A quick round-up of recent employment law developments
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Fire and rehire – Statutory Code of Practice
The government has announced that a new Statutory Code of Practice will be published on "fire and rehire" practices used to bring about changes to employees' terms and conditions. The government has been under pressure to address the use of fire and rehire for a while and has previously said it will not legislate. This announcement follows events surrounding the mass redundancies made by P&O Ferries, which took place without prior notice or consultation.
The Code of Practice will detail how businesses must hold fair, transparent and meaningful consultations on proposed changes to employment terms and will include practical steps that employers should follow. Tribunals and courts will be required to take the code into account when considering relevant cases, including claims for unfair dismissal, and will have the power to apply an uplift of up to 25% of an employee's compensation where the employer unreasonably fails to follow the code.
We understand a draft code will be published and representations, including from trade unions, will be considered in accordance with section 204 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA), although no timescale has been given.
Digital fit notes
The Social Security (Medical Evidence) and Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/298) came into force on 6 April 2022 enabling fit notes to be issued digitally.
Given the significant shift to virtual GP consultations since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been increasing demand for fit notes to be provided in digital form. The new regulations prescribe a new form of fit note, which will be used in parallel with the existing version of the form. The regulations remove the requirement for the fit note to be signed in ink and the new form of fit note no longer contains a signature box.
Employment tribunals road map
The presidents of the Employment Tribunals in England and Wales and in Scotland have published a new ‘road map’ for employment tribunal proceedings in 2022/23. The road map indicates that preliminary hearings will continue to default to video, and that this is likely to become permanent. However, the presidents wish to reduce the reliance on video, and intend to move towards greater use of in-person hearings, especially for final hearings of standard track and open track claims.
The majority of hearings across Great Britain are still taking place on a fully remote basis, and, in some parts of the country, over 90% of hearings are still by video. The presidents state that they want to bring that percentage down. However, they accept that, in some cases, a video hearing reflects the preferences of the parties and their representatives, and can be less costly and less disruptive to the lives of those participating.
Changes to immigration rules
The government has announced changes to the UK immigration rules. Key changes include the introduction of several new entry routes, including:
Global Business Mobility route. There are five new routes for businesses based overseas who wish to establish a presence in the UK.
High Potential Individual route. This route is for graduates of top global universities to come to work in the UK without a job offer.
Scale-up route. This route is for migrants with a job offer from a qualifying “Scale-up business” i.e. with an annualised growth of 20% or more in terms of turnover or staffing for a three-year period.
Representative of an Overseas Business route.
Skilled Worker route.
This year's compensation limit increases are:
A week's pay (basic award / redundancy payment) - £571 (up from £544)
Maximum compensatory award - £93,878 (up from £89,493)
The new limits apply to dismissals occurring on or after 6 April 2022.
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Susannah is a professional support lawyer assisting the lawyers in the employment team.