Changes in the law from April 2009 and onwards have included the last installment of statutory holiday increases, the repeal of the statutory dispute procedures, and the extension of flexible working to the parents of teenage children. But there were a number of other resolved disputes that need explaining:
The annual entitlement to paid holiday for workers has risen from 4.8 weeks to 5.6, under the Working Time Regulations. For full-time workers the increase was from 24 to 28 weeks. These increases incorporate the 8 public holidays of the UK into the statutory annual leave, but there is still no legal right to take time off, whether paid or not, on the actual public holiday.
The 2004 Statutory Dismissal and Grievance Procedures were replaced to allow tribunals to raise or lower compensation by up to 25% for “unreasonable” non-compliance with the ACAS Code, according to who is at fault in the dispute.
The right to request flexible working was previously limited to the parents of disabled children, children under 6, or adult carers. This was extended to the parents of all children up to the age of 16, but there have been indications that the extension may be shelved due to the economic crisis.
A penalty for employers is now in place for those that are underpaying, ranging from £100 to £5000, based on 50% of the total underpayment. This penalty can be reduced by a maximum of 50% if employees are reimbursed within 14 days. The amount due to pay is calculated using the current minimum wage, so workers will receive underpayment at a higher rate if the rate has increased.
The weekly statutory sick pay increased from £75.40 to £79.15, while the weekly rate for statutory maternity, adoption and paternity pay rose from £117.18 to £123.06.
In certain circumstances, unions can now expel or exclude individuals on the grounds of membership (or former membership) to a political party.
Extended paternity leave is now available, so that father’s can be eligible for 26 weeks’ extra leave, some of which is paid, once the mother has returned to work after their maternity leave.
There are some developments being awaited in the next few years that should also resolve some disputes:
Employers will be able to discriminate in favour of women, for example, when choosing between two equally qualified candidates. The Equality Bill aims to consolidate the existing discrimination law, although it also contains measures to induce greater ‘transparency’ in pay, so that the contractual secrecy clauses that prevent employees discussing their salary are banned.
The EU Working Time Directive is expected to amend rules on the scope of the opt-out system available for workers who wish to work more than the recommended 48 hours a week. This should see more employees being able to pull out of the opt-out, and aid their work-life balance. There may also be amendments to when ‘on call’ could be included as working time.
Education reformation is expected in the form of the availability of training and apprenticeships for young people. Employees should have the right to request unpaid time off from work for training. From 2013, all suitably qualified young people should also have the right to an apprenticeship.