EMPLOYMENT

Are Employees Counting the Cost of the Assembly Impasse?

Those not directly affected by the collapse of the Assembly in Northern Ireland could be forgiven for believing that it has had no impact on their working lives. Employees continue to go about their duties as normal and life has continued to rumble on irrespective of a lack of government. But what exactly are the implications of the current stalemate and are we missing out on anything in the absence of a Government to legislate on our behalf?

Here are just a few of examples of how the current impasse is impacting on you from an employment perspective;

1. The Employment Act (Northern Ireland) 2016

Following a review and consultation which began in 2013 the Employment Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 received Royal Assent in April 2016. The most notable changes to be introduced under this legislation were;

- A mandatory requirement for all claims to be directed to the Labour Relations Agency for early conciliation before they are issued in the Tribunal.
- The ability for the Department to introduce Regulations to prevent abuses arising under zero hour contracts
- A deadline of June 2017 for the Department to introduce regulations requiring businesses to publish Gender Pay Gap statistics within their organisation and a timetable for the Department to publish a strategy to eliminate differences in the pay of male and female employees.
- Changes to the law surrounding protected disclosures

Sadly in the absence of an Assembly this legislation and the requirements under it have not been implemented and the deadline of June 2017 for the introduction of gender pay gap regulations has long since passed.

2. Increase in Limits

In each year since 2011 the Northern Ireland Assembly has legislated to increase the maximum amount a Tribunal can award under a range of matters including the maximum amount of “a week’s pay” for the purpose of calculating a statutory redundancy payment (currently £500) and the limit on the amount of compensation a Tribunal can award for unfair dismissal.

No Assembly means that no increase to these limits was introduced in February of this year and as a result those receiving statutory redundancy payments and unfair dismissal awards are financially worse off.

3. The 1% pay cap

Earlier this month Teresa May announced that Ministers will now have the ‘flexibility’ to afford pay rises in excess of the longstanding 1% limit on public sector pay rises. At this time it was also announced that police officers would get a 1% rise plus a 1% bonus, with prison officers getting a 1.7% pay rise.

Sadly those in NI who thought a pay rise might be coming their way will be disappointed. The Department of Justice confirmed that ‘The Police Pay Review Bodies have submitted their reports and their recommendations to the DOJ. As in previous years, any award will be subject to consideration and approval of both the Justice and Finance Ministers. The reports will be considered in full when we have ministers in place’

4. Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill

Since the collapse of the Assembly other legislatures within the UK have introduced legislation affording employees additional rights. On 19th July 2017 the Parental Bereavement (Pay and Leave) Bill was introduced in the House of Commons. If passed this legislation will entitle working parents in England and Wales who have suffered a bereavement to leave of at least two weeks to grieve.

The proposal confirms that the rate of pay payable will be similar to the statutory rate for maternity, adoption, paternity and shared parental pay, i.e. at a rate not less than 90 per cent of the employee's average earnings, or £139.58 per week (as of April 2016) whichever is the lower.

Time will tell whether similar legislation is introduced in Northern Ireland however until such times as a legislature is in place, employees who have lost a child in Northern Ireland will suffer additional hardship in comparison to their English and Welsh counterparts.

If you require any information or advice in relation to employment rights please contact Millar McCall Wylie on 02890 200050 and ask to speak with a member of our Employment Department. 

 

 

 

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