October 1st employment law changes

In contrast with April 2011, when the UK saw a number of changes to employment law, there are fewer this autumn. Few they may be, but the changes are no less significant:

The Agency Workers Regulations 2010: now in force

There has been a long introductory period to these Regulations, which have been anticipated since 2008, and much written about their potential implications. At their heart the Regulations seek to ensure equality of basic pay and benefits for agency workers as against directly employed counterparts. This not only includes pay, holiday leave entitlement and eligibility for some bonus payments after 12 weeks on assignment but access to collective facilities (such as a staff canteen) and to information about job vacancies from day one.

For an overview of the Regulations Eversheds has produced a guidance for clients, "Responding to the Agency Workers Regulations 2010: An overview for employers". Click here to view this document.

Being subject to a 12 week qualifying period, the majority of new rights under the Regulations will not take effect until Christmas. Nonetheless, hirers of agency labour need to take care that they apply immediately the handful of "day one" rights, operational from the first day of assignment.

National Minimum Wage rises

The standard rate (for workers aged 21 and over) increased to £6.08 per hour and the rate for workers aged 18 to 20 increased to £4.98 per hour. The young workers rate (for workers above compulsory school age but under 18) increased to £3.68 per hour and the rate for certain apprentices (those in their first year or aged under 19) increased to £2.60 per hour.

Fewer UK Employment Tribunal claims in 2010-11

Statistics for April 2010 to March 2011 reveal that, although the number of employment tribunal claims has fallen by 8% since the same period in 2009-10, the 218,100 claims still represent a 44% increase on the 2008-9 figures.

The largest single category of claims were again those brought about working time (30% of claims). This category is closely followed by claims for unfair dismissal, breach of contract and redundancy (28%) and unauthorised deductions from wages (or Wages Act claims) which made up 19% of cases. Although most claims alleging discrimination have shown a small drop, sex discrimination claims have continued to rise, as have age discrimination cases which have risen by 32% (5,200 to 6,800).