News

The Government has now responded to its consultation on the use of zero-hours contracts. This states that the Government will ban the use of exclusivity clauses and increase the availability of information on zero-hours contracts for employees. The Government will also work with unions and business to develop a best practice code of conduct aimed at employers who wish to use zero-hours contracts.

The ban on exclusivity clauses will form part of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill. The Government states that 83% of the responses to the consultation were in favour of the ban. The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has also announced that the Government will:

  • issue a further consultation on how to prevent ‘rogue employers’ evading the exclusivity ban by, for example, offering one-hour fixed contracts
  • work with business representatives and unions to develop a code of practice on the fair use of zero-hours contracts by the end of 2014, and
  • work with stakeholders to review existing guidance and improve information available to employees and employers on using these contracts.

The Government response is in the unusual form of a statement of the consultation’s outcome and a link to a press release. This may be partly due to the extremely high number of responses, over 36,000, of which 35,000 were as a result of a campaign run by 38 Degrees. By way of contrast, a consultation on what could be said to be a more controversial topic – the introduction of employment tribunal and EAT fees ­– got fewer than 150 responses.

 

The High Court has dismissed a request for a judicial review challenging the newly introduced cap of one year’s salary in compensation for unfair dismissal.

The cap came into force on 29 July last year under the Unfair Dismissal (Variation of the Limit of Compensatory Award) Order 2013. Previously individuals could claim for three years’ salary to a maximum of £74,200 in compensation.

Londonemployment firm Compromise Agreements sought the review on the cap this week.

Barrister Alex Monaco (pictured), founder of Compromise Agreements, said: ‘We are looking at options and looking at appealing it.’ He said the firm is seeking pro bono help from lawyers to fight the ruling.

Monacosaid the cap on compensation will disproportionately affect older people, as they are most likely to receive more than a year’s salary in compensation due to difficulty in finding another job.

Trade union Unison is also challenging a High Court ruling in February rejecting a request for a judicial review of the government’s decision to introduce tribunal fees.

The number of employment tribunal claims has dropped sharply since the fees were introduced, with a 79% fall in the final quarter of last year compared with the same period in 2012.

We wish him well in any appeal to reverse what is clearly bad law. Why shoud the financial burden on employers be lessened just to help them during a recession especially when the economy is now doing so well?

 

Does a commissioning mother in a surrogacy arrangement fall within the scope of the Pregnant Workers Directive, particularly where she has breastfed the child following birth?

No, according to the opinion of the CJEU in Case C 167/12 CD v ST.

The Claimant, Ms D, and her partner had a child via a surrogate mother. The Claimant started mothering and breastfeeding the child within an hour of the birth. The couple were granted a parental order. The Claimant lodged a claim with the Employment Tribunal after being denied paid maternity and adoption leave by her employer on the grounds that she did not give birth to or adopt the child.

Following a preliminary reference by the Employment Judge, Advocate-General Kokott suggested the Court should find that a commissioning mother has the right to receive maternity leave under the Directive, even when she does not breastfeed the child.

However, the Court has held that although maternity leave is intended to protect the special relationship between a woman and her child, the grant of maternity leave pursuant to the Directive presupposes that a worker has actually been pregnant and given birth to a child.

The Court also found that an employer’s refusal to provide maternity leave to a commissioning mother does not constitute discrimination on the grounds of sex contrary to the Equal Treatment Directive.

Since the introduction of Tribunal Fees of circa £1200 per case in July 2013, it has since been reported that the volume of unfair dismissal claims issued at Tribunal has fallen by as much as 55%. Frankly, given our experience on the ground, we have found that people are simply put off by the prospect of having to pay such fees such that they decide not to pursue good claims at all. So much for access to justice. Let’s hope the Government re-think this inherently unfair policy. I am sure they will be the first to admit that  55% of Claimant’s can’t all have weak or spurious claims. If the policy was introduced to save money, then I strongly doubt the extra fee revenue from the falling numbers of claims has even come close to covering the admin costs of setting up the new system to deal with costs and remissions. With that level of claim reduction, it must follow there will be significant redundancies of admin staff in the Tribunal Service, Employment Judges and Employment Solicitors alike.

PRESS RELEASE

14 January 2014

Most comprehensive legal comparison website is launched

A new, user friendly ’find and rate’ comparison website for legal firms has launched in theUK.

RatedSolicitors.com is a one-stop portal where firms can create a detailed online profile for their business and their individual solicitors – an online industry first.

Enabling customers to find, rate and review firms and their legal representatives, the site is an invaluable resource for solicitors facing increasingly tough market challenges following changes in the legal sector. With the introduction of Alternative Business Structures (where non-lawyers can own law firms), reforms to legal aid and the ban on referral fees, RatedSolicitors.com provides a different marketing opportunity, allowing firms to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Dean Morris, creator of RatedSolicitors.com and a practising solicitor himself, explains: “RatedSolicitors.com is the latest and most comprehensive legal rate and review portal. Members of the public are able to search for firms and solicitors according to their specialism and location. This enables them to make an informed choice based on firm and individuals’ profiles, reviews and ratings.”

Joining RatedSolicitors.com couldn’t be easier. The majority ofUKfirms have already been provided with a basic listing which they can ‘claim’ with a simple click. From there a listing can be upgraded to include enhanced firm and individual solicitor profiles. Leeds-based Blacks Solicitors LLP, a leading firm in the North, has already taken advantage of the opportunity to sign up for a premium account to showcase its firm and fee-earners.

Chris Allen, managing partner at Blacks, says: “There is definitely a gap on the market for a service like this. Consumer buying behaviours are changing and the legal profession needs to stay ahead of this. Like anything, consumers head straight to the internet to research a product for service and the same applies to seeking legal advice. We’ve placed a lot of emphasis on delivering high-quality customer care. So it will be a great resource for potential customers to find what they’re looking for.”

Legal practitioners across theUKare encouraged to enhance their reputation and grow their business by becoming members of RatedSolicitors.com. The website offers a host of services enabling solicitors to give a detailed insight into their business and areas of specialism to potential customers. Innovative features include ‘Meet the Team’ and an opportunity to add firm logos and fee earner profiles. Members will also have the opportunity to add blog posts, make law guide contributions and to respond to both user questions and to ratings left for their firm or individual fee earners – ultimately improving their accessibility to potential clients.

The launch of RatedSolicitors.com also coincides with advice from the Legal Ombudsman that the public should select their lawyer based on word of mouth or personal recommendations. The Solicitors Regulation Authority has also stressed the importance of empowering consumers with information to assist them in choosing the right solicitor – RatedSolicitors.com does precisely this.

Dean Morris concludes: “Law firms risk being left behind in an increasingly competitive legal market if they don’t promote themselves and their brand. There is no other legal rate and review website quite like RatedSolcitors.com. It provides a platform to showcase both firms and individual solicitors and offers a high level of detail. I urge both fee earners and firms to become premium members and benefit from personalised online exposure and the opportunity to develop client leads.”

Solicitors, law firms and other legal service providers interested in joining RatedSolicitors.com, should visit www.ratedsolicitors.com for more information about membership levels ranging from basic (at no cost) to premium memberships starting at £75 per month plus vat.

Notes

RatedSolicitors.com is a brand new, easy to use, consumer website allowing members of the public to search for solicitors and see how others have rated them.

It includes being able to find a solicitor by location, specialism and rating plus the facility to ask for a quote and seek legal advice. Consumers can also rate a solicitor themselves for anyone to view.

For solicitors, the website allows them to bring reviews from other websites and post blogs. Membership levels range from basic to platinum. Depending on the packages solicitors can add logos, photos, ’Meet the team’ profiles and much more.

Useful links
Rated Solicitors – www.ratedsolicitors.com

Twitter: @RatedSolicitors

Google+: https://plus.google.com/113360072343045710940/about

Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/company/ratedsolicitors-com

Pictures
For high resolution copies of these images, please contact pics@redmarlin.co.uk or call 01926 832395

RatedSolicitors.com is a one-stop portal where firms can create a detailed online profile for their business and their individual solicitors – an online industry first.

 

PR contact
Piers Roache
Red Marlin
piers@redmarlin.co.uk
T 01926 832395

Ref: 1244/140114

The compensatory award in now limited in most types of unfair dismissal cases at 52 weeks’ pay or £74,200, whichever is the lower. The new limit applies to dismissals where the effective date of termination falls after Monday 29th July 2013.

 

A number of measures contained in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (ERRA) come into force today (25 June). These include changes to ‘whistleblowing’ provisions, a new exemption from the qualifying period of employment for political opinion dismissals, and the abolition of the Agricultural Wages Board.

Measures brought into force on 25 June by the S.103 ERRAcommencement provisions include:

  • S.12: changes to EAT composition
  • S.13: no qualifying period of employment where reason for dismissal is employee’s political opinions or affiliation
  • S.15: power to change maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal – see our news story of 13 June for more on the draft Unfair Dismissal (Variation of the Limit of Compensatory Award) Order 2013
  • S.17: disclosures not protected unless believed to be made in public interest
  • S.18: power to reduce compensation where protected disclosure not made in good faith
  • S.20: extension of meaning of ‘worker’ for protected disclosure claims
  • S.21: changes to deposit and costs orders
  • S.22: changes to timing and rounding of annual adjustment of statutory limits
  • S.64: changes to Equality and Human Rights Commission, and
  • S.97: amends S.9(5) of Equality Act 2010 to compel, rather than permit, the Government to include ‘caste’ within definition of protected characteristic of ‘race’.

Also coming into force today by virtue of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (Commencement No.1, Transitional Provisions and Savings) Order 2013 SI 2013/1455 are:

  • S.19, which protects workers who have made a protected disclosure from detriment by a co-worker or agent of the employer, and
  • S.72(1), which abolishes the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) for England and Wales and makes consequential repeals and revocations relating to the establishment and structure of the AWB and the setting of wages and other terms and conditions of workers employed in agriculture under the Agricultural Wages Act 1948. Note, however, that the current Agricultural Wages (England and Wales) Order 2012, which sets out the applicable agricultural minimum wage as well as the minimum basic and overtime rates and other terms and conditions that apply specifically to agricultural workers, will remain in force until October 2013.

Is it reasonable to dismiss an employee at the behest of a third party, without considering whether the request of the Third Party is justified?

No, says the EAT in Bancroft v Interserve.

Many employers seek to rely upon third party pressure without further ado. This is a warning to employers that they must make all due and proper enquiry as to the circumstances giving rise to the third party pressure and if necessary, to consider whether there is anything that they can do to get the third party to change their minds thus allowing the employee to resume work without dismissing. If the third party will not be swayed, the employer is duty bound to seek alternative employment for the employee before moving to dismissal.

Dean Morris