UK: Changes To Employment Legislation

Last Updated: 26 April 2010
Article by Stephen Dalling

April 2010 sees several changes to employment legislation to be aware of.

Paternity Leave

The Additional Paternity Leave Regulations come into force on 6 April 2010. They will affect parents of children born or placed for adoption on or after 3 April 2011.

An eligible employee will be able to take up to 26 weeks' additional paternity leave. However this can not start until at least 20 weeks after the birth/adoption placement and must end before the child's first birthday/anniversary of adoption. The additional leave is conditional upon the mother returning to work.

The Government has indicated that additional paternity leave will be paid at the same rate as "ordinary" statutory paternity pay if taken during the 39 week maternity pay period (which is £124.88 per week from April 2010).

What should you be doing?

You will need to update any maternity, paternity and adoption leave policy to reflect this new right.

Time to train

From 6 April 2010, employees who work for employers with 250 employees or more will have a new right to request time off for training.

Any employee with at least 26 weeks service can request time off for training where it will improve the effectiveness of the business and themselves. The Government hopes that encouraging people to up-skill will benefit employees, employers and consequently, the economy.

Employers are required to consider any requests for time off to train within a set timeframe. The employer can refuse the request where there is a good business reason to do so. If you do not think that the training will improve the performance of your business you can refuse the request.

Should an employer decide to grant an employee request for training, the amount of time off allowed and the amount of pay, if any, is at the discretion of the employer.

Failure to observe the right can result in a tribunal claim by the employee. If the claim is successful, the employer can be ordered to reconsider the application and/or pay compensation for up to 8 weeks pay.

What should you be doing?

You may wish to develop a policy setting out the process for making a request.

Fit Notes

Where an employee is off sick from work, their absence will no longer be validated with a 'sick note'. Doctors will now issue a Statement of Fitness for Work or 'fit note' to indicate whether an employee is fit for work.

A doctor can now recommend that an employee may be fit for work if the employer makes certain adjustments. The Government hopes that the new system will encourage further discussions between doctor and patient and between employee and employer on the potential options that could facilitate a return to work. The new statement is unlikely to remove the need to obtain a specialist medical report.

Equality Act 2010

The Equality Bill has been approved by the House of Commons. To see our mored detailed briefing, click here .

Revised statutory sick pay and maternity, paternity and adoption pay

The weekly rate of SSP will now be £79.15 (up from £75.40).

The prescribed weekly rate of statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay will now be £124.88 (up from £123.06).

Whistleblowing

There is a new power for employment tribunals to forward details of whistleblowing claims directly to a prescribed regulator, such as the Health and Safety Executive, HMRC or the Office of Fair Trading. Employees must 'opt-in' for information to be passed to a regulator by ticking the relevant box on the new ET1 forms. The Government hopes that this new power will prevent genuine allegations of malpractice from slipping under the investigation radar.

Changes to immigration rules

From 6 April, several changes are being made to the immigration rules. The key changes are in the operation of Tier 1 and Tier 2 of the points-based system. Under Tier 1, there is a new points table and now a simpler route to work for those without a masters degree. The changes to Tier 2 mean that it will be easier to transfer employees within the sponsor organisation.

Further changes include amendments to the immigration rules covering asylum seekers, English language qualifications and marriage visas for members of the Armed Forces.

No win no fee – Cap on lawyers

There are new regulations which control the use of contingency fee arrangements by lawyers in employment tribunal cases. Contingency fee arrangements are a no win no fee arrangement where the client's lawyer receives a percentage of the damages if the case is successful. Clients must now be given more information in writing and lawyers' fees are capped at 35% of the awarded damages. The regulations are intended to ensure clients receive all relevant information and protect them from unfair terms. They may lead to a decline in claims being founded on a no-win no-fee basis.

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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