The Government this week announced changes to its previously announced time line for employment law reform so I thought that it would be useful to provide a quick summary of where we now are.

March 2013

Unpaid parental leave entitlement increased from 13 to 18 weeks on 8 March 2013. The Government has also indicated that, from 2015, it intends to increase the age limit on parental leave from the current 5 years to 18 years, providing each parent with the right to up to 18 weeks' unpaid parental leave for each child under the age of 18.

Employer liability (under the Equality Act) for acts of harassment by a third party against an employee is due to be removed in March 2013 as are the provisions relating to the discrimination questionnaire procedure.

April 2013

Reforms to collective redundancy will be implemented. These include reducing the 90 day minimum consultation period to 45 days for collective redundancies involving 100 or more employees. The 30 day period for collective redundancies involving between 20 and 99 employees will remain at 30 days.

Statutory benefits will increase in April as follows:

  • The standard rates for statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay will increase from £135.45 to £136.78. The weekly earnings threshold for these payments rises from £107 to £109.
  • Statutory sick pay increases from £85.85 to £86.70, with the weekly earnings threshold also rising from £107 to £109.
  • Maternity allowance increases from £135.45 to £136.78, with the earnings threshold remaining at £30.

The new rate of statutory sick pay will be effective from 6 April 2013 with the rate for the other statutory payments effective from 7 April 2013.

Summer 2013

The Government is aiming to implement the Employment Tribunal fees scheme in the summer of 2013, which will see claimants pay an initial fee for lodging a claim and an additional fee for taking the claim to a hearing.

The Government now intends to bring in the use of settlement agreements to replace compromise agreements as a means to end the employment relationship at this time. A principal aspect of the reform is that any settlement agreement discussions will not be admissible as evidence in unfair dismissal claims. The aim here is to ensure that both employers and employees can propose and negotiate exit packages on a without prejudice basis.

Compensatory awards for unfair dismissal will be capped at the lower of one year's (gross) pay or £74,200.

Revised employment tribunal rules are to be implemented to include a paper sift stage in order to strike out weaker cases. These rules aim to formalise existing good practice in case management to ensure fairness and consistency of approach is applied across all of the Employment Tribunals.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill will make changes to the Employment Rights Act 1996 so that workers cannot bring a whistleblowing case relating to a breach of their own contract of employment that is not in the public interest.

Autumn 2013

The introduction of employee shareholders is now expected to be introduced in Autumn 2013 as opposed to April 2013 as previously reported. These new types of employment contract will allow employees to obtain shares in their employer's business in return for giving up certain employment rights. The first £50,000 worth of shares (valued at acquisition) will be free from capital gains tax on disposal.

The Government issued a consultation on possible changes to the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE Regulations). This consultation will close on 11 April 2013 and any changes are intended to be implemented from October 2013 albeit the repeal of the Regulations relating to "service provision changes" will, most likely, have a long lead in time.

Spring 2014

Some time in Spring 2014, we can also expect to see the following employment law reforms:-

  • the introduction of penalties for employers who lose Tribunal claims by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill;
  • early ACAS conciliation;
  • the Children and Families Bill will alter the Employment Rights Act 1996 to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees with 26 weeks of service;
  • new approach to sickness absence management.

Beyond 2014?

The creation of shared parental leave and pay by the Children and Families Bill allowing parents to share child care responsibilities in the first year of the babies life are expected to be implemented in 2015.

You can view details of the full timeline in BIS' paper at the link below:-

Employment Law 2013: Progress on Reform