UK: Disability discrimination – need to consider possible link between misconduct and an employee’s disability before deciding disciplinary action

When disciplining a disabled employee, employers need to consider carefully whether they should obtain medical evidence on any possible link between the employee’s actions and their disability.

The Court of Appeal has upheld a tribunal ruling that an employer was liable for discrimination arising from disability where it dismissed a teacher with cystic fibrosis for showing an 18-rated film to younger children, despite the employer having reasonably concluded on the evidence available that there was no connection between the employee’s misconduct and his disability (City of York Council v Grosset). The employee accepted that he had made an error of judgment but contended that this was due to the high levels of stress he was suffering, caused by the effect of increased work demands on his disability. The potential link had been mentioned by the employee, but the medical evidence available to the employer at the time of dismissal did not suggest a causal link.  However,  medical evidence available by the time of the tribunal hearing clearly established that link.

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Japan: Differing Conditions Between Permanent and Fixed Term Employees

On 14 September 2017, the Tokyo District Court interpreted and applied the meaning of “unreasonable differences” to the benefits enjoyed by permanent and fixed term employees at Japan Post. The decision provides guidance on which benefits are exclusively available to permanent employees and which benefits, when not provided to both categories of employees equally, will result in a breach of the Labour Contract Act. This decision is of particular significance at the moment as employers are currently expecting many long term fixed term employees applying to become permanent employees. This ruling, however, stipulates that companies will no longer be able to provide fewer benefits to fixed term employees.

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UK: April 2018 changes to statutory benefits, tribunal compensation, minimum wage

From 6 April 2018, the cap on the unfair dismissal compensatory award increases from £80,541 to £83,682 and the cap on weekly pay (used to calculate the unfair dismissal basic award and statutory redundancy pay) increases from £489 to £508. This gives a maximum unfair dismissal award of £98,922. Note that since 29 July 2013 there has been an additional cap on the compensatory award of 12 months’ pay.

The bands for injury to feelings awards have also been increased for claims presented on or after 6 April 2018;  the lowest band starts at £900, the middle band at £8,600, and the highest band starts at £25,700 with a cap of £42,900 (save in exceptional cases).

From 6 April 2018 the weekly rate of statutory sick pay increases to £92.05 per week (from £89.35) and from 1 April 2018 the weekly flat rate of statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay increases to £145.18 per week (from £140.98).

The national minimum wage rates increases from 1 April 2018. Workers of 25 years and older will be entitled to be paid a minimum national living wage of £7.83 per hour (increased from £7.50).

UK: proposed reforms to fitness for work, statutory sick pay and mental health protections

An independent review of mental health at work, commissioned by the Prime Minister, has been published. The Stevenson/Farmer review calls on employers to adopt six mental health core standards covering mental health at work plans, employee awareness and open communication, healthy work life balance, effective people management, and monitoring of mental health and wellbeing.  Further enhanced standards are recommended for companies with more than 500 employees, encompassing increased transparency and accountability and the provision of tailored in-house mental health support and signposting to clinical help.  The review also calls for Government action to set clearer expectations of employers through legislation and better enforcement, to encourage voluntary reporting by organisations on mental health, and to reform statutory sick pay to better support phased returns to work. Continue reading

Singapore: Focus on fixed-term employees

On 31 July 2017 the Tripartite Alliance issued the Tripartite Standard on Employment of Term Contract Employees (First Standard), (Tripartite Standards). The Tripartite Standards are the first of five new standards seek to encourage fair and progressive labour practices in certain areas. The remaining four standards are expected to be put into place over the next few months.

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Hong Kong: Legislative Council to consider reinstatement remedy for unfair dismissal claims

On 25 April 2017, the Employment (Amendment) Bill 2017 was introduced for first reading in the Legislative Council. This Bill follows a similar Bill proposed in 2016 and if passed, will strengthen the Labour Tribunal’s power to make an order of reinstatement or re-engagement in cases where an employee has been unlawfully dismissed. While this remedy is already available to the Labour Tribunal, its exercise is currently permitted only where both parties consent.

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UK: April 2017 changes – apprenticeship levy, tribunal compensation limits, national minimum wage, statutory benefits and immigration skills charge

From 6 April 2017 UK employers with an annual pay bill of or over £3 million will be required to pay an apprenticeship levy at a rate equivalent to 0.5% of their payroll costs, subject to an offset allowance of £15,000. Employers in England that pay the levy will be able to access funding through a digital service which is expected to open from 1 May 2017. Updated guidance is available here. The offence of wrongly advertising work as a statutory apprenticeship also came into force on 1 April 2017.

From 6 April 2017, the cap on the unfair dismissal compensatory award will increase from £78,962 to £80,541 and the cap on weekly pay (used to calculate the unfair dismissal basic award and statutory redundancy pay) will increase from £479 to £489. This gives a maximum unfair dismissal award of £95,211. Note that since 29 July 2013 there has been an additional cap on the compensatory award of 12 months’ pay.

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