We’ve already looked at the increase in the required qualifying period for an unfair dismissal as well as changes to the employment tribunal procedure, but here are some other employment law changes in the pipeline:
1. For large employers, with 250 or more employees, there will be an obligation to automatically enrol eligible employees into a workplace pension scheme and to make mandatory contributions for the employee, with effect from October 1. The obligation to auto enrol will be introduced gradually on a monthly basis thereafter based on the number of employees employed. This will run from October 1, 2012 to February 1, 2014 depending on the number of staff employed.
For employers with 50 to 249 employees, the start date will be from April 1, 2014 to April 1, 2015 depending on the number of employees.
For employers with less than 50 employees the start date will be from August 1, 2015 to April 1, 2017.
2. The government is considering the introduction of ‘compensated no fault dismissals’ for smaller employers – i.e. those with 10 or less employees. This would mean that an employer could fairly dismiss, for no reason, so long as he gave notice and made a termination payment equivalent to what the employee would have received if made redundant.
3. With an increase in the number of inconsistent tribunal cases relating to holidays and sickness, the government is proposing to amend working time legislation to enable employees who are off sick and unable to take annual leave to carry this over to the next holiday year and to give more flexibility to employers regarding annual leave.
4. The government is consulting on the issues of introducing protected conversations, which would allow employers to have discussions regarding an employee’s performance problems or retirement plans without the possibility of such conversations then being used in any tribunal proceedings. The intention is to allow employers to have sensible conversations but it is unclear at present how this will work in practice.
5. It is proposed that the requirements under TUPE and collective redundancy consultation are to be amended and simplified. There is also a proposal to make compromise agreements more straightforward and to revise the ACAS code on discipline & grievance to make the dismissal process easier.
6. The government is planning to remove the obligation to employers regarding third party harassment from the Equality Act. Currently employers have an obligation to take action if a third party, which may include patients, locums etc, harasses a member of staff on the third occasion, known as the ‘three strike rule’.
7. The proposal to extend the period of Parental leave, which is unpaid, from three to four months will now be postponed to 2013.
8. The government is yet to respond to recommendations to changes to absence procedures. Recommendations include the introduction of an Independent Assessment Service, who would conduct and provide medical reports regarding employees who have been signed off sick for four weeks.
Whether or not all of these changes will be implemented remains to be seen but 2012 is shaping up to be an interesting year.