, it increases productivity, and it also assists in recruitment and retention – which is particularly relevant in the current challenging market.
National Stress Awareness Month
National Stress Awareness Month has been held every April since 1992. It is a great opportunity for an open conversation on the impact of stress by dedicating time to remove the guilt, shame, and stigma around mental health.
Some key statistics have been released in recent weeks highlighting the impact stress and mental health are having on the workplace:
- Statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), covering the 2021/22 period, show of the 1.8 million workers suffering from a work-related illness, 914,000 were stress, depression or anxiety. Over half of working days are lost due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety (17 million). Certainly, something we see in our practice dealing with a range of employers nationally.
- A report by Deloitte estimates that the total annual cost of poor mental health to employers has increased by 25% since 2019, costing UK employers up to £56 billion a year.
- The law requires all employers to prevent work related stress to support good mental health in the workplace.
- Employers can also face significant liability for stress at work cases.
- HSE- have launched a Working Minds campaign which brings together a range of tools and support to help businesses and workers understand the best ways to prevent work-related stress and encourage good mental health.
- HSE have good resources regarding risk assessments and managing stress from a H&S perspective. They also have a Talking Toolkit which you may find useful: Stress and mental health at work – HSE Talking Toolkit: Preventing work-related stress (hse.gov.uk)
It must be remembered that it is possible for a mental health condition to amount to disability under the Equality Act, and there are a number of cases where this is the case. When dealing with employees who are absent from work due to their mental health, there is no one size fits all approach, and each case should be looked at individually and where necessary with the assistance of Occupational Health. ACAS have recently published new guidance on making reasonable adjustments, specifically for those where the issue is mental health related.
The next session will be held on Zoom at 10am on Tuesday 11 July. Please contact Laura Davidson to sign up to receive full details of this and our future events.
This is only intended to be a summary and not specific legal advice. If you would like further information or advice, please do contact a member of our team.