To any company, employees are key to making the business a success. Dealing with them when things go wrong, can also be one of the biggest headaches to be faced. Employment law continues to be one of the fastest moving areas of the law and 2010 is once again a year where employers need to keep up-to-date with changes in this field. Of particular note is the forthcoming Equality Act which is intended to come into force in October and is expected to strengthen and harmonise discrimination law. However while this is likely to be the most significant piece of legislation affecting employers / employees this year, there are a myriad of other changes / developments to keep in mind.

From April, sicknotes will be replaced by "fit notes" as part of the government's plans to reduce the absence record which takes huge sums out of the economy in wasted resources each year. Provisions regarding a new right to request unpaid training or study also come into force in April. There are also likely to be changes afoot regarding the statutory retirement age and there are several tribunal cases on age discrimination which could have a profound effect on employers. One issue which employers often ask about is whether they have to agree to an employee's demand to be allowed to bring a lawyer with them to a disciplinary meeting. The short answer is that in most cases, the employer can refuse such a request. However two recent decisions have suggested that in some (very limited) cases this may not be the case.

To assist employers in what remains an uncertain world, we have launched a new Employment Protection Package to provide a comprehensive solution to employment law issues. This includes an annual documentation "heath check", 24 hour access to employment law advice and insurance cover against most Tribunal awards of up to £250,000 including legal costs.