Employment Law Update

Employers and employees should note recent changes which have now come into force.

Requesting flexible working – The potential for flexible working is becoming increasingly important and from 30 June 2014, important changes have been implemented regarding the right to apply for flexible working hours.
Before 30 June 2014 the right to request flexible working applied only to parents of children under the age of 17 (or 18 if the child was disabled) and certain carers. The right to request flexible working has now been extended to all employees subject to a 26-week eligibility period i.e. employees must have served 26 weeks of continuous employment at the date the application for flexible working is made.

Prior to 30 June 2014, a strict procedure and timetable had to be followed if a request was made.  However, now employers are obliged to deal with such requests in a reasonable manner and within 3 months.  Employers must now have regard to the ACAS Code of Practice and guidance in dealing with requests to work flexibly.  There is no longer a right of appeal against the decision following a flexible working request, but ACAS guidelines recommend that any appeals be considered as good practice.

Early ConciliationFrom 6 May 2014, anyone intending to make a claim to the employment tribunal is now obliged to follow the Early Conciliation procedure.   ACAS must be notified of the intention to bring an employment tribunal claim, a conciliator will then be appointed to attempt a settlement between the two parties to the dispute.   There is no obligation on the parties to engage further in the conciliation process and if there is no engagement in the process by either one of the parties, a certificate is issued and the prospective Claimant may proceed to file his/her tribunal claim.  Note that there is also provision for employers to start the conciliation process by giving notice to ACAS.

Should the parties engage in the conciliation process and should the matter not be resolved after a one-month Early Conciliation period, the tribunal claim may then be filed in the normal way following the issuing of the appropriate certificate.  It should be noted that the limitation period for bringing the tribunal claim is automatically stayed or frozen during the period set aside for the Early Conciliation process, and continues to run after the end of the Early Conciliation period i.e. if the parties do not engage at all in the conciliation process or if they fail to settle the matter between them after one month has elapsed.

This process is an opportunity for the parties to a dispute to resolve their differences with the assistance of conciliation experts, before the matter reaches the employment tribunal when costs for both parties inevitably start to increase.

Any employer or employee requiring further information on any of the above should contact Geoff Ford at our Paignton office for a no-obligation free initial consultation.