Spring 2013 Update on Employment Law Reform
As reported previously, the Government is undertaking a comprehensive review of all things employment law related and there have been a number of recent announcements about further upcoming changes.
A significant number of changes will be implemented following enactment of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill, which is expected to take place in the next few weeks. The key developments are as follows:
- The Government has confirmed that the unfair dismissal compensatory award will be capped at the lower of 12 months’ pay and the overall cap (which is currently £74,200);
- Removal of the unfair dismissal qualifying period where the reason for dismissal is, or relates to, the employee’s political opinions, following a decision from the European Court of Human Rights that the UK currently provides insufficient protection to employees in these circumstances;
- Removal of the requirement that whistleblowing disclosures must be made in good faith, although with a new power for tribunals to reduce any compensation by 25% where the disclosure was not made in good faith. In addition, a new requirement that disclosures must be made in the public interest will be introduced; and
- Introduction of early conciliation through ACAS efore a claim can be lodged at tribunal (although secondary legislation will be required before this is fully implemented).
Further down the line, the recently published Children and Families Bill will also make a number of changes in relation to family-related rights.
The entitlement to unpaid parental leave has already gone up from 13 weeks to 18 weeks, as from 8 March 2013. The other proposed changes are as follows:
- Introduction of a shared parental leave scheme, which BIS are currently consulting on, and which is unlikely to come into force until 2015;
- Extension of the right to request flexible working, to all employees who have worked for their employer for 26 weeks or more. In addition, there is a proposal to remove the procedure that employers must currently follow when dealing with such requests, so that they are simply required to deal with applications in a “reasonable manner”. Again, there is a live consultation on this issue with changes expected in 2014; and
- Extension of the right to unpaid time off work to attend ante-natal appointments to include husbands or partners of a pregnant woman.
Please also be aware that the consultation period in a collective redundancy situation where the employer is making 100 or more redundancies is being reduced from 90 days to 45 days and this change is likely to come in effect on 6 April 2013.