There have been many changes to the regulations and implementation of employment law during this year and more are scheduled for the next few months. The following notes summarise some of the significant amendments.

National Minimum Wage

From October 2012, the National Minimum Wage will increase to:

   21 and over   £6.19

   18-20 years   £4.98

   16-17 years   £3.68

   Apprentices (under 19 years or over 19 years in their first year of their apprenticeship).   £2.65

Qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims

With effect from 6th April 2012, the qualifying period for making an unfair dismissal claim to an employment tribunal increased from one to two years’ service. This applies to all employees employed on or after the 6th April 2012.

Employment Tribunal Fees

The Government has recently announced that from the summer of 2013, employees who put in a claim to an employment tribunal will have to pay fees in advance of the hearing.

For Level 2 claims (i.e. unfair dismissal, equal pay or discrimination) the employee will have to pay an initial fee of £250 when the claim is submitted and £950 when the hearing begins (£1,200).

For Level 1 claims (i.e. unpaid redundancy or wages) the employee will have an initial fee of £160 and £230 if the hearing takes place (£390).

An alternative is to place a claim of mediation with a judge instead of submitting a full claim. This will cost £600.

The Government has indicated that a remission on these fees will be available for those on lower incomes in line with the current civil remission system.

Pensions Auto-enrolment Scheme

From October 2012, the Pensions Auto enrolment Scheme comes into effect. The point at which employees will be eligible to be enrolled will depend on the number of employees within the organisation.

This scheme is being phased in between October 2012 and February 2018.

Employers will be required to enrol their employees into a workplace pension scheme, if they meet certain criteria:

   are not already in a pension scheme at work

   are aged 22 years or over

   are under State Pension age

   earn more than £8,105 per year (this amount will be reviewed annually)

   work in the UK.

By law, the employer must inform the employees in writing if they are being automatically enrolled into a workplace pension or not, and they must inform the employees of:

   the date of enrolment

   details of the pension scheme in which they are enrolled

   that percentage of the employees salary that will be paid into the pension

   details of how the employee can opt out of the pension scheme, if they wish.

The employer also has to:

   accept the employees request to join the workplace pension, if they have previously opted out or stopped paying (the employer must accept requests once in a 12-month period, but can choose whether or not to accept further requests)

   enrol employees back into the pension scheme at regular intervals, if they meet the eligibility criteria and are not already in a workplace pension

   pay the employees full contributions on time to the pension provider.

If you are already participating in a workplace pension, your employer has to write to you confirming that their pension meets government standards.

Employees on long-term sick leave and holidays

Following a recent tribunal case (NHS Leeds v. Larner) the Court of Appeal has ruled that employees on long-term sick leave are entitled to carry forward any accrued holiday into the next holiday year automatically, even if they have not requested it.

This also applies to employees on long term sick leave whose employment is terminated owing to long-term illness. Companies will have to pay for any accrued – but untaken – leave during the duration of the absence.

A further decision has been made by the Court of Justice of the European Union following a tribunal case (Anged v. Fasqua) that employees who become sick whilst on a scheduled holiday are entitled to take that annual leave at a later date when they are not ill.

Employers need to ensure that their absence policy is followed and the employees must still provide a medical certificate to confirm that they became ill during the holiday period.

For further support with this or any other HR issue BVNA members can call the BVNA IRS Helpline on 01822 870270


Nicky Ackerley BA(Hons)

Nicky Ackerley HR Support is owned by Nicky Ackerley who has a BA [Hons] Business Studies Degree, is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and who has been a practising HR manager for over 20 years. HR Support Consultancy has provided the BVNA's Industrial Relations Service since it began in 2002.

• VOL 27 • September 2012 • Veterinary Nursing Journal