Nick Abbott and Jenny Jones round up what to look out for.

Coming in April

On 1 April 2007 the changes to the maternity leave regime introduced by the Work and Families Act will take effect. As well as extending the SMP period to 39 weeks, the qualifying period for additional maternity leave will be removed and changes will be made to the administration of statutory maternity leave, including changing the notice periods and allowing up to 10 keeping in touch days without loss of benefit.

On 6 April 2007 the following provisions will be implemented:

  • extension of the right to request flexible working to carers of adults;
  • extension of the Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations and the Pension Schemes Consultation Regulations to employers with at least 100 employees;
  • implementation of the public sector gender duty (see page 4); and
  • amendment of the Sexual Orientation and Religion or Belief Regulations (see page 5).

Plans for summer and autumn

  • 1 July: introduction of smoking ban in England (see page 6);
  • 1 August: weekly workinglimit for junior doctors reduced to 56 hours;
  • 1 October: minimum statutory holiday increased from 20 to 24 days (28 days from 1 October 2008); and
  • 1 October: launch of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights.

Other changes to watch

The Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Bill has nearly completed its passage thorough Parliament and may be brought into force by the end of the year. Looking further ahead, we can expect the implementation of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act in 2008. We may also see some changes to the statutory dispute resolution procedures in 2008, as well as the introduction of a single equality act, which could bring all discrimination legislation together under one roof.

Waiting for the ECJ

We are waiting for the European Court of Justice to pronounce on three important issues:

  • whether workers are entitled to accrue annual leave under the Working Time Regulations when they are off sick;
  • whether the default retirement age under the Age Equality Regulations complies with the Employment Framework Directive; and
  • whether the Disability Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination by association – eg, because workers care for a disabled person, but are not disabled themselves.