Friday 19 June 2009

More uncertainty for employers

A leading employment lawyer says that businesses face yet more uncertainty following a House of Lords ruling that says workers on long-term sick leave can now bring claims for statutory holiday pay.

Tim Jones, a partner and head of employment at Higgs & Sons, said that the ruling in the case of HM Revenue & Customs v Stringer still leaves room for confusion. “This is definitely a case of seconds out, round two. While some concerns may have been clarified, there are still fundamental issues remaining around this subject. More litigation is sure to follow and with it, more uncertainty for employers.”

In HM Revenue & Customs v Stringer and others [2009], the House of Lords held that workers can bring claims for statutory holiday pay under the deduction from wages provisions of the Employment Rights Act 1996. This means that workers might be able to recover holiday pay going back several years, which is not possible under regulation 30 of the Working Time Regulations 1998 because of its stringent time limit rules.

Tim Jones said: “In effect, we could now see employers seeking to get staff on long-term sick out of the business as quickly as possible, as the ruling will add further costs onto employers’ sick pay bills. In turn, this could then pave the way for a mass of tribunal claims.”

The Stringer case follows the European Court of Justice ruling in January that staff do accrue paid holiday for their entire sick leave, and must be allowed to take it on their return or be paid in lieu if their employment ends. The Court of Appeal had originally held that employees on sick leave did not accrue annual leave during the time they were not working.

The case comes swiftly on the back of a new fit note unveiled by the Government earlier this month, which could mean more work for the region’s HR departments and employers.

Tim Jones says that the new medical fit note will shift a lot more responsibility on to employers and that an education programme should be put in place to ensure its success.

“The new fit note replaces the current sick note and is designed to help more people stay in work rather than end up on long-term sickness. A twelve week consultation on its design has begun with the Government hoping to introduce the new notes by spring 2010.

“Managing sickness can be a challenge for HR departments. The new fit note is designed to help people who are sick to stay in work or get back to work quickly.

“In the current economic climate, the responsibility on HR specialists has never been greater and it will certainly pay dividends to keep up with latest legislation.”

For more information about Higgs’ employment department contact Tim Jones on 01384 342100.

Higgs & Sons operates from three locations; Brierley Hill, Stourbridge and Kingswinford. The firm is one of the largest in the Black Country.

Further information:
Hazel Crawford-Upton
Connect PR
Tel: 01902 714957 Email:

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