“Education, too?”: tips for investigating sexual allegations in schools and higher education settings
Despite the May 2010 election of a coalition government with a stated commitment to lessen the regulatory burden on employers, 2011 promises to be a busy year for HR practitioners and employment lawyers as they prepare to absorb a whole raft of changes. Below we outline the highlights of the coming year’s legislative agenda that could significantly impact the way employers deal with their staff:
Abolition of the Default Retirement Age (DRA)
If the Government’s stated proposals go through, the beginning of the end of the default retirement age of 65 will be in April 2011. After 5 April 2011 employers will no longer be able to rely on the DRA because the minimum 6 months notice required by the current rules will expire after the key date of 1 October 2011. Any retirement that takes effect after 1 October 2011 will need to be objectively justified even if the employer relies on a contractual retirement age.
Further provisions of the Equality Act 2010
Most of the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 came into force on 1 October 2010, but many provisions that had been included by the previous Labour administration were not, pending further review by the Coalition. On 17 November 2010 the Government confirmed that it was NOT going to bring into force section 1 of the Act, which would have required public sector employers to introduce a "socio-economic" monitoring duty. However, from April, employers will be able to use so-called "positive action" defence when recruiting meaning they can "apply voluntary positive action in recruitment and promotion processes when faced with two or more candidates of equal merit, to address under-representation in the workforce".
The Bribery Act 2010
From April 2011 employers will face a new criminal offence if they fail to prevent bribery by individuals acting on behalf of the organisation. The only defence available to employers will be to show that they had in place "adequate" measures to prevent bribery and corruption. Government guidance on what constitute "adequate" procedures on the part of companies is due to be published before the Bribery Act comes into force. Watch this space.
Extension of the "Right to Request" Flexible Working
The Flexible Working (Eligibility, Complaints and Remedies) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 will come into effect on 6 April 2011. From then, an eligible employee will be able to request flexible working to look after any child under the age of 18, up from the current age limit of 17, or 18 in the case of a disabled child.
New Statutory Payment Rates
The proposed rates of statutory benefits which are expected to apply from 11 April 2011, are:
Raising the Unfair Dismissal Qualifying Period
In November the Government announced it was considering raising the qualifying period for Unfair Dismissal, from the current one year of continuous employment, back to the two year period that was in place before 1997. Such a move is bound to face a challenge in the courts on the basis that a two year qualifying threshold is indirectly discriminatory against women. The courts have consistently held that women are less able to meet a two-year qualifying period on the basis that they are more likely to take family career breaks than men
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