In this round up of recent news, we report that the dual discrimination provisions of the Equality Act 2010 will not come into force in April and that the Government has delayed implementation of the right to request time off for training for employees of SMEs. We also bring you news of proposed changes to the immigration rules from April 2011 and of the findings and recommendations of Lord Davies' report on female representation in the boardroom.

Dual discrimination will not come into force in April

The dual discrimination provisions in the Equality Act 2010 were due to come into force in April 2011. However, the Government Equalities Office has confirmed that the implementation of the dual discrimination provisions will be postponed, in order to allow more time to consider the best way to implement the provisions.

The Government has not indicated when dual discrimination is now likely to be implemented, but has confirmed that it will publish guidance 12 weeks before the provisions are due to come into force.

Implementation of right to time off to train for employees of SMEs is delayed

Since 6 April 2010, employees of organisations with 250 or more employees have had the right to request time off work for training. The right was due to be extended to all employees, regardless of the size of the employer's organisation, from April 2011. However, the Government has delayed the extension to allow further time to consider the potential impact of the right on smaller employers.

Proposed changes to immigration rules announced

The Government has announced reforms to the points-based immigration system, which are expected to apply from 6 April 2011 onwards. The key change is that the annual immigration cap will be 20,700 under Tier 2 (General). The annual cap will be divided into equal monthly allocations, although unused allocations may be rolled over into the following month. An important part of the proposed reforms is the Government's intention that those earning over £150,000 per annum will be excluded from the annual and monthly caps, in order that the UK "can attract the brightest and the best".

Lord Davies publishes independent review on women in boardrooms

Lord Davies' independent report on female representation on the boards of UK companies has confirmed that women continue to be significantly underrepresented at senior corporate level. The report concluded that increasing female representation would not only be beneficial from a gender equality point of view, but would also improve corporate performance and achieve better corporate governance by ensuring there is a better balance of skills in the boardroom.

Lord Davies has resisted recommending implementing quotas for women to hold board positions, stating that recruitment should always be based on skills and abilities. Instead the report has opted for a number of "business-led" recommendations.

These recommendations include:

  • larger companies to set their own targets for improving female representation at board level. Chairmen of FTSE 350 companies should set out the percentage of women they aim to have on their boards in 2013 and 2015 and should announce their aspirational goals by September 2011;
  • FTSE 100 boards to aim for a minimum of 25% female representation by 2015
  • chief executives also to review the percentage of women they aim to have on their executive committees in 2013 and 2015;
  • quoted companies to annually disclose the proportion of women at board level, women in senior executive positions and female employees in the whole organisation;
  • amending the UK Corporate Governance Code to require listed companies to put in place boardroom diversity policies;
  • companies to report on the above recommendations above in their 2012 Corporate Governance Statement, whether or not the underlying regulatory changes are in place, and chairmen will be encouraged to sign a charter supporting the recommendations;
  • encouraging companies to disclose information about their board level appointment process and the mechanisms in place to enhance diversity;
  • advertising non-executive board positions to encourage applications from a more diverse pool;
  • in addition to women already in the corporate sphere, companies should consider female candidates from professional services, academic, civil service and entrepreneurial backgrounds; and
  • "Head-hunting" and recruitment agencies should adopt a voluntary code of conduct to address gender diversity in the boardroom.

 Whilst these "business-led" recommendations are not mandatory in nature, it is hoped that UK companies will be pro-active in improving levels of female representation. However, the report notes that if these business-led recommendations are not successful in effecting change, then more prescriptive measures may be required.