In this edition of Human Capital, we give an overview of what to expect and prepare for this October.

Statutory leave entitlement

The Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2007 will increase the annual statutory leave entitlement from 20 to 24 days with effect from 1st October. This entitlement will be increased by a further 4 days to 28 days as from 1st April 2009.

Check your contracts of employment to ensure they provide for adequate holiday entitlement and, in particular, whether any changes need to be made as regards payment in lieu of, or carrying over, unused leave. Note that a contract which provides for “20 days including bank holidays” will not comply with the new requirements, whereas “20 days AND bank holidays” will. For leave years which begin before 1 October 2007, entitlement for that year will have to be pro-rated by multiplying the proportion the leave year has left to run at 1 October 2007 by 0.8 (ie the additional statutory entitlement introduced on that date). See BERR’s Holiday Entitlement Ready Reckoner for more details. Inform your employees of their new rights.

Click here to view the new regulations.

National Minimum Wage

The National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999 (Amendment) Regulations 2007 will increase the main rate of the National Minimum Wage from £5.35 to £5.52 per hour, the rate paid to workers between 18 and 21 from £4.45 to £4.60, the rate for workers aged below 18 who have ceased to be of compulsory school age from £3.30 to £3.40 and the accommodation rate from £4.15 to £4.30 (1st October).

Click here to view the new regulations.

Flexible working

The Flexible Working (Eligibility, Complaints and Remedies) (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2007 extend the definition of “adopter” to those who are adopting a child (domestically or inter-country) where the child has not been placed with those adopters by a UK adoption agency. A private foster carer (as well as the spouse, partner and civil partner of a private foster carer) is added to the list of people entitled to request a contract variation to care for a child. Definitions of “adoption agency”, “private foster carer” and “residence order” are also added (1st October).

Check that your Flexible Working Policy reflects the amendments made by these regulations.

Click here to view the new regulations.

Commission for Equality and Human Rights

The new Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR) established under the Equality Act 2006 assumes responsibility for promoting equality and human rights and combating unlawful discrimination. The CEHR brings together the three existing Commissions: the Commission for Racial Equality, the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission (1st October).

Rumoured to be set to rebrand itself as “EHRC,” so watch out for the new web address. In the meantime, save the interim CEHR website to your favourites:

Companies Act 2006

The codification of directors’ duties in Part 10 of the Companies Act 2006 comes into effect (other than provisions relating to directors’ conflict of interest duties, declarations of interest in existing transactions or arrangements, directors’ residential addresses and under-age and natural directors, which will come into effect on 1st October 2008) (1st October).

Review your executive service contracts to ensure they reflect the new expanded duties of directors. Arrange training to ensure directors and senior employees are aware of the changes brought about by this important Act. Directors should ensure that board minutes or briefing notes record fully their decisions. Review your directors’ and officers’ liability insurance. For further information contact Tim Watts or Peter Borrowdale of our corporate group or your usual contact at Reed Smith Richards Butler.

Click here to view the Act.

Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006

The Act creates new offences of stirring up hatred against persons on religious grounds and supplements existing offences in the Public Order Act 1986 (1st October).An act in the workplace which amounts to discrimination on the grounds of religion could constitute an offence under this Act. Amend your Equal Opportunities Policy to make this clear. Check that your Disciplinary Policy includes receiving criminal convictions in its list of offences which normally constitute gross misconduct leading to summary dismissal. Arrange equal opportunity refresher training for all managers. As well as helping to prevent discrimination claims, an active approach to discrimination law demonstrates you are a responsible employer and will assist you in defending future claims.

Click here to view the Act.

Data Protection

Exemptions set out in Part III of Schedule 8 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (“DPA”) no longer apply so that manual filing systems in existence before 24 October 1998 will be required to comply with the DPA (24th October). Conduct a thorough review of manual filing systems established before 24th October 1998 to check your compliance with the DPA. Where appropriate, have a clear out!

Click here to view Sch 8 of the Act.

Sex discrimination

Regulations amending the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 were expected to come into force on 1 October but have now been delayed. The regulations are made in response to the Equal Opportunities Commission’s successful High Court challenge to the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (as amended by the Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005) on the basis that the Act does not adequately implement the revised EC Equal Treatment Directive 2002/73/EC, both in terms of harassment and in respect of pregnancy and maternity discrimination. Although these regulations are delayed, they are expected to take effect “at the earliest opportunity” (and probably before April 2008). See our recent Human Capital client alert “Sex Discrimination Regulations delayed” for more information.