2006 saw employers getting to grips with age discrimination and the new TUPE regime. Here, we look at what is in store for 2007.
Work and families
Last July we looked at the Work and Families Act 2006 when the detailed Regulations were still in draft. We now have the final version of the Regulations. The key changes to the law are as follows.
The new rules will apply to employees whose babies are due to be born or placed for adoption on or after 1 April 2007.
Extension of maternity leave period
Under the new Regulations all pregnant employees will be entitled to 52 weeks leave when their babies are born.
Notice period for return from maternity leave
Employees who wish to return to work earlier than the end of their statutory maternity leave period will be required to give their employer 8 weeks notice.
Statutory Maternity Pay period
The statutory maternity pay period will increase to 39 weeks from April 2007 – 6 weeks at 90% of pay and 33 weeks at the flat rate (£108.85). The Government has announced that it intends to increase the pay period to one year by the end of this Parliament (2009/10).
Keeping in touch days
The Regulations allow an employee on maternity leave to agree with their employer to work for up to 10 days during their leave without bringing the leave to an end. This is to allow employees to attend training courses or business or skills updating without prejudicing their maternity leave.
Under the Regulations, employers are entitled to make ‘reasonable contact’ with employees during maternity leave.
The law at present provides that parents with 26 weeks’ service who have children under six (or under 18 if the child has a disability) are entitled to apply to work flexibly. The Act extends this right to carers of adults from 6 April 2007. The minimum service requirement (26 weeks) will remain the same.
An employee will be entitled to make a request to work flexibly if he or she is caring for or expects to care for an adult to whom they are married or who is their partner (living together) or civil partner or who is a ‘near relative’, or an adult who lives at the same address as they do. ‘Near relative’ will mean the employee’s parents, parents-in-law, adult child, adult adopted child, siblings (including in-laws), uncles, aunts, grandparents or step-relatives.
There is no current proposal to extend this right to parents of children aged between 6 and 17 who do not have a disability.
Smoke-free work places
Under new legislation, virtually all enclosed and substantially enclosed workplaces must be smoke-free from 1 July 2007 (there are a few very limited exemptions). This will include company cars and other work vehicles. Designated ‘smoking rooms’ will no longer be allowed.
Employers will face fines if they allow employees to smoke at their workplace or if they fail to display adequate no-smoking signs. Failure to display a no-smoking sign will incur a fine of up to £1000 or a fixed penalty notice of £200. Failing to prevent smoking in what should be a smoke-free place will incur a fine of up to £2,500.
Information and consultation
From 1 April 2007 the Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004 will extend the requirement to make available a formal information and consultation procedure to all businesses employing at least 100 employees.
New rates of compensation
Any employee who is unfairly dismissed on or after 1 February 2007 will be able to claim a maximum compensatory award of £60,600. The rate of statutory redundancy pay will increase to £310 per week (from the current level of £290 per week). The new maximum amount of a statutory redundancy payment will be £9,300.
New rates of statutory pay
From 1 April 2007, the standard rate of Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay and Statutory Adoption pay will be £112.75 per week.