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Employment Law Changes - April 2013

Posted on 19 March 2013

Employment law is a fast-moving and changing area, which can make it difficult, particularly for the small employer, to keep up to date with changes.

In general, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills introduces legislative changes twice a year – April and October. The idea is to make it easier for employers (and employees) to keep abreast of the changes. The following are mainly effective from April 2013.

Parental leave
March 2013

Increase in unpaid parental leave from 13 to 18 weeks per parent for each child from 8 March.

Agency workers can request the right to work flexibly when returning from a period of parental leave.

Repeal of third party harassment
March 2013

Employer liability for harassment by third parties to be repealed in an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill (ERRB)

Repeal of questionnaire procedure
March 2013

The discrimination questionnaire procedure under the Equality Act 2010 to be repealed so that workers cannot submit a statutory questionnaire to employers to obtain information for a claim in an amendment to the ERRB.

Employment tribunal rules of procedure
April 2013

A number of changes are being made to the rules of procedure in tribunals. These include:

  • Employment judges to have increased powers to strike out claims with no reasonable prospect of success
  • Employment judges to make deposit orders in respect of each issue (for instance unfair dismissal, disability discrimination, unlawful deduction from wages) which has little reasonable prospect of success
  • Changes to the withdrawal process mean that when claimants withdraw their claims, employers no longer have to make an official application to have the case dismissed.

Changes to protected disclosures
April 2013

The definition of a qualifying disclosure changed so that it is only protected if made “in the public interest”.

Reduction in period for collective redundancies consultation
April 2013

The statutory consultation period for collective redundancies is to be reduced when 100 or more employees are proposed to be made redundant from 90 to 45 days.

Employee-shareholder schemes
April 2013

Employee-shareholder schemes to be introduced allowing employers to offer shares worth between £2,000 and £50,000 in their business to employees in exchange for losing the right to claim unfair dismissal, request flexible working and statutory redundancy pay.

Statutory pay and benefits
April 2013

  • Statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay increase from £135.45 to £136.78 per week
  • Statutory sick pay increases from £85.85 to £86.70
  • Lower Earnings Limit increases from £107 to £109 per week.

Unfair dismissal because of political opinion
April 2013

The two-year qualifying period for unfair dismissal claims on the ground of the employee’s political opinion or affiliation removed.

Other changes to be introduced:

  • Employers can hold “pre-termination negotiations” (otherwise known as “protected conversations”) and offer termination payments to workers which cannot be taken into account by a tribunal when considering a claim for unfair dismissal
  • Compromise agreements renamed settlement agreements
  • A requirement to provide information to ACAS before lodging a tribunal claim form
  • Secretary of State given the power to amend the maximum amount of the unfair dismissal compensatory award
  • Introducing penalties on employers who have breached employment rights where the breach has one or more aggravating factors
  • Giving employment tribunals the power to order an employer to carry out an equal pay audit where there has been an equal pay breach
  • Introduction of tribunal fees
  • Removing employers’ statutory breach of duty in relation to workplace injuries.

The Government’s aim is to cut red tape and encourage economic prosperity. It is hoped that the above changes will go some way to achieving this.

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