Keeping up with employment law can be a job in itself but that’s where we come in. We are here to do some of the hard work for you so to follow is a round-up of new legislation for employers to watch out for in 2008.

Employment Bill 2008

The Government introduced the Employment Bill in the House of Lords on 6 December 2007. The bill is expected to be approved by Parliament in 2008, but many of the changes it proposes, including the repeal of the statutory procedures, are unlikely to come into force until 2009.

In relation to the abolition of the Dismissal and Disciplinary Procedures (DDP) and Statutory Grievance Procedures (SGP), Acas is to have a greater role. In addition to extended powers of conciliation and the removal of fixed conciliation periods, the bill will allow an employment tribunal to increase or decrease an award by up to 25 per cent on a party’s failure to comply with the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

S.98A of the Employment Rights Act 1996 will be repealed, meaning that the question of procedural fairness in unfair dismissal law will be governed once again by the ‘Polkey’ principle.

Other measures in the Employment Bill include greater powers of enforcement in relation to the national minimum wage and employment agency standards, along with changes to the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 to ensure that UK law complies with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in ASLEF v United Kingdom.

New compensation limits

From the 1 February 2008, the following limits come into force pursuant to The Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2007:

  • Maximum amount of ‘a week’s pay’ for the purpose of calculating a redundancy payment or for various awards including the basic or the compensatory for unfair dismissal - from £310 to £330
  • Limit on amount of guarantee payment payable to an employee in respect of any day – from £19.60 to £20.40
  • Limit on amount of compensatory award for unfair dismissal – from £60,600 to £63,000

Changes to Sex Discrimination laws

One legislative change that was expected to take place in 2007 was the amendment to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 following the judicial review case of EOC v Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. There, the High Court ruled that provisions in the Sex Discrimination Act relating to the rights to bring claims for harassment on the ground of sex, and discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity leave, are incompatible with the EC Equal Treatment Directive. Though amending regulations were initially promised for October 2007, the latest word from the Government Equalities Office is that work on these is ongoing, and that they will be introduced at the ‘earliest possible opportunity’.

Increased penalties for hiring illegal workers

From 29 February 2008, fines will go up to £10,000 for employers who employ someone who does not have permission to work in the United Kingdom. These will be followed by a new criminal offence under S.21 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006 – knowingly employing a person who is subject to immigration control and who does not have permission to work in the United Kingdom. This will carry a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment. The government will be issuing a revised code of practice to accompany these changes, along with guidance for employers on how to avoid race discrimination when checking the right to work of a job applicant or employee. This is due on 29 February 2008.

New boardroom responsibilities

The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 will come into force on 6 April 2008. Under the Act, a company or organisation can be found guilty of manslaughter if the way in which its activities are managed leads to a breach of a duty of care which results in the death of a person. The punishment for this offence is an unlimited fine – imprisonment of senior managers can only occur if they are separately tried and convicted under the existing manslaughter law.

New employment agency regulations

On 1 April 2008, the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2007 come into force. They introduce new provisions aimed at protecting agency workers.