Employment law changes to look out for in 2013

January 28, 2013

This article was originally written for and published in Talk Business.

We were bombarded through the autumn with news of the Coalition’s proposals on reforming employment law, via various initiatives, and from various government departments. Get ahead of the game by checking out this snapshot of the proposed reforms, from those that are simply being thrown around, to those that are set in stone.

Possibly

Most of these have not yet been confirmed and are only at the proposal stage. Most of them are intended to make life easier for employers:

  • Introduction of “employee owner” status – whereby employees would be offered shares in their employer worth between £2,000 and £50,000 which would be exempt from capital gains tax, in exchange for giving up some of their employment rights (e.g. unfair dismissal, statutory redundancy payment).
  • Repeal of the obligation for employers to protect employees against third party harassment and to respond to discrimination questionnaires.
  • Introducing a public interest requirement to gain protection for whistleblowing disclosures.
  • Changes to the rules on collective redundancy consultation including reducing the 90-day minimum consultation period to either 30 or 45 days.
  • Changes to ‘without prejudice’ rule so that offers of settlement in the context of issues with conduct or performance will not be admissible as evidence in unfair dismissal cases, even if there is no “dispute” which has arisen at the time of making the offer. This will not apply in discrimination or whistleblowing claims; 
  • Statutory code of practice for use of settlement agreements to be introduced.
  • The current cap of £72,300 in relation to the compensatory award for unfair dismissal to be decreased.
  • Changes to Employment Tribunal rules to introduce more effective case management; a reform of the costs regime; new Tribunal guidance; new powers for the Tribunal in relation to dispute resolution; changes to time limits.

Probably

The Government have indicated that they intend to

  • Make changes to flexible parental leave and pay, including:
  1. The right for parents to share between them 50 weeks of leave as they choose (in agreement with employers), including a new concept of flexible parental pay so that the current entitlement to statutory maternity pay can be shared between parents; and
  2. Changes to adoption leave, including making it consistent with SMP and flexible parental leave set out above; and
  • Extend the right to request flexible working to all employees with 26 weeks’ service.

Definitely

Also don’t forget the changes that are definitely going to come in:

  • Hearing fees to be introduced in the Employment Tribunal.
  • Changes to the Working Time Regulations to reflect European judgments on holiday carry over for employees on long term sick or maternity leave.
  • An increase in the total amount of unpaid parental leave that can be taken per child from 13 to 18 weeks (up to four weeks of this leave can be taken per year).
  • Continued roll-out of the pensions auto-enrolment:
    Employers with between 50 and 249 workers will have to auto-enrol from staging dates running from 1 April 2014 to 1 April 2015. Employers with fewer than 50 workers between 1 June 2015 and 1 April 2017.

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