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13 March 2015

Quickfire updates

Employment tribunal compensation limits increased; ACAS guidance on right to be accompanied is amended.

Rise in employment tribunal compensation limits

From 6 April 2015, the statutory limits on compensation that an employment tribunal can award will increase.  In the case of redundancy payments and claims against the National Insurance Fund in respect of insolvent employers, the limit on a week’s pay has also been raised.  These increases reflect a general rise in line with the RPI measure of inflation.

Where the effective date of termination falls before 6 April 2015, the current limits will continue to apply:

Compensation limit Current limit From 6 April 2015
Maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal £76,574 £78,335
Maximum limit on a week’s pay £464 £475

ACAS updates guidance on the right to be accompanied

Under the Employment Relations Act 1999, an employer is obliged to accept “reasonable” requests for a companion at grievance meetings or disciplinary hearings.

It was thought at one time that a request would not be reasonable if the choice of companion was unreasonable.  In a case decided in 2013, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that a worker has an absolute right to choose a companion from the categories of people listed in the Employment Relations Act – a fellow worker, trade union representative or official.  The issue of whether a request is reasonable is entirely separate from the identity of the companion.  The EAT has not, however, provided any guidance on when a request would be considered unreasonable.

Acas has therefore produced a new draft of the Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (the Code) to clarify this distinction.  Despite the lack of guidance from the EAT, Acas has suggested that a “reasonable request” should include the identity of their companion and state whether they are a co-worker, or a trade union representative or official.  Acas also recommends that employers should be given enough time to make arrangements for the companion to attend the meeting.

In addition to amending the Code, Acas has modified its guidance, “Discipline and grievances at work”, to make it clear that employers have discretion to allow companions who are not fellow workers, or trade union representatives or officials but are not required to agree to this.  If an employee is disabled, employers should consider making a reasonable adjustment to allow an alternative companion, such as a support worker.