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THE WORK ETHIC
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EDINBURGH
EH4 6NT
Telephone: 0131 336 1619

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The top 10 employment law changes in 2011

This year sees the first wave of the Coalition Government’s changes to Employment Law. These reforms are likely to cause consternation and relief in equal measures. Here’s an at-a-glance look at the top 10.

1. From October, Temporary Agency Workers (TAW) will be entitled to the same rates of pay and conditions as a permanent employee. These regulations will cover, amongst other things, working time and holiday entitlements, the responsibility of pregnant workers and a firm definition of what pay means to TAW employees.

2. The Guidance to Bribery Act came into effect at the end of March this year. It details the steps necessary for a commercial organisation to prevent them being accused of failing to prevent bribery. The Act covers many issues such as procedures involving gifts, hospitality, expenses and whistleblowing.

3. According to the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), around 96% of businesses employ less than 10 workers, yet are responsible for nearly a third of the nation’s economy. As part of the Government’s ‘Plan for Growth’ these ‘micro-businesses’ and other ‘start-up businesses’ will be exempt from having to comply with certain domestic legislations for up to three years.

4. Enhanced maternity pay and maternity leave has, until April, been one of the few rules to actively distinguish between men and women. Now, however, men are entitled to paternity leave and enhanced paternity pay. Research from the charity Working Families suggests that 25% of employers are unprepared for this change and are leaving themselves open to discrimination lawsuits.

5. From 6th April 2011 there will be a change to the PAYE code, applied to post-P45 termination payments outside of the £30,000 exemption. Until that date, any such termination payment must be taxed at the basic rate of tax. 20% is deducted whether or not the employee is actually a higher rate tax payer. Under the new legislation, a new tax code is applied these termination payments. This means that, depending on the size of the termination payment, tax will be deducted at 20%, 40% or 50% - whichever rate is relevant.

6. In seeking to progress the Equality Act of 2010, the Government has made further announcements. From 2011, there will be seven separate forms of identifiable discrimination. These are - direct discrimination from a protected characteristic, associated discrimination of those who associate with someone with a protected characteristic, indirect discrimination that disadvantages someone with a protected characteristic, harassment, harassment by a third party, victimisation against someone who has supported or made a complaint under Equality legislation and discrimination by perception.

7. Parents of 17 year-olds will no longer have the legal right to request flexible working hours.

8. Those who wish to pursue further study or training will no longer have the legal right to request time off work if they work in an organisation with less than 250 employees.

9. As of the 6th April, employers no longer have the right to retire workers at a fixed, compulsory age. Effectively, the age of enforceable retirement has been abolished.

10. The rates of statutory compensation limits and statutory benefits have been changed. Amongst the changes, the National Minimum Wage for those aged between 18 to 20 years old has been raised from £5.80 to £5.93 per hour.

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