The government is planning to make a number of changes to employment law this year. There are two main implementation dates for reforms to employment law: 6 April and 1 October every year. Employers need to know what is happening on both those dates. In this article we focus on the various developments that are due to take place in April 2013.
Increases in statutory payment rates
Statutory payments go up every April at the start of the new tax year. For the next three years they are limited to a one per cent increase, which means that from 6 April statutory sick pay will be £86.70 per week. Statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay go up on the first Sunday in April so, from 7 April, they will be £136.78 per week.
Possible increase in discrimination awards
As a result of a Court of Appeal decision in a recent personal injury case, general damages will be increasing by 10 per cent from 1 April and this is likely to apply to awards for injury to feelings in discrimination claims, where judgment is given on or after 1 April 2013. If you are involved in an ongoing discrimination claim, we can advise you further.
Collective redundancy consultation
Where an employer plans to make 20 or more redundancies in 90 days or less, this is known as a collective redundancy situation and the employer has to follow additional procedures, such as consulting with representatives of the employees. At the moment, if 100 or more employees are involved, consultation has to last for at least 90 days. From 6 April, this will be reduced to 45 days. It has been unclear in the past whether employees on fixed term contracts that are about to expire have to be included in the headcount. The government has decided that they do not, which means that employers will not have to consult collectively with them, unless they are being made redundant before their fixed term contracts end. In addition, a new ACAS code of practice will be introduced to provide guidance. If you are considering making redundancies, we can make sure you comply with the relevant consultation procedure.
Protection for those dismissed for political reasons
As from April, anyone dismissed for his political opinions or affiliation will not need two years’ employment in order to bring an unfair dismissal claim. A dismissal for this reason will not be automatically unfair; unfairness will be judged in the usual way and the normal levels of compensation will apply. Employers therefore need to be careful if they are considering dismissing someone who they know holds political beliefs.
National minimum wage
By the end of April, the government has said it will publish a set of consolidated and improved national minimum wage regulations to make them clearer, although it has not said when they will come into force. There are currently 17 different sets of regulations and the government wants to produce one streamlined set of rules to help employers apply them.
Equality Act amendments
The government has decided to make two amendments to the Equality Act 2010 in March 2013. The first is to repeal the third party harassment provisions, under which a worker has a claim against his employer if they are harassed by a third party, such as a customer or supplier, on three occasions and their employer does nothing about it. In practice, few such claims have been brought. The second change is to abolish the discrimination questionnaire procedure, under which an employee with a potential discrimination claim could send their employer a list of questions to answer, which the employee could then use to establish whether they have a claim. Although this sounds like good news for employers, as such questionnaires take a long time to answer, employees will still be able to put questions to their employers and tribunals will still be able to take the responses into account.
Increase in parental leave
From 8 March parents have been able to take a maximum of 18 weeks unpaid parental leave per child, rather than 13 weeks, as the Parental Leave Directive has been implemented in the UK. Parents are still able to take a maximum of four weeks leave per year.
For more information please contact David Hacker.