Welcome to February’s edition of our employment law newsletter, keeping you up to date with forthcoming changes to legislation and case developments.
Increase to tribunal rates
As of 1st February 2012 the following limits apply
Limit on a week’s pay £430 (old rate £400)
Unfair Dismissal basic award/max stat redundancy payment £12,900 (old rate £12,000)
Maximum compensatory award £72,300 (old rate £68,400)
Tribunal statistics published for July to September 2011
The Tribunals Service has published quarterly statistics for 1 July to 30 September 2011 in relation to all types of tribunals (including employment tribunals). The figures show, compared to the same quarter in 2010, a 30% decrease in overall claims to employment tribunals, with a slight decrease in single claims and a 41% decrease in multiple claims.
Unfair dismissal qualifying period: increase to two years will only affect new joiners
On 6 April 2012 the qualifying period for unfair dismissal will increase from one to two years. When the government announced this change on 3 October 2011 it gave no indication how it would affect existing employees (who may already have qualified for unfair dismissal rights).
Although there has been no formal announcement, there are suggestions that the new two-year qualifying period will only apply to employees whose employment begins on or after 6 April 2012. Those who are already in employment before that date will retain the current one-year qualifying period. Watch this space and we will confirm when a definite decision has been announced.
CASE DEVELOPMENTS IN JANUARY
Preparing to compete: the duty of fidelity and fiduciary duties
In Customer Systems plc v Ranson the High Court has found that two former employees breached their implied duty of fidelity when they set up a company in competition with their former employer and they also breached fiduciary duties.
The High Court considered the position of an employee who learns of confidential matters from a potential new employer relating to competition with the existing employer and agreed with one of the judges in the case of Tullet that such an employee would be in breach of confidence to that new employer if they passed the information to their existing employer. An employee should be able to seek new employment without coming under a duty to inform their existing employer of what they have learnt in confidence when doing so. However, each case would depend on its particular facts including the express terms of the contract between the parties.
Requirement to sign opt-out for overtime working not a detriment
In the case of Arriva London Aouth v Niculaou the EAT has held that a requirement by an employer for an employee to sign an opt-out agreement in order to work overtime was reasonable and necessary to ensure the employer complied with its duty under regulation 4(2) of the Working Time Regulations 1998 to take reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the 48-hour week. The requirement to opt-out was not designed to penalise the employee, and could not be considered to be a detriment contrary to section 45A of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
This decision will be welcomed by employers who may have been concerned by their exposure to criminal sanctions in respect of employees wishing to work overtime but not agreeing to opt out of the 48-hour working week.
If you require any further clarification in relation to the above developments, or if you need any other assistance then please do not hesitate to contact our team of specialist employment solicitors on 0161 832 3304:
Shiva Shadi Partner
Anna Bunting Partner
Claire Smith Associate Solicitor