UK: Employment Law Reform Timetable

The Government has published a revised timetable for its employment law reform programme. Given the volume of announcements on new proposals and consultations, it has become quite a challenge for businesses to keep track of all the employment changes, not helped by the fact that these changes will be introduced throughout the year, rather than just on the usual biannual employment law commencement dates of 6 April and 1 October.

The summary and table of reforms below provide a quick reference guide of the reform programme as it currently stands – it is likely that the timetable will change again. The most significant developments are that the dates for the implementation of the whistleblowing and employee shareholder status provisions have been delayed until this summer and autumn respectively.

Spring 2013

Collective redundancies consultation: The consultation period for collective redundancies involving 100 or more employees will be reduced from 90 to 45 days. Employees on fixed-term contracts which are due to expire will be excluded from collective consultation requirements.

National minimum wage: The NMW rules will be simplified and consolidated.

Statutory sick pay: SSP will increase from £85.85 to £86.70 (6 April 2013).

Statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay: SMP etc rates will increase from £135.45 to £136.78 (7 April 2013).

Summer 2013

Whistleblowing: For whistleblowing claims, disclosures must be made in the "public interest", so an employee's complaint about a breach of their employment contract would not usually be covered under the new provision.

Unfair dismissal compensatory award: The award will be capped at the lower of one year's pay and the existing limit (currently £74,200).

Pre-termination negotiations: If an employer makes a settlement offer before an employee's contract is terminated and the employee subsequently brings an unfair dismissal claim, the settlement negotiations will not be admissible in the Tribunal, unless there has been "improper behaviour". However, discrimination and whistleblowing claims will fall outside these new rules.

Employment Tribunal fees: There will be an "issue fee" and "hearing fee" in the Employment Tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunal. The amount of these fees will depend on the type of claim. Although the claimant will be responsible for paying the fees initially, in most cases ultimate responsibility for them will lie with the losing party.

Political opinion/affiliation dismissals: There will be no qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims where the reason for a dismissal is, or relates to, the employee's political opinion or affiliation.

Autumn 2013

Employee shareholder status: New employees will be given shares in the company, in exchange for giving up certain employment rights (unfair dismissal, redundancy pay and the right to request flexible working). The implementation date was initially April 2013, but this has been delayed until the Autumn.

TUPE: The TUPE reforms consultation closes in April 2013, and the changes are expected to come into force in October 2013, although there are likely to be transitional arrangements for the "service provision change" provisions which are due to be scrapped.

2014

Flexible working requests: All employees with 26 weeks' service will have the right to request flexible working.

Employment Tribunal penalties: Employers which lose at tribunal may have to pay a financial penalty of half the award made against them, up to a maximum of £5,000, and reduced by 50% for prompt payment.

Mandatory pre-claim conciliation: Prospective claimants will have to make a request to ACAS for "early conciliation" before they can bring certain claims. If no settlement is reached, ACAS will issue a certificate which the claimant will need in order to present a claim to the Tribunal.

Health and work assessment and advisory service: This independent assessment service will provide free occupational health expertise, including an independent assessment of employees who have been off sick for four weeks and expert advice on whether and how employees can be supported in their return to work.

2015

Shared parental leave: The current maternity and paternity leave rules will be replaced with shared parental leave.

Parental leave: Unpaid parental leave will be available for parents of children aged up to 18.

Employment law reform in 2013 and beyond

March 2013

Parental leave (unpaid) increased from 13 to 18 weeks

Third party harassment provisions removed

Discrimination questionnaires abolished

Spring 2013

Collective redundancy consultation rules change

National minimum wage rules consolidated

Increase in statutory sick pay (6 April) and statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay rates (7 April)

Summer 2013

Whistleblowing – new "public interest" requirement

New cap on compensatory awards in unfair dismissal claims

Pre-termination negotiations not admissible in unfair dismissal claims

Employment Tribunal fees introduced

Political opinion/affiliation dismissals – no qualifying period

Autumn 2013

Employee shareholder status

TUPE reforms, but transitional arrangements expected for the service provision change proposals (October 2013)

Spring 2014

Right to request flexible working for all employees with 26 weeks' service

Employment Tribunal financial penalties for employers who lose

Mandatory pre-claim ACAS conciliation

Health and work assessment and advisory service

2015

Shared parental leave and pay

Parental leave (unpaid) available for parents of children aged up to 18

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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