Nikki Duncan
Posted on 12 Feb 2014

A Change Could Do You Good

It's the start of a new year but the government looks set to continue its review and amendment of employment law, as it proceeds with its agenda of reducing the red-tape burden on employers. There are a number of changes coming into force in the near future that could affect your business.

New TUPE Regulations published

In response to the recent consultation on proposed changes to TUPE, the government has now published the Collective Redundancies and Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (Amendment) Regulations 2013.  The Regulations will come into force on 31 January 2014, although some of the changes will not be implemented until later in the year (for example micro-business with 10 or fewer employees can consult direct with staff but only for transfers which take place after 31 July 2014).

Amongst other things, the amendments to the current legislation will allow transferees (with the agreement of the transferor) to collectively consult with transferring employees before the transfer takes place. Post-transfer changes to location will also be capable of constituting an 'ETO' (economic, technical or organisational) reason. Therefore, redundancies due to a simple change of location will not be automatically unfair.

It is hoped that these changes will more properly reflect the commercial realities of a TUPE transfer but for some businesses, the proposed changes do not go as far as they could.

You can view the Regulations by clicking on the following link: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2014/16/contents/made.

The Government has also published a useful guide to the 2006 Regulations, incorporating the recent changes made by the new 2014 Regulations, which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/tupe-a-guide-to-the-2006-regu...

Flexible Working

In a more employee-friendly move, the government is proposing to extend flexible working rights so that they apply to all employees. ACAS' response to the consultation has been published and includes the final draft Code of Practice, which provides guidance on handling requests to work flexibly in a reasonable manner. You can find the full response here: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=4105

The new regime includes measures to replace the current statutory procedure with a duty on employers to consider requests in a reasonable manner. These changes are being introduced by the Children and Families Bill, which is expected to receive Royal Assent by 21 March 2014. However, the implementation date for the extended flexible working right has not yet been confirmed.

Zero-Hours Contracts

The government has issued a consultation document on the use of zero-hours contracts, amidst fear that they are open to abuse by unscrupulous employers. Zero-hours contracts have come under increasing scrutiny with widespread media interest into their use.

Whilst recognising the advantages of flexibility, supporting company expansion and retaining workers who have skills and knowledge of the business, the consultation identifies two key concerns about the use of zero-hours contracts as exclusivity clauses and transparency. It is unlikely that the government will legislate against the use of zero-hours contracts, but it could be that exclusivity clauses are banned.

You can access the consultation document here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/zero-hours-employment-contracts

It is open for comment until 13 March 2014. We will keep you updated with the outcome.

If you would like more information in relation to any of the issues discussed in this article, please contact Nikki Duncan, a Partner in the Employment Team, at nikki.duncan@michelmores.com.