The year ahead in employment law

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Happy New Year! In our first HR briefing of 2012, we look at what to expect in employment law in the year ahead. With the Government considering some fairly radical proposals, it promises to be an eventful year.

January 2012

Call for evidence on TUPE and collective redundancy consultation closes

The Government is currently calling for evidence from employers on TUPE and the requirement to consult with employee representatives when 20 or more redundancies are proposed. The call for evidence closes on 31 January 2012. If the evidence supports the need for reform, the Government is likely to draft proposals for further consultation.

We are holding two member focus groups, one in Hook on 18 January and one in Birmingham on 20 January. Please join us at one of these groups if you have practical experience of dealing with TUPE or collective redundancy situations and would be willing to share your experiences and discuss the problems caused by these regulations and ideas for reform.

Contact Tim Thomas, Head of Employment Policy at tthomas@eef.org.uk for more information.

February 2012

Statutory limits increase

    • The limit on a week’s pay for statutory redundancy pay purposes and the basic award will increase from £400 to £430
    • The limit on the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal will increase from £68,400 to £72,300.
    • Statutory guarantee payments will increase from £22.20 a day to £23.50 a day.
    • The minimum basic award in cases where the dismissal was unfair for health and safety, employee representative, trade union or occupational pension trustees reasons will increase from £5,000 to £5,300.

March 2012

Consultation on tribunal fees closes

The Government’s consultation on charging fees to claimants for bringing an employment tribunal claim closes on 6 March 2012. Contact Tim Thomas, Head of Employment Policy at tthomas@eef.org.uk for more information.

April 2012

Statutory payment rates

Statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay will rise from £128.73 to £135.45 per week and statutory sick pay will increase from £81.60 to £85.85 per week.

Unfair dismissal

The qualifying period for bringing an unfair dismissal claim will increase from one to two years.

Deposit orders

The amount of deposit which a tribunal can order a party to pay will increase from £500 to £1,000.

Cost awards

The maximum costs award which a tribunal can make will increase from £10,000 to £20,000.

Judges sitting alone

Unfair dismissal cases will be able to be heard by employment judges sitting alone, without lay members.

‘Prescribed form’ for apprenticeship agreements

Further to the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009, we expect the ‘prescribed form’ for apprenticeship agreements to be published.

May 2012

Employment Bill

The Government is planning to introduce a major new Employment Bill in May to implement the proposed extension to flexible working rights and a new system of flexible shared parental leave.

The current proposals (which the Government consulted about last year) include extending the right to request flexible working to all employees and re-designing the maternity/ paternity leave system to shorten maternity leave to 18 weeks and allow 34 weeks parental leave to be taken by the mother or the father or shared between them. We expect the delayed Government response to the consultation to be published early this year.

June 2012

Extra Bank Holiday

There will be an extra bank holiday on 5 June 2012 to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

October 2012

Auto-enrolment

The new law on workplace pensions is to be implemented over a four year period, starting on 1 October 2012 for the largest employers. It will make it compulsory for all employers to enrol jobholders aged between 22 and 65 who earn more than a certain amount (currently £7475 a year) into a qualifying pension scheme. (The final set of accompanying regulations are expected in the first quarter of the year).

National minimum wage

The National Minimum Wage is likely to increase on 1 October 2012, although the new rates have not yet been published.

For further consideration in 2012...

The Government also plans the following specific actions for 2012, but the timescales are currently unknown:

  • A revised version of the Working Time Regulations to deal with the various European Court of Justice decisions on sickness and holidays.
  • Pre-claim conciliation – all claims to be submitted to ACAS for conciliation before they can progress to the employment tribunal.
  • Financial penalties for employers who lose tribunal claims, although (contrary to the original proposals) this will be at the discretion of the tribunal rather than automatic.
  • A consultation on simplifying compromise agreements to enable full and final settlement of all claims and remove unnecessary complexity.
  • A consultation on protected conversations which will potentially allow employers to open dialogue with employees about underperformance or retirement without fear of this being used in evidence against them in an employment tribunal.
  • A consultation on a new rapid resolution scheme to provide a quicker and cheaper way of dealing with low value straightforward claims.
  • A call for evidence on the introduction of compensated no-fault dismissal for micro-firms (those with less than 10 employees).
  • A call for evidence on simplifying dismissal/poor performance procedures which might include changes to the ACAS Code.
  • A consultation on a Code of Practice for employers dealing with a request for flexible working.
  • Reform to the whistleblowing legislation to give whistleblower protection only to those employees who blow the whistle on company malpractice, and not to (as can currently be the case) employees who complain about breaches of their own contracts.
  • Reform to employment tribunal rules – Mr Justice Underhill (the outgoing EAT President) will be undertaking a fundamental review of the employment tribunal rules, which is likely to result in a number of further proposals for reform.
  • A possible consultation on removing the obligation on employers to take reasonable steps to prevent their employees from being harassed by third parties.
  • The Government response to the employment law section of its Red Tape Challenge consultation.

We may also see the following:

  • Government proposals to implement the recommendations of the Black/Frost review of sickness absence
  • Legislation on equal pay audits for employers who lose equal pay claims at tribunal.
  • Streamlining the national minimum wage regulations.
  • Initiatives to increase the use of mediation to resolve disputes.

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Media Team 020 7654 1576

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