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February 2013 Updates

New redundancy consultation Regulations

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has published draft Regulations, which will shorten the collective consultation period from 90 days to 45 days for proposals to make more than 100 people redundant. They will also bring fixed-term employees into the headcount. Proposals to make between 20 and 99 redundancies must start at least 30 days before any dismissals take effect. This will apply to proposals which are put forward on or after 6 April 2013.

Acas Code on "secret" settlement agreements

The Government is introducing new legislation, which will exclude any settlement agreement offer or discussions from evidence in unfair dismissal claims. The exception to this rule will be if either of the parties has engaged in some form of improper behaviour.

In line with this, Acas has launched a consultation for a new Code of Practice on Settlement Agreements. The Code would come into effect alongside the legislative provision. Its aim is to allow everyone in the workplace to understand how the legislation will work in practice. The Code will also look at what is meant by "improper behaviour" in more detail. The consultation will run until 9 April 2013.

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New Tribunal award limits

From 1 February 2013, the limits applying to certain Employment Tribunal awards, and other amounts payable under employment legislation, have been increased as follows:

  • The maximum amount of a "week's pay" for Statutory Redundancy Pay ("SRP") purposes has increased from £430 to £450.
  • The maximum amount payable to employees in respect of any workless day has increased from £23.50 to £24.20. Workers are entitled to guaranteed pay during lay-off or short time working. The maximum amount they can receive is £24.20 a day for five days in any three month period (a maximum of £121). They must have been employed continuously for one month and they must not have refused any offer of reasonable alternative work.
  • The limit on the amount of the compensatory award for unfair dismissal has been increased from £72,300 to £74,200.

Childcare: a new level playing field?

The Government has recently published the Children and Families Bill 2012-13. The Bill is designed to progress the Government's commitment to improving services for vulnerable children and supporting strong families. It is representative of the coalition's wider aim of ensuring that all children and young people can succeed, regardless of their background.

The Bill contains a number of things, but, most notably, it includes reforms to employment law. We have set out the key details of them below:

  • Employed mothers would still be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave.
  • Mothers would be able to elect to end their maternity leave after the initial two week recovery period. Parents would then be able to decide how they would like to share the remaining leave between themselves.
  • Fathers would be able to take unpaid leave to attend no more than two ante-natal appointments.
  • A new statutory payment for parents on shared parental leave would be introduced. It would be subject to the same qualifying requirements that currently apply to statutory maternity and paternity pay.
  • Those who have adopted a child would now be entitled to the same pay and leave as birth parents.
  • The right to request flexible working would be extended to all employees and the current statutory procedure for considering requests would be removed. Employers would instead be obliged to consider all requests in a reasonable manner.

Business minister, Jo Swinson, believes that these reforms, if implemented, would shatter the perception that childcare is mainly a woman's role.

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill: A whistle stop tour

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill has been progressing through a variety of stages. It is currently being considered in the House of Lords. As a result, there are a number of changes being debated in relation to whistleblowing legislation. They include:

  • Extending whistleblowing protection so that it applies to job applicants. This would prevent employers from "blacklisting" jobseekers who have previously made protected disclosures against their employers. It would also bring the legislation in line with the Equality Act 2010
  • Introducing a requirement for a worker to reasonably believe that their disclosure is in the public interest.
  • Removing the requirement that disclosures must be made in good faith, but reducing compensation by up to 25% in cases where a disclosure was not made in good faith.
  • Making employers vicariously liable for any detriments that an employee who has made a protected disclosure suffers at the hands of other employees. This means that the employer would be held to account for the wrongs its employees has committed.


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