With the next round of legislative changes almost upon us, we thought it would be helpful to provide a timely reminder of the key changes likely to impact businesses this year. As always, please feel free to call us to discuss the effects on your business.

Imminent changes – April 2011

3 April 2011

Additional Paternity Leave ("APL")

Currently, eligible employees can take up to 2 weeks' ordinary paternity leave. Those individuals (i) whose child is due or (ii) who have been notified of having been matched for adoption on or after 3 April 2011 may also be entitled to APL. APL is a period of 2 to 26 weeks leave which can be taken provided the mother (or partner) has returned to work from their maternity (or adoption) leave.

APL poses a number of complex procedural issues that are best set out in a clearly defined policy. APL may also impact on how employers operate enhanced maternity pay schemes.

6 April 2011

Abolition of the statutory retirement procedures

The right to serve retirement notices on employees under the statutory retirement procedures will be prohibited from 6 April 2011. Retirement policies can still potentially be justified but will require a great deal of consideration and analysis.

Going forward, you need to consider whether you wish to retain a retirement age. This will not only impact on contracts but also remuneration schemes which define retirement as a reason for being a good leaver. Without a retirement process, consideration will also need to be given as to how you manage your workforce with a greater emphasis on performance management.

Positive Action in recruitment and promotion allowed

In certain circumstances businesses will be entitled to take positive action (not positively discriminate, which remains illegal) in relation to recruitment and promotion so as to prefer a candidate who comes from an under represented or disadvantaged class of workers with a protected characteristic e.g. disability, sex, race or religion. Positive action will only be allowed where the candidate is "as qualified as" other eligible candidates i.e.: "if all else is equal" as between the candidates, you will be able to select the candidate with the protected characteristic which is under represented or otherwise disadvantaged in your workforce.

Immigration

There will be a cap on certain tiers of non-EU immigrants entering the UK to work. A number of jobs are also being removed from the tier 2 list including retail managers and estate agents.  

Increase in statutory rates

The weekly rates for statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay increase to £128.73 and the weekly statutory sick pay will increase to £81.60.

1 July 2011 – Coming soon

The Bribery Act

The Act will bring into force strict rules aimed at stamping out bribery in business. Bribery is generally defined as giving someone a financial or other advantage to encourage that person to perform their functions or activities improperly or to reward that person for having already done so. For example, seeking to influence a decision-maker by giving them some kind of extra benefit outside of what can legitimately be offered under a tender process.

Employers could be vicarious liable for bribery offences of senior employees as well as the actions of someone who performs services for it – like an employee or agent who pays a bribe specifically to get business, keep business, or gain a business advantage for their employer. Defences are available if employers can show that they had adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery. Clearly defined policies are likely to assist this defence.

1 October 2011 – Stay a step ahead

Agency Workers Regulations

Qualifying agency workers will have equal rights to employees in relation to basic working and employment conditions e.g. pay and annual leave entitlements.

Watch this space………………………

Equality Act

Certain provisions of the Equality Act such as the concept of combined discrimination and mandatory gender pay reporting remain on hold.

Extension of flexible working right

The Government has scrapped plans to extend flexible working rights to those with children aged 17.