New legislation could lead to more tribunals

New legislation designed to improve the rights of employees on fixed-term
contracts, including pay and pension entitlements, could open the floodgates
for workplace disputes.

This is the view of law firm Eversheds which claims the Fixed Term Work EU
Directive, due to come into force in the UK by 10 July, is vague and open to
different interpretations.

Elaine Aarons, employment specialist at Eversheds, said: "Although the
Government’s stated desire is to reduce the workload of the already
overburdened employment tribunals, costly litigation caused by a lack of
understanding of what the new draft regulations require becomes
inevitable."

Aarons said the directive states that fixed-term workers should be treated
the same as permanent employees ‘where appropriate’ but does not clarify this.

She added: "Whenever there are uncertainties in employment legislation,
managers whose job it is to decide how to apply the rules in their individual
workplaces are put in an impossible position."

Aarons said the legislation is also not clear over whether employers will
have to provide pension benefits to cover past service by fixed-term workers.

"In the case of a contributory pension scheme, would employees have to
make payments to cover past service and, again, how could these contributions
be made given Inland Revenue limits? There are a lot of questions to be
answered," said Aarons.

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