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New Employment Legislation in force from April 2010

30th April 2010

The Government has brought a number of employment laws into effect from April 2010. Some have these have been discussed in our News items in recent months, but there are others which we have not previously covered.

Under section 40 of the rather cumbersome title of the Apprenticeship, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 certain employees will have the right to request time off to undertake study or training. The Act applies to employees with over 26 weeks service with their employer. Under the Act employers will be required to give serious consideration to all such requests. There are set procedural steps that an employer has to take on receiving a request, such as arranging a meeting with the employee to discuss the request within a set period. From April 2010 this legislation will cover employees that work in businesses that employ 250 or more people. The right is to be phased in, and will be extended to employees of all businesses from April 2011. The training in question may be provided on site, or elsewhere. Employers need to prepare for this, including those that are not covered until April 2011. This is of course a right to request, not a right to insist on training.

The traditional “sick note” has now been replaced by the new “Fit note”. For further details on this please refer to our News Item from February 2010 on this subject.   

From April 2010 Employment Tribunals will be able to pass information about a “public interest disclosure” – ie, details of a “Whistleblowing” case, to the relevant regulator. This may be done if the individual (the person bringing the claim) consents to it. For further details on this please refer to our News Item from January 2010 on this subject. 

The rate of the National Minimum Wage is reviewed every year. The Government has announced that from October 2010 the rates will increase again. The new rates will be:-

-          £5.93 per hour for workers aged 21 and over, (the current rate is £5.80 from age 22)

-          £4.92 per hour for those aged 18 to 20 (inclusive), (the current rate is £4.83)

-          £3.64 per hour for those aged 16 and 17 (the current rate is £3.57).

Employers should note that the higher rate will, from October 2010, apply to workers that are 21 years old, whereas currently the higher rate only applies from age 22.   

In addition to announcing the increase in the rate of the National Minimum Wage, increases in other payments have been announced. The Basic State Pension increases from the 12th April 2010 to £97.65 (for a single person) from £95.25. The Higher Rate Attendance Allowance, and the Disability Living Allowance (care component) also both increase from the 12th April 2010 to £71.40 per week.

Standard Rate Maternity, Paternity, and Adoption Pay has increased (generally from the 4th April 2010) to £124.88 per week. As this covers the “standard” rate of payment of these entitlements, it does not alter the initial entitlement to 90% of the employee’s normal pay during the first few weeks of the Statutory Maternity, or Adoption Pay period. (See our Free Factsheet on Maternity Pay on this subject).

Section 71 of the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 has come into force. Under this Act it is an offence to keep another person in slavery or servitude, or require them to perform forced or compulsory labour. While the vast majority of employers, and individuals, will not be affected by this, one aim of the legislation is to protect vulnerable workers, for example foreign, migrant workers, from exploitation. Clearly the offence implies a level of coercion. In the view of the Government indications of coercion may include the retention of the worker’s documentation (such as their passport), or the worker being required to live in a particular area.

Immigration rules also changed on the 6th April 2010. The change affects Tiers 1 & 2. These are the main categories which relate to highly skilled, and other skilled, non- EU nationals.

The most controversial new piece of employment legislation is the Equality Act 2010, which became law on the last day of business in Parliament before the election. This Act will consolidate the numerous existing types of discrimination into one piece of legislation, and address some of the anomalies between the many different pieces of anti-discrimination legislation. However, the Act does introduce certain new provisions. The future of some of those provisions will depend on the outcome of the General Election, but we propose to provide a summary shortly.

If you need any further advice and help on the issues raised in this article please do not hesitate to contact us.

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