The new "employee shareholder" regime, under which, from September this year, employees will be able to acquire shares in their employer on a favourable tax basis, in return for giving up some of their employment protection rights, is back in the Growth and Infrastructure Bill. The House of Commons reinstated it after the House of Lords voted last month to strike it out. The Bill will now go back to the Lords again for their approval of the reinstatement.
During the debate, the Government minister attempted to ease concerns about whether the new status really is voluntary by referring to the provisions which will protect existing employees from detriment for turning down an employee shareholder contract (and pledging to amend guidance to job centre advisers to state that a jobseeker cannot be required to apply for an employee shareholder job). But there is no suggestion that offering employee shareholder contracts to new hires on a "take it or leave it" basis will be prohibited.
The other employment related Bill, the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, has also been in ping pong; Government amendments in the Lords on whistleblowing protection have been approved (claims must be brought in the public interest but do not have to be made in good faith; employers can be vicariously liable for workers' actions) but the Lords' addition of the prohibition of caste discrimination has been removed on a vote, the Government having already announced last month that the Equality and Human Rights Commission will report on this issue later this year.
The Enterprise Bill also includes the provisions on confidentiality of settlement agreements; early ACAS conciliation; removal of the unfair dismissal qualifying period for dismissals for political opinions; the removal of liability for harassment by third parties and of the requirement to reply to discrimination questionnaires in a set timescale.
Finally (for now), ACAS has now published its non-statutory guidance on "How to manage collective redundancies" to coincide with the reduction of the consultation period for 100+ employees from 90 to 45 days for proposals to dismiss which are made on or after 6 April 2013. Although there is some discussion on when redundancies will be treated as being at a "single establishment"; this is not really the "detailed guidance" promised in the Government's response to consultation. The guidance also raises the issue of the timing of consultation processes where either the old or the new employer proposes to make redundancies during or after a TUPE transfer, but says that the Government will provide more detailed guidance when it makes its "simplifying" changes to the TUPE regulations later this year.