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Can you keep track of the latest employment law developments?

It is said that there is an old Chinese curse that opines “may you live in interesting times.”   The best translation companies would give the English translation of the word “interesting” as one reflecting someone is reluctant to overtly criticise a piece of modern art.

So far this year it has proved an interesting time in the development of employment legislation.  There has been expected news, changes of mind, confusing drafting, the launch of a consultation on resolving workplace disputes (the third such consultation in the last ten years) and some strong comments from employer’s organisations.

The latest consultation began on 27 January and will close on 20 April.  The proposals include raising the qualifying period for unfair dismissals to two years, charging employees to make a claim, involving ACAS in resolving disputes before claims can be made and raising the cap on costs awards in Tribunals.

A few days later on 31 January the Government announced a delay in the introduction of the Bribery Act 2010.  Due to come into force in April 2011, it will now wait for the draft guidance to be finalised.  To date this has not happened there will be a minimum of three months after the guidance has been published before the Act can come into force.

At the beginning of February the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal increased from £65,300 to £68,400.  The new maximum “cap” for a week’s pay, used to calculate the basic award for unfair dismissal, increased from £380 a week to £400.  The maximum basic award thus rose from £11,400 to £12,000. The statutory redundancy award shares the same method of calculation as the basic award for unfair dismissal and, as a result the maximum statutory redundancy award also increased to £12,000.  These increases were announced last year, so we can regard this as something that was expected.

A week later the Institute of Directors (IoD) published a report putting forward its own proposals for change.  It suggested a minimum deposit of £500 to lodge a Tribunal claim (akin to the proposal in the consultation), the abolition of the right to request flexible working and the retention, not abolition, of the default retirement age.  

On 15 February 2011 the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) joined the chorus for change.  They have calculated that new employment laws between now and 2015 will cost UK business nearly £23 billion.  While the BCC welcomed the consultation on Tribunals it expressed great disappointment at the constant threat of tinkering with legislation, because every change comes at a price. 

Two days later and the bill, as calculated by the BCC, came down.  The Government announced on 17 February that it was postponing the extension of the right to request time off for training to employees of organisations with less than 250 employees. In November 2010 the Government had announced that it would introduce the longed planned expansion, albeit with an exemption for organisation with fewer than 50 employees, in April 2011.  Now, the Government is going to consult further, so watch this space.

The very same day the Government published the Regulations that will bring about the abolition of the default retirement age.  An oddity in the drafting means that new Regulations will probably have to be redrafted.  Currently the Regulations state that employers will not, between 6 April and 30 September 2011, be able to safely retire those whose 65th birthday fell or falls before 6 April 2011.  However, it will be possible to retire someone who turns 65 between 6 April and 30 September 2011.  This anomaly has to be a mistake.

So how will this affect you and your business?

Sussex Enterprise is running an event on Friday 4 March which explains everything you need to know if you’re responsible for employing staff. There will also be great networking opportunities meaning real value for your time. Please visit the event page here for further details and to book.

 By Martin Williams