Employment law horizon scan

This article takes a quick look at some interesting employment law developments on the horizon.

18 June 2015

There are many employment law changes currently on the horizon. This article takes a quick look at some interesting developments that may have an impact on your organisation.

Employment tribunal to be devolved to Scottish Parliament
The Scotland Bill was published by the UK government in January 2015.  The Bill aims to give more powers to the Scottish Parliament by implementing the recommendations of the Smith Commission, published in November 2014 following the independence referendum.

The proposed devolution of the administration and management of Scottish employment tribunals is the most significant proposal from an employment law perspective. While the intention is that substantive employment law will broadly remain the same north and south of the border, there has been widespread speculation that the devolution of the tribunal system could result in a change to the tribunal fee regime in Scotland.

The various tribunals affected by the Bill may be devolved in tranches. The process is due to complete by 2023.  Therefore we may have a significant wait before we see any changes. However, given that there is already a split between the employment tribunal service in Scotland and England & Wales, it could prove to be an easier tribunal to separate and may therefore be one of the first to be devolved.

Equality Act amended
An amendment to the Equality Act 2010 will come into force on 1 October 2015.  This will have the effect of limiting the employment tribunals' power to make recommendations in successful discrimination cases which impact the wider workplace.

Fit for work
The ‘Fit for Work’ service is being rolled out nationwide on a phased basis and is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2015.  The service will give employers and GPs the opportunity to refer employees for a state-funded occupational health assessment if they have been off sick for 4 weeks or more.  A return to work plan will be drawn up based on the findings of the initial assessment aimed at helping employees get back to work and providing guidance to employers on how they can facilitate a return.

Holiday pay
Holiday pay continues to be a hot topic in employment law. Following the review by the holiday pay ‘taskforce’ the Deduction from Wages (Limitation) Regulations 2014 have been published. The regulations are designed to limit the impact on employers of the EAT's recent decision in Bear Scotland Ltd and others v Fulton and others.  The regulations impose a two-year backstop on most unlawful deductions from wages claims, including claims for holiday pay. This backstop period will apply to claims presented on or after 1 July 2015. As such, we may see a flurry of holiday pay claims being raised before the end of June by employees wishing to claim historic underpayments. We will be providing a further update on the current law regarding holiday pay entitlements.