UK: So Much For A Quiet Sunday On 1st October 2006 (Employment Law Update)

Last Updated: 28 September 2006
Article by Katy Wedderburn and Marivi Prescott

On 1st October 2006, a number of employment law changes come into force. The highlights include:

National Minimum Wage

The NMW will increase to £5.35 (from £5.05) for workers aged 22 +, £4.45 (from £4.25) for workers aged 18 to 21 and £3.30 (from £3.00) for workers aged 16 and 17.

Family Friendly

For women who are expecting to give birth (or adopt) on or after 1 April 2007, certain provisions of the Work and Families Act 2006 will apply. In summary, the changes coming in on 1st October are:-

  • Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), Statutory Maternity Allowance (SMA) and Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) will be extended to 39 weeks (from 26);
  • All pregnant employees, regardless of their length of service, will be entitled to 12 months maternity leave, owing to the removal of the 26 weeks’ qualifying period for Additional Maternity Leave (AML). However, the distinction between Ordinary Maternity Leave (OML) and AML will be retained;
  • The notification period for an employee intending to return to work early from AML or Additional Adoption Leave (AAL) is being doubled, to 8 weeks;
  • SMP and SMA will be able to start on any day of the week, concurrently with OML, rather than on the Sunday following the day the employee stops work, as is currently the case;
  • The introduction of "keeping in touch" days whereby employees may return to work for up to 10 days during their maternity leave, without losing their right to SMP/SAP. Employers will also be entitled to make "reasonable contact" with employees on maternity leave.

The other changes being introduced by the Work and Families Act, you may have read about, will not be coming into force just yet. For example, the extension of the right to request flexible working to carers, will not apply until April 2007 and the proposals concerning additional paternity leave and pay which will apply during the second 6 months of the 12 month maternity leave period, will be introduced at the same time that paid maternity and adoption leave is extended to 12 months. The Government aims for this to be by the end of this Parliament, i.e. 2009/10.

Collective Redundancy Consultation

Section 193 of TULR(C)A 1992 is amended so that where collective redundancies (20 or more employees within a 90 day period) are to be made at one establishment, the DTI must be notified at least 30 days before employees are given notice of termination of their contracts of employment (as opposed to before the employees’ actual dismissal date).

Age Discrimination

Just in case you missed our earlier updates:

The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 come into force on Sunday and make it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of age (directly or indirectly), unless the treatment can be objectively justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Harassment on the grounds of age and victimisation will also be unlawful.

The Regulations apply to recruitment and selection, terms and conditions (including pay and benefits), promotion, training and development, transfers and termination of employment. Whilst there are a number of exemptions, for example, in relation to service related benefits and enhanced redundancy schemes, there are conditions to be met and these must be given careful consideration in each particular case.

There will be a default retirement age of 65 and it will be unlawful for employers to have a normal retirement age of less than 65 unless it can be objectively justified, which will only be possible in exceptional cases.

The Regulations also introduce a new compulsory "duty to consider" procedure for employers to notify employees of their intended retirement date and of their right to request to work beyond that date. There are strict timescales and employers will be obliged to meet with employees and provide a right of appeal. Failure to follow the new procedure will mean retirement dismissals will be automatically unfair. However, if the procedure is followed in full, dismissals will be deemed to be fair.

Finally, there are complicated transitional provisions which apply in respect of retirements taking effect on or before 31st March 2007 and specific advice should be sought in particular cases.


The material contained in this article is of the nature of general comment only and does not give advice on any particular matter. Readers should not act on the basis of the information in this article without taking appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

© MacRoberts 2006

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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