AS part of the Governments ongoing review of employment law, it had previously been suggested that protected conversations would be introduced.
The theory was that employers would be able to hold discussions with an employee on an off the record basis with the hope of concluding the employment of that employee.
It is now formally proposed that protected conversations are introduced into employment law, but to a much more limited extent than originally anticipated.
The proposal is that protected conversations will only relate to an unfair dismissal claim, so a tribunal will not be entitled to take into account the contents of any such conversation when determining whether a dismissal is unfair or not.
However, it is made clear that the rules will not apply to discrimination cases, breach of contract claims or any of the automatic unfair dismissal situations, such as whistleblowing.
Furthermore, the rules on protected conversations will not apply where the behaviour of the employer has been improper.
It is expected that there will be a wealth of case law on what amounts to improper behaviour in due course but the legislation appears to try to limit the ability of the employer to hold a discussion which is not a genuine attempt to settle a dispute.
The bill which the above proposals are contained in is being scrutinised by the Parliamentary Committee currently and further news is expected shortly.
Elsewhere, there has been an important ruling in relation to sick leave and holidays. There have been a number of similar decisions on this issue in the past few years in the European Court of Justice; previously confirming that an employee on long term sick leave does still accrue annual leave and is entitled to take it either during the sick leave year or on his return to work.
A further recent ruling has confirmed that employees who fall sick during annual leave are entitled to take corresponding paid leave at a later date.
So, for example, if an employee is part way through their holiday and they become ill, assuming they can provide the necessary medical evidence to confirm their incapacity, an employer must allow the employee to take holiday at a later time.
The rationale for the decision is that, under the Working Time Directive, it states that the purpose of annual leave is to enable workers to have a period of rest and relaxation away from work, whereas the purpose of sick leave is to enable a worker to recover from illness.
If an employee is on sick leave, they cannot enjoy a period of rest and relaxation so should be entitled to take that leave elsewhere in the year.
It is unclear whether the Government will step in and legislate further on this point but, given the power of EU laws, it would in theory be very difficult to introduce regulation in defiance of these case law decisions.