Employment Update for Small Businesses
This month we consider the impact on claims that the removal of tribunal fees has had, and the importance of making the most of the ACAS conciliation process when facing a claim.
Don’t forget also to check your pay rates to make sure that you remain compliant with the National Minimum Wage legislation, after this month’s increases.
Please contact me if you would like to find out a bit more about any of the subjects raised in this update or if you need any help or advice.
Please forward this email to any of your contacts who might find it of benefit.
The Number of Employment Tribunal Claims Rockets
More claims as a result of the removal of tribunal fees
You may recall last year that the Supreme Court effectively forced the Government to scrap Employment Tribunal fees for claimants. At the time I predicted that this would lead to a substantial increase in claims. I am afraid that this has proved to be correct.
The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has recently published claim statistics for the last quarter of 2017, which was the first complete quarter without tribunal fees. These show a 90% increase in single claims (i.e. those brought by individuals, rather than multiple claims which tend to be brought by trade unions) compared with the same period in the previous year.
Whilst claimants no longer have to pay a fee in order to bring a tribunal claim, they are still obliged in most cases to contact ACAS first to participate in the early conciliation process. They cannot progress to tribunal before this has taken place. This provides an opportunity for ACAS to contact the employer to discuss the prospective claim and to try to settle it at that stage before it goes any further, and before too much expense is incurred. This also means that ACAS has the opportunity to explain the legalities of any claim to the claimant, and can sometimes avoid the claim progressing if and when the claimant realises that they do not have proper grounds for bringing a claim.
ACAS’s latest report shows that there was an increase in applications from claimants for early conciliation during the last quarter of 2017, and that many more did progress to tribunal (in line with the MOJ’s statistics). During the same quarter, 16% of the early conciliation cases resulted in a settlement with the employer and 25% proceeded to a tribunal claim. These figures are difficult to properly evaluate, however, as many of the cases from that period are still in progress.
The ACAS process often leads claimants to decide not to proceed – it can often highlight the stress and difficulty in making a claim, and will often put off those who do not have a strong case. So this is a genuine opportunity to head off a dispute.
If you are contacted by ACAS regarding an employee or ex-employee under early conciliation, please contact us for the best advice on how to respond.
New National Minimum and Living Wage Rates
Increases were applied from 1st April 2018
The National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates have increased as follows:
- From £7.50 to £7.83 per hour for workers aged 25 and over
- From £7.05 to £7.38 per hour for workers aged 21 to 24
- From £5.60 to £5.90 per hour for workers aged 18 to 20
- From £4.05 to £4.20 per hour for workers aged 16 and 17
- From £3.50 to £3.70 per hour for apprentices under 19 and those over 19 in their first year*
*N.B. Apprentices over 19 and who have completed at least one year are entitled to the appropriate rate for their age.