HR briefing - August 2023

17 August 2023

Welcome to this month's briefing for HR teams and in-house employment counsel – bringing you employment law highlights in an easy-to-read package with our monthly podcast.

Podcast: flexible working

Covid-19 changed the world of work in fundamental ways. The shift to agile and remote working patterns has been especially profound and the existing framework under which employees can submit formal requests for flexible working has been reformed, partly to reflect post-Covid changes in attitudes and expectations, and in this month’s podcast Olivia Wistow-Hughes joins Matthew Ramsey to discuss the new arrangements and what employers will need to do to keep up-to-date.  Listen to the podcast.

Sexual harassment

Allegations of sexual misconduct in the workplace are often in the press. In case you haven’t read it, Constance Shaw’s article summarises some of the recent developments – in Parliament, the press and at a regulatory level – and gives advice to employers looking to eliminate this kind of behaviour, and at the same time reduce the risk of legal claims.

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR)

Running the Employment Tribunal system, with 33 hearing centres and tens of thousands of judgments per year, is expensive. Governments have long sought to limit the cost of running the system by, amongst other things, encouraging the parties to resolve their disputes without the need for a full hearing. There are a number of methods of encouragement, some mandatory like the requirement to go through the Acas Early Conciliation process before a claim is started, and some voluntary, like mediation and early judicial assessment. The Presidents of the Employment Tribunal have now introduced a new alternative method, and issued helpful new guidance on the various options available. The new alternative is called a dispute resolution appointment, and can be imposed by the Tribunal whether the parties are in favour or not. The idea is that a preliminary hearing is arranged at which an Employment Judge will give a preliminary indication of the strengths and weakness of each party’s case, and the likely value of any award if the claim succeeds. The parties are then invited to use these indications to negotiate a settlement deal. Dispute resolution appointments have been trialled in one of the Employment Tribunal regions, apparently with some success, and are now being rolled out nationally. It is obviously in the interests of litigants to have multiple opportunities to resolve their differences short of an expensive, and public, hearing. Clients wishing to discuss their options are very welcome to reach out to their usual Macfarlanes contact, or anyone in the Employment team.