Top 10 UK employment law issues in 2012

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It's been another year during which businesses have had to continue to trade in a 'sluggish' economy. Unsurprisingly therefore, the majority of the employment advice provided to businesses, has centered on how they can actively manage their cost base and deliver more or the same for less.

Peter Bryne, director HR Legal Service picks his Top 10 employment law issues in 2012:

1. Redundancy: employers appear to be familiar with the process to follow, where advice is particularly being sought is in relation to "pooling" of employees for selection, amalgamation of roles, scoring criteria, how to take in account potential discriminatory factors such as disability, pregnancy and maternity leave;

2. Collective consultation: in particular around changes to terms and conditions, such as a reduction in hours, removal of certain benefits and changes to commission/bonus schemes. The proposed changes to the statutory 90 day period being reduced to 45 days, will assist employers in pushing through such changes and obtaining the benefit of the cost savings far quicker in 2013.

3. TUPE: outsourcing is often seen as a way to take out cost. We have seen an increase in companies retendering work that has been with a longstanding supplier, and in many cases bringing the work back in-house. Employers have been a lot more aggressive this year in challenging whether the awarding of the contract amounts to a service provision change.

4. Performance management: businesses are expecting more from their employees in these tough economic trading conditions. Under performers who were previously tolerated and carried, are being put under far more scrutiny.

5. Absence management: just as with performance management, businesses are more actively managing absence issues. Particular problem areas for businesses have been around work related injuries, disability issues and the vexing question of how far does an employer have to go in making adjustments to accommodate someone with a disability who is on sick leave.

6.Statutory holiday entitlement: the conflicting European and UK decisions around statutory holiday entitlement, when an employee is unable to take leave due to sickness absence, and carry over of unused leave in to the next leave year, has led to particular confusion amongst businesses. Three camps seem to have emerged. Those that have amended their policies and are sticking to the letter of the law. Those that are doing nothing and hoping that they are not challenged by their employees. Those that a taking a risk based approach and dealing with the issues on a case by case basis.

7. Maternity rights: there appears to have been an increase in employers seeking advice on an employees entitlement during maternity leave, particularly in relation to what benefits continue such as bonus, commission payments, holiday entitlement, and company car usage.

8. Age discrimination: employers no longer have the right to retire employees at a fixed compulsory retirement age. Effectively the ability to enforce retirement on the grounds of age has been abolished. This has led to an increase in enquiries in relation to management of older employees within the age discrimination boundaries.

9. Trade unions: there has been a increase in advice sought by employers concerning industrial relations issues, such as proposed strike action, pay negotiations, recognition requests and time off for trade union officials.

10. Disciplinary and grievance: in particular the interaction between progressing disciplinary matters where a grievance has been raised or the employee goes off work sick with stress.

While these issues may not come as a major surprise, the volume and intensity of advice requirements has demonstrably increased in the last 12 months and Employers are requiring an almost immediate resolution to issues - demonstrating that running an organisation in these tough times is no 'walk in the park'.

Peter Bryne, director, HR Legal Service

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