Employment law is a hot topic with the new Government as they are stressing the importance of ‘maximum flexibility’ and ‘business-friendly’ employment laws.
As a lawyer for employees and trade unions, these phrases always make my heart flutter as, in my experience, they often in reality mean removing employment rights from the workers who need them most.
Much of the changes the Government may bring in, such as only allowing the right to claim unfair dismissal to be given to employees with 2 years-plus service with the employer rather than the current 1 years service, remain under consultation and are not yet finalised. However the Government recently revealed their hand so to speak on the future of employment law, showing they wish:
- to introduce an ‘Employer’s Charter’ outlining the rights the employer has in the workplace.
- to ban new regulations for 3 years, such as employment law protections, for businesses that have fewer than 10 employees.
- to scrap the planned extension of the right for an employee to request time off from work to undergo training to employers with less than 250 employees. The last Government introduced this right in April 2010 solely in respect of employers with 250 employees or more but it was planned to extend it to all employers, regardless of size, from April this year. This would have had allowed stable staff to request suitable training from employers. I should explain that the existing right itself is not a right to training but a right to request it, similar to the right to request flexible working. The employer is allowed a number of permissible grounds to refuse a request, such as the training being irrelevant, being an additional cost burden, having an adverse impact on demand, a poor impact on quality of performance and so on. This bluntly means that if an employer does not wish to allow the employee to train, the employer has multiple reasons for lawfully refusing it, so it is by no means perfect. However, if it had been brought into force by the new Government for all employers, I believe it would no doubt have led to more formal training for employees, maybe bringing about a ‘culture change’ as there has been with attitudes to flexible working (I admit not in every workplace!).
- to scrap the planned extension of the right to request flexible working to parents of children under 18 years old in April 2011, meaning the right to request flexible working will continue to be available only to parents of children aged under 17 and disabled children under 18, and carers of certain adults.
- Bringing in a business-friendly review of business regulation and employment law on a sector by sector basis.
In the meantime, a number of small changes have been made such as the annual increase in April in Statutory Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Pay and Maternity Allowance (from £124.88 to £128.73) and Statutory Sick Pay (from £79.15 to £81.60).
One bit of new law that may not crop up on your radar as being of relevance to your workplace is the Bribery Act 2010 which brings in new criminal offences. It applies to employers and employees. It makes the offering, promising or giving of a bribe, the requesting, agreeing to receive or accepting a bribe and a failure by an employer to prevent bribery by its employees, agents, suppliers etc a criminal offence carrying a maximum penalty of ten years’ imprisonment or an unlimited fine. This is also on hold but is expected to come into force later this year or early next year.
Aside from that, more will be announced over the next few months. However, it clearly shows a business and employer driven agenda by the Government.
This information is current at 21.03.11 and is not a substitute for taking legal advice.
– David Sorensen, Partner
For further information please contact Vanessa Charters on 0113 297 9844 or 07595 564764.