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Keeping One Step Ahead of Your Employment Law Obligations

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Keeping One Step Ahead of Your Employment Law Obligations

February 18
13:09 2015

Alison Weatherhead 2

With frequent changes to employment law, Alison Weatherhead sets out some of the key issues managers should consider…




Health & safety and immigration: Is the business compliant? The link between these two may not at first be obvious, but breach of either regime comes with significant financial and reputational risks. Both must be strictly adhered to, with senior officers within the business being held to account.

While the HSE obligation will be particular to the industry in which you operate, the UK Visas and Immigration, the new name for the UKBA regime, operate broadly the same for all. If a business is in breach of its immigration obligations it faces fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker and/or a prison sentence, with additional obligations for businesses that are also licensed sponsors.

Holidays: How has this been dealt with to date? If employees work overtime, receive commission, bonuses or allowances, check how holiday pay is being and has been calculated. Given decisions at the end of last year in the UK and Europe, where employees have only been receiving basic pay for holidays, further sums will be due where they usually receive additional payments, such as commission, overtime and allowances. Employees should receive ‘normal remuneration’ when they are on holiday, with claims for underpaid holidays where this hasn’t been happening.

Zero hours contracts: If you use such contracts, when and how do you use them? We expect legislation in the coming months targeting exclusivity clauses, which prevent workers from working for other organisations, either entirely or without consent.

Whistleblowing: Has the business kept up with changes in whistleblowing law and how does it respond when someone makes a ‘protected disclosure’? Health and safety and criminal activity (amongst others) are covered by the whistleblowing rules and it makes good commercial sense to ensure people who do speak up do not suffer. Whistleblowing-related claims are expensive for employers, as the dismissal of an employee is automatically unfair if the reason, or principal reason, is that they have made a ‘protected disclosure’. There is no financial cap on compensation in such claims and no requirement for a minimum period of service, which means employees may well try to bring themselves within the protection. A robust defence is, therefore, required.

Flexible working: All employees with 26 weeks’ service now have the right to request a flexible working arrangement. Employers are not obliged to accept such requests, but with the economy picking up and more organisations looking at ways to retain and reward employees, this could become a new way to win or lose employee loyalty.

Shared Parental Leave: This comes into force for babies born from 5th April this year. The new scheme will allow for up to 50 weeks of shared parental leave, with 37 weeks of pay. Parents will be able to apply to take leave at the same time as each other or separately. It can be taken in blocks or spread over the period. Ultimately, who will take the leave and when it will be taken will be subject to agreement between each parent and his/her individual employer.  Employers are not obliged to agree to the pattern proposed by their employees; the default position will be that leave is taken in an uninterrupted block on a start date of the employee’s choice.

Alison Weatherhead is an employment lawyer with Maclay Murray & Spens LLP. For more information on employment law, visit


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Catering Scotland

Catering Scotland

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