With so many new legislative proposals around at the moment, this summary sets out details of what is coming into force and when in order to help you plan for the changes over the year ahead and beyond.
1 February 2012
The annual increase to Employment Tribunal limits will take place. The maximum compensatory award will rise to £72,300 and the cap on a week’s pay for calculating redundancy payments and basic awards will increase to £430.
By 8 March 2012
Implementation of the new Parental Leave Directive is required, which will increase parental leave from three to four months.
The qualifying period for unfair dismissal will rise from one to two years. No transitional provisions are available yet so we do not know precisely how the change will be introduced. All unfair dismissal cases will be heard by a judge sitting alone without wing members unless the judge directs otherwise.
Various other Employment Tribunal
changes will also be made, including a doubling of the maximum deposit order from £500 to £1,000 and a doubling of the maximum costs that a Tribunal can award to £20,000. Witness statements will be taken as read unless the judge decides otherwise and witness expenses will be paid by the relevant party. The judge will be able to order the losing party to pay the successful party for these costs.
A new apprenticeship structure and prescribed form apprenticeship agreements will be introduced.
The rate of statutory sick pay is due to rise to £85.85 per week. Statutory maternity/adoption/paternity pay and maternity allowance are scheduled to rise to £135.45 per week from 9 April.
The Government’s response to the consultation on amending the Working Time Regulations is due in early 2012, but it remains to be seen whether this happens in time for the changes (which largely deal with holidays and sick leave) to be implemented in April.
1 October 2012
Pensions auto-enrolment and minimum employer contributions will apply to the largest employers.
Annual rises in the national minimum wage may take effect, depending on the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission
Criminal Records Bureau checks will become portable and employers will be able to use an immediate online checking service.
Dates not yet known
The Government has confirmed that various further employment law changes will take place, but has not yet given a date for their implementation.
Claimants will have to submit details of their complaint to ACAS
for pre-claim conciliation, which will last for one month, and mediation periods will be extended.
Penalties of up to £5,000 will be introduced for employers who lose Tribunal cases, but this will not be automatic. Judges will have discretion to impose a penalty where an employer’s breach of employment rights has aggravating features such as negligence or malice.
Fees will be introduced for claimants in Employment Tribunals. A consultation exercise is currently taking place about the various options, with any scheme unlikely to start until 2013 or 2014.
Compromise agreements will be renamed settlement agreements and a standard form will be published for small employers to use. It will be made clear that both existing and future claims can be waived, and section 147 of the Equality Act will be amended to confirm that discrimination claims can validly be waived. (The standard form agreement and the waiver of future claims will be subject to consultation.)
Whistle-blowing legislation will be changed so that staff members cannot rely on a breach of their contract of employment in order to start a whistle-blowing claim.
To keep up to date…
HR professionals are set to have a busy year. Our timeline
highlights the details of these proposed changes plus any key judgments that are expected during year.
Karen Plumbley-Jones is a practice development lawyer at law firm, Bond Pearce.