By Daniel Hunter

The number of Employment Tribunal cases has dramatically risen, as companies continue to struggle with changes to the Working Time Directive.

Latest figures from the Ministry of Justice show a 37 per cent increase in cases for the first quarter of 2013, compared to the same period last year, reaching 57,737. The rise has been attributed to an increase in claims, as a result of the Working Time Directive. This accounted for over a third of the total number of cases.

According to Manchester law firm, Gateley, one of the most hotly disputed issues to come out of the Directive is how to manage sick leave and holiday leave when they fall together.

Under the regulations, employees are entitled to reschedule holiday provisions, if they become unwell while they are away. The European Court of Justice has also ruled that members of staff are allowed to re-take their holiday entitlement at a later date, as long as they have reported to their employer in-line with sickness absence procedures.

Gateley is now warning North West companies to be on-top of the latest legislation, with the summertime expected to spark fresh concerns and a rise in seasonal employment issues.

The most common problems that are to set to trip up employers over the coming months, include: pay entitlements when a member of staff is stranded abroad through no fault of their own; office temperatures, as a result of hot weather; adjustments to working hours — which could trigger potential discrimination claims — due to religious festivals, such as Ramadan; as well as ‘dependent leave’ rules around attending children’s sports days.

Michael Ball, employment partner at Gateley, said: “The summertime often creates additional headaches for business owners, as different employment law considerations suddenly come into play. The latest Employment Tribunal figures demonstrate the need for employers to be on-top of issues, particularly those that are triggered by seasonal changes in the UK.

“Holiday sickness is a common theme amongst the region’s businesses, but less obvious problems, such as an employee requesting to take dependent leave to attend their child’s sports day, or a member of staff requesting to work through their lunch and leave one hour early in order to comply with a religious festival, may put a spanner in the works.”

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