Changes to employment law and practice led by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform are normally implemented in either April or October. The reason for this is to make life easier for employers, who must ensure that their policies and procedures comply by the implementation dates – or risk significant penalties.
The main changes introduced in April 2009 are:
Repeal of the Dispute Resolution Procedures – 6 April 2009
The Employment Act 2008 repeals the statutory dispute resolution procedures and related provisions dealing with procedural unfairness in dismissal cases. In their place is a revised voluntary Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) Code of Practice supported by non-statutory guidance aimed at encouraging employers and employees to resolve issues both earlier and informally. Changes are also made to the law relating to conciliation by officers of ACAS, with the removal of fixed periods for conciliation. The Employment Tribunal (ET) now has the discretion to increase or reduce an award by up to 25 per cent where either side unreasonably fails to comply with the new Code of Practice.
The Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) Amendment Regulations 2008 make consequential procedural changes, resulting from the Employment Act 2008, to ET practice and also make changes with regard to default judgments, electronic communications, the withdrawal and dismissal of proceedings and Stage 1 hearings in equal value claims.
The Right to Request Flexible Working – 6 April 2009
From 6 April, the right to request flexible working arrangements is extended to those with parental responsibility for children aged 16 and under. See the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform for further information.
Enforcement of the National Minimum Wage – 6 April 2009
The Employment Act 2008 makes changes to the way in which payment of the National Minimum Wage is enforced. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers are given wider powers of investigation and restrictions are removed on the exchange of information between HMRC and the Employment Standards Inspectorate. There is a new penalty for employers who underpay their workers and a new method of calculating arrears that takes into account the length of time over which underpayment has occurred. See the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform for further information.
Changes to Trade Union Membership Law – 6 April 2009
The Employment Act 2008 includes changes that bring trade union rules in line with European legislation and grant unions the right to expel or exclude members who are also members of political parties such as the British National Party.
Increase in Holiday Entitlement – 1 April 2009
In October 2007, the minimum statutory paid holiday entitlement was increased from 20 days a year to 24 days for those working a 5 day week (pro-rata for part-time workers). From 1 April, the minimum statutory annual leave entitlement increased to 28 days a year. Paid time off does not have to be given for bank and public holidays but, if it is, employers can include this in the holiday entitlement. See the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform for further information.
Statutory Maternity Pay – 5 April 2009
The standard weekly rate of Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay increased from £117.18 to £123.06 for payment weeks starting on or after 5 April 2009.
Statutory Sick Pay – 6 April 2009
The weekly rate for days of sick absence commencing on or after 6 April 2009 increased from £75.40 to £79.15.