And there is more change in the pipeline. In its coalition agreement the government made some pledges which indicate the future direction of employment law.
The government has said that it will introduce a ‘one in, one out’ rule so no new employment regulation is brought in without another being dropped. Elsewhere in this LAWmail we report on the proposals for reform of the employment tribunal system designed to ‘maximise flexibility, whilst protecting fairness, and providing the competitive environment required for enterprise to thrive’.
A degree of uncertainty remains around some key issues on which we are awaiting government action or that the courts have currently left unclear.
For example, we expect the Government to consult soon on the tricky issue of holiday accrual during sickness absence. This should be seen in the context of yet another planned review in the EU about changes to the Working Time Directive (on which the UK Regulations are based). We await some clarity – but recommend not holding your breath.
The government is consulting on extensions to the right to request flexible working and shared parental leave, interestingly, at the same time as employers and their employees are preparing for the latest change in parental rights due to come into force in April 2011. Apparently, the government regard the April 2011 measures which were brought in by Labour, as insufficiently flexible and the coalition are committed to ‘encouraging shared parenting from the earliest stages of pregnancy’. They see flexible parental leave giving parents more choice about how they share statutory leave entitlement.
The extension of the right to request flexible working is also due to be extended again, in April, to parents with children under 18.
2011 will also see some other important measures come into effect, largely as a result of Labour legislation. These include:
The Bribery Act 2010, requiring employers to have procedures in place to prevent bribery and corruption by their employees and directors.
The implementation of further elements of the Equality Act 2010 on positive action in recruitment and promotion and the extension of the public sector ‘equality duty’ to cover the additional protected characteristics of sexual orientation, age, religion / belief, gender re-assignment, maternity and marital status in to a single scheme. This change will also reinforce the ‘contract compliance’ approach in procurement by public bodies – affecting those who contract to the public sector significantly.
The Agency Worker Regulations 2011 come into force.
The default retirement age will be removed, making the end of March 2011 the very last opportunity for employers to make use of the compulsory retirement provisions - which require six months’ minimum notice of the employer’s intention to compulsorily retire an employee.