Howes Percival comment on forthcoming changes to employment legislation.

April 2011 sees a number of significant changes to employment law that employers need to be aware of, including changes to retirement and paternity leave.

Howes Percival’s employment law expert, Harriet McInnes explained, “April is traditionally a key month within which changes to employment law and statutory rates of pay are implemented - this year is no exception, with major changes for companies dealing with retiring staff and new rules on parental leave.

“To add to the confusion, many changes have been implemented or withdrawn at the last minute. In particular, both the implementation of the Bribery Act and the extension to the rules relating to right to request time off for training have been postponed, while plans to extend flexible working arrangements that were to be introduced in April look set to be scrapped altogether.

In the Budget, the Chancellor also indicated that the highly anticipated “dual discrimination” provisions set to be introduced as part of the Equality Act 2010 would not now become law, and hinted at the repeal of the liability on employers for third party harassment. However, until the Government confirms exactly which regulations will be affected, employers should continue to follow all existing laws and regulations.”

Confirmed Employment law changes – at a glance:

Key changes this April:

 The abolition of the Default Retirement Age - Phased out from 6 April Additional Paternity Leave - Babies due on/after 3 April Equality Act 2010 - positive action provisions - 6 April Changes to statutory payments - 11 April

The Abolition of the Default Retirement Age:

In perhaps the most significant change, April will see the end of the Default Retirement Age of 65. Employers will only be allowed to compulsorily retire employees who will be 65 before 1 October 2011, and only if they notify affected staff (using the statutory notice procedure) before 6 April 2011. Thereafter, retiring an employee at 65 will no longer be permissible unless an employer can establish 65 (or a higher age) as an ‘Employer Justified Retirement Age’. Justification will not be easy and the employer will need to show it has a legitimate aim (for example the health and safety of other employees or the general public) and that the retirement age is a proportionate means of achieving that aim. In the absence of a retirement age, any issues of poor performance or ill-health that arise for older workers must be dealt with under normal capability procedures.

Harriet commented, “The abolition of the default retirement age will have a huge impact on how employers manage older workers. Whether they choose to operate an ‘Employer Justified Retirement Age’ or not, they need to tread carefully and make sure that their policies and practices in relation to older workers are both consistent and fair to avoid allegations of discrimination.”

Additional Paternity Leave:

Under the new Additional Paternity Leave arrangements, fathers will be able to claim up to six months’ Additional Paternity Leave (provided the mother returns to work before the end of her Maternity Leave). The new right will be granted to fathers of babies due on or after 3 April 2011 and is in addition to the current two weeks’ paternity leave entitlement.

Equality Act - positive action provisions:

The positive action provisions of the Equality Act 2010, which permit employers to treat individuals with a protected characteristic more favourably than others in connection with recruitment or promotion, also comes into force on 6 April 2011. The legislation will enable employers to favour under-represented groups during the recruitment process, provided the candidates are of equal merit.

Harriet concluded, “Employers need to familiarise themselves with the new laws and update their HR policies and procedures and implement staff training accordingly. In addition, Employers should be aware that those changes that were expected in April but postponed may be just around the corner.”