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Employment Law: legislation update

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There are a number of legislation updates on the horizon, which have been summarised below.  

Quarantine restrictions amended

It has been announced that from 15 December 2020, passengers arriving into England from countries not featured on the government's travel corridor list will have the option to take a test after five days of self-isolation, with a negative result releasing them from the need to isolate further.

Passengers will need to pay for the test which may be booked prior to arriving. They can then take a test on or after day 5 of the isolation period either at home or at a private provider’s testing site, and on receipt of a negative result, can immediately finish self-isolating and return to work. 

Employees who do not test will continue to have to self-isolate for 14 days and whilst they may be able to work from home unlike other self-isolation situations do not qualify for sick pay.  

Minimum wage rates from April 2021

New minimum wage rates will apply from 1 April 2021.

In addition, the age at which workers qualify for the National Living Wage will reduce to 23 from its current 25. 

  • Aged 25 and above the hourly rate of £8.72 will increase to £8.91 which is a 2.2% raise
  • Aged 23-24 the hourly rate of £8.20 will also increase to £8.91 which is 8.7% raise
  • Aged 21-22 the hourly rate of £8.20 will increase to £8.36 which is a 2.0% raise
  • Aged 18-20 the hourly rate of £6.45 will increase to £6.56 which is a 1.7% raise
  • Aged 16-17 the hourly rate of £4.55 will increase to £4.62 which is a 1.5% raise
  • The apprentice rate of £4.15 will increase to £4.30 which is a 3.6% raise

The daily accommodation offset rate will increase by 2% - from £8.20 to £8.36.

Changes to disclosure of criminal convictions

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) has published new guidance which will apply from 28 November 2020. 

Under the new regime, there will no longer be a requirement for youth cautions, reprimands and warnings to be automatically disclosed on standard and enhanced DBS certificates. In addition, the "multiple conviction" rule, which requires the automatic disclosure of all convictions where an individual has more than one conviction (regardless of the nature of the offence or sentence), will be removed. However, if the police consider that it is relevant to the workforce where the individual intends to work it may still include information relating to a protected caution or conviction on an enhanced DBS certificate.

ACAS Conciliation extended to 6 weeks

The Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Early Conciliation: Exemptions and Rules of Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 came into force last month but the provisions relating to ACAS conciliation periods being extended by default to 6 weeks take effect from 1 December 2020.

The Regulations introduced a variety of different measures to help the Employment Tribunal meet the increased demands they are facing with a backlog of claims as featured in previous alerts. 

The changes recognise that the Early Conciliation process can be valuable as it gives the parties an opportunity to settle claims at an early stage saving both the cost and time of a case proceeding to a full hearing at the Employment Tribunal. In this respect the standard one-month conciliation period is being extended to six weeks. The time spent in conciliation will still extend the time limit within which the claim has to be submitted so it may be that a claim will be brought later than has been previously expected.

It should also be noted that the strict rules regarding references to the Early Conciliation number being accurately recorded in the claim form will be relaxed. The Tribunals will also be allowed greater flexibility around accepting claims where there are other errors in relation to the names of the parties. Whilst this may not reduce the number of claims it will allow Employment Judges more opportunity to focus on substantive matters rather than technical formalities.

In respect of other changes, it has been made easier for two or more claimants to make their claim on the same ET1 form, if their claims give rise to related issues of fact or law. Similarly, respondents will be able to use the same ET3 form reducing the administrative burdens for both the Tribunal and its users. 

Also, a reminder that in relation to the publication of Employment Tribunal judgments online there is an important change in that this will no longer apply to judgments for withdrawn and dismissed claims. It had been a requirement that every judgment was published even where the claim had been settled. This amendment will be welcomed by employers and claimants who may not have wished to have their names published on the public website even where little detail of the claim was included. Obviously, it will also reduce the administrative burden for the Tribunal too. 

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