Five Important Updates in Employment Law

Employment LawAnybody that works in the world of employment law will be the first to appreciate just how fast-moving this area of the legal industry really can be. If a smaller company cannot afford the services of a trained human resources manager, it can be such a difficult job to stay abreast of all of the regulatory changes and obligations that it faces.

Equally, the average employee will be hard pressed to keep a mental note of every single amendment that may affect his or her working life. These are two good reasons why employment law practitioners are likely to be kept exceptionally busy for the foreseeable future. 

In this article, rather than tackling one specific issue that is due to come into effect in employment law, it seems more prudent to take on five of them. This way we can learn a little bit more through the same article. 

Additional Maternity and Paternity Leave Entitlement

It is the government’s intention to increase the statutory maternity leave entitlement from the current nine months to 12 months within the near future. This will enable the mother to spend even more time with the newborn within the vital first year of his or her life. Fathers have not been overlooked either, and there are plans to allow a couple to rely upon even more flexibility, with the extension of paternity leave, up to a maximum of 26 weeks. A father will be able to use this entitlement if the mother returns to work and is not using her maternity leave entitlement at that time. 

Unlawful to Blacklist an Employee for Trade Union Membership

It came as somewhat of a surprise to me that this law was not already in effect! However, as of 3 March 2010, it is now unlawful for an employer, or potential employer, to blacklist an employee or candidate for trade union membership, or prohibit these same from conducting any activities in connection with such a body. In this day and age, this is likely to be welcomed by many employees, especially at a time when there seems to be far less membership of trade unions. 

Equality Legislation Consolidation

It is no wonder that, as our society has undergone changes over the years and attitudes and levels of tolerance have evolved along the way, equality legislation has trickled out of Parliament at a steady rate. This has led to a need for consolidation in this area and the Equality Bill will aim to achieve exactly that. This new legislation is planned to come into force in April 2011 and it will incorporate all relevant areas.

Equal Treatment for Agency Workers

Whether employees just appreciate the flexibility of working for an agency or where they may have struggled to find permanent employment through another company, new regulations are due to come into force on 1 October 2011 that are likely to be viewed as highly beneficial to them. Basically, the Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/93) will set out that an agency worker is entitled to enjoy the same basic employment conditions after they have undertaken 12 weeks of work for that company. That’s just 12 weeks and not months! It will be interesting to see how this works out for agency workers; will employers terminate agency workers’ employment before this deadline, in order to ensure that they do not incur the same rights as other employees? Time will no doubt tell. 

Pension Age Increases

As our society continues to age and as there will be fewer and fewer people of working age in the future, the government has set out time scales in which they are intending to increase the minimum retirement age as follows:

  • Between 2024 and 2026 the pension age is set to increase to 66 years of age.
  • Between 2034 and 2036 the pension age is set to increase to 67 years of age.
  • Between 2044 and 2046 the pension age is set to increase to 68 years of age.

We have only touched on the tip of the iceberg here, as far as amendments to employment law are concerned. As you can see though, this area of law really can have a profound impact on many people’s lives and each and every feature that we have looked at above can make a huge difference to employees and employers alike.