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What’s In Store for 2011?

8th January, 2011

2010 saw a number of significant changes in the world of employment law. Arguably, the most significant of these was The Equality Act 2010, which proved a major consolidation and harmonisation of existing discrimination law. The majority of the provisions of the Act came into force in October, despite the new Government being elected in May. Since the election, the Coalition Government has been outlining their plans for the country, including a number of reforms likely to affect employers in 2011.

Flexible Working
The Government has announced that the right to flexible working will be extended from 18 April 2011, to include all employees with children under 18 (the right currently extends only to those with children under 17). We are still waiting for the outcome of the consultation as to how this will be extended in practice.

Limits on Tribunal Awards
The limits, which include the compensatory award for unfair dismissal and the maximum amount of ‘week’s pay’ (used to calculate redundancy pay amongst other things), will increase from 1 February 2011. For more information, see ‘Maximum Tribunal Awards to Increase’ in this month’s edition of The Tribunal.

Additional Paternity Leave and Pay
The Government had announced that the regulations which outline employer’s obligations in respect of paternity pay and leave were under consideration, but shortly after this announcement, the Government then confirmed that the regulations would remain whilst they looked at the extension to flexible working (see above) and ways to encourage shared parenting during pregnancy.

Unfair Dismissal
As previously reported by The Tribunal, it has been suggested that the qualifying period for unfair dismissal be extended from one year, to two years. Lord Young (who was heading the relevant review into small businesses) resigned late last year, and we have yet to see how his resignation will affect the proposal.

Time Off to Train
August 2010 saw the launch of a consultation on the right to request time off to undergo training. The right (which already applies to those employers with more than 250 employees) allows employees to ask for time off to train or study, but there is a great scope for employers to refuse the request and the time off may be unpaid. It is expected that the right will apply to all employers with 50 or more employees from 6 April 2011.

Retirement
The Government has proposed to abolish the default retirement age from 1 October 2011. The outcome of the government consultation on these proposals is expected early this year.

Bribery Act 2010
This piece of legislation will be coming into force on 1 April 2011 and looks set to completely reform the law in relation to bribery by creating new criminal and civil penalties.

The act is particularly important from an employment law perspective because of the introduction of a new offence where an organisation fails to prevent bribery offences committed on its behalf by a person ‘associated’ with it. A ‘person associated’ will include employees and may also stretch to subcontractors and workers.

If you are in any way concerned about how the forthcoming changes might affect your business, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team.

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