Changes due under the Employment Act

first_imgChanges due under the Employment ActOn 1 Apr 2003 in Personnel Today NicholaEvans from law firm Rowe Cohen outlines the main changes to workplacelegislation being introduced as part of the Employment Act from 6 April Flexible working From 6 April 2003 Employees with a clear responsibility for raising a child under the age ofsix (or 18 if the child is disabled) will have the right to ask their employerto seriously consider a request for more flexible working hours. The employer must change the working hours (or give a reasonable writtenexplanation as to why this has not been done) within six weeks, or face thepossibility of the case being brought before an employment tribunal. To qualify, the parent/carer must have clocked up six months’ (26 weeks)service. Equal pay questionnaire From 6 April 2003 Staff will be able to serve their employer with a questionnaire to establishwhether they are in a position to make a claim under the Equal Pay Act. They may ask for specific information about a ‘comparator’ – someone ofeither sex who does, or did, the same kind of job. Employers are legallyobliged to reply within eight weeks. The questionnaires are voluntary, but employers that ignore requests arelikely to be penalised at an employment tribunal. Maternity From 6 April 2003 Ordinary maternity leave will be extended from 18 to 26 weeks. Additional maternity leave is extended from 15 to 26 weeks, running from theend of ordinary maternity leave. To qualify for additional maternity leave, it will only be necessary to haveworked for the six months (26 weeks) leading up to the 25th week of pregnancy.Previously, this qualification period was one year. The statutory maternity pay entitlement period has been extended from 18 to26 weeks. Statutory maternity, paternity and adoptive pay will be £100 perweek. There will also be 26 weeks paid and 26 weeks unpaid leave for adoptiveparents. Paternity From 6 April 2003 Under the Act, new fathers will have the option of taking one or twoconsecutive weeks off as paternity leave within eight weeks (56 days) of thebirth. To qualify for paternity leave, the employee must have clocked up sixmonths’ (26 weeks) service by the 25th week of the pregnancy. Statutory paternity pay will also be £100 per week. Union learning representatives Expected May 2003 The Act introduces a new statutory right to paid time off for union learningrepresentatives (ULRs) to help them promote workplace learning. Employers are still waiting for final guidance on the statutory rights forULRs, which is expected to come into force in May. There has been concern that the statutory rights for ULRs could lead toclashes with company training policies. The DTI is currently correcting the ULR draft code, which is due to gobefore the House of Commons tomorrow (2 April), and before the House of Lordson 9 April. Grievances and discipline Expected April 2004 The final decision is still pending, but it is expected that from springnext year, new rules will come into effect encouraging employers and staff toresolve workplace disputes without resorting to litigation, using internalgrievance procedures. Employment tribunals will take into account failure by either party to useinternal procedures when making decisions. The Department for Trade and Industry is also expected to introduce minimumstandards for disciplinary and grievance procedures that employers must meet,which will be included in employees’ contracts. In the meantime, to avoid the eventual risk of being deemed unfair whendismissing an employee, it is advisable to include details and descriptions ofdisciplinary procedures and grievance channels in all staff contracts ofemployment. Feedback from the profession on the impact of the employment actJanice Cook, HR director, NCH”The key things for us are the flexible workingprovisions. Two-thirds of our employees are part-time, so we already have mostof the facilities in place to let staff choose different working hours.”The Government hasn’t gone far enough on paternity leave,and I don’t think it has done enough to help working parents.”Clare Smith, HR director, LeonardCheshire “Generally speaking, the voluntary sector will find therewill be relatively little impact. We have been offering flexible working andfamily-friendly hours for a long time now.”We are ahead of the legislation to a certain extent, andtry to be as flexible as possible. However, because of the specific rules, weare writing a handbook for managers on how to deal with the Act.”It can be open to very wide interpretation, and goodemployers will go with the spirit of the laws, whereas bad employers will stickto the letter and carry on as they are.”Equal pay questionnaires are long and confusing, and willbe difficult for the majority of employees to understand. I’m extremelyconcerned about confidentiality, and would only reveal an individual’s earningsunder extreme circumstances.”We are also very disappointed that people who care forelderly or disabled relatives are not included.”Lesley Cotton, director ofpersonnel and development at retailer Morgan “We are carrying out training for line managers to helpraise awareness of the changes. These managers take the requests, so it isessential that they are up-skilled.”I think the legislation just formalises the process thatmany large companies already have in place. If it’s right for the individualand the employer then it makes sense, but if it isn’t, employers can refuse. “I think it will take away the fear of asking, and HRshould see this as a positive move.”Paul Pagliari, HR director, Scottish Water”We already have a number of staff working flexibly. Itmakes good business sense, so we are happy to listen to requests from otherworkers.”Equal pay questionnaires could be more difficult becausewe have merged three water authorities into one organisation, but we arecurrently working on a system to review pay across the group.”The bureaucratic burden always seems to be on theemployer, which could be expensive and time-consuming. The measures areadvantageous, but there is a cost.”Caroline Wilson, HR director,Eversheds”Because our workforce is 65 per cent female, we have tomake sure we are really family-friendly. We already invite staff to requestchanges to the way they work and have had around 50 applications in the pastsix months, 90 per cent of which have been approved.”I think most employers will get to grips with this andrealise it makes good business sense.”Ed Hildebrandt, personnel manager,Panasonic business systems UK”We have been developing a flexible working policy for awhile now to ensure we meet the requirements. It won’t be a huge change becausewe already offer a range of flexible policies, such as job sharing, term-timehours and homeworking.”The challenge for HR will be getting buy-in from linemanagers and getting them to think if jobs can be done better in a differentway.”The legislation will put a structure around flexibility,but I think the business case is the strongest motivator.”My concern is that it might raise the expectations ofsome people, because employers can refuse requests if the business case isn’tstrong enough.”Debbie McCallion, HR director forNorth West Europe, Intentia”The only concern I have is that it [the right for parentsto request flexible working] will start to over-formalise the process too much.Good employers already allow flexibility, and I wouldn’t want this to becometoo bureaucratic.”We have been happy to consider requests for the past fewyears, so we do feel prepared. It is a very positive thing, because if peoplehave a better balance at work, they perform better.”My fear is that employers might not respond properly andlose tribunals because they have considered it fairly, but not followed theexact procedure.”Martin Hinchliffe, HR director,Welcome Break”Some sectors will find it easier than others to implementand we are pretty fortunate in that we are a 24-hour company. “I think that it will lead to more tribunals as there willbe pinch-points for many organisations.” Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Articlelast_img

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