The UK has perhaps the most comprehensive employment laws in Europe, and in 2013 there will be a number of additional amendments to existing legislation which will have a direct impact on all new employment contracts issued. Here we take a look at 5 of the most pertinent aspects of employment legislation that employers need to be aware of when issuing new contracts this year.
1. Work Time Directive
In a bid to better manage Britain’s long hours work culture, the Government’s Work Time Directive has set the maximum limit by which workers are required to work at no more than 48 hours a week, with the notable exception of those working in certain industries, such as the armed forces and emergency services.
2. Pension Auto-Enrolment
Employers with 50 or more workers are now legally required to enroll all employees automatically, and make mandatory employer contributions, into a qualifying scheme or the National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) which will be implemented in stages. Employers may postpone enrolment for three months, although employees will be able to opt in during this period.
3. Parental leave
The new Parental Leave Directive (96/34/EC) will increase the amount of leave a parent or adopted parent is entitled to following the birth of a child from three to four months. Furthermore, changes to the Equality Act (see below) now safeguard women against discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity during the period of her pregnancy and the statutory maternity leave which she is entitled to.
4. Changes to the national minimum wage
In October the national minimum wage increased from £6.08 to £6.19 per hour, while the youth rate (which applies to workers aged 18 to 20) and the rate for workers aged 16 to 17 will remain unchanged in 2013. The apprentice rate, however, has seen a marginal increase from £2.60 to £2.65 per hour.
5. Provisions of Equality Act 2010
The introduction of the Equal Pay Act in 2010 was the greatest shake-up of employment legislation in a generation, yet despite its significance some employers are still struggling with its implications. Here are some of the key elements of the Act which must be taken into consideration during the contract stage:
1) Age, disability, sex, and race discrimination have not only been outlawed but certain recent amendments to the Act mean that:
– Employers can no longer fix a compulsory retirement age
– Employers can they enquire as to the physical health and well-being of an individual, except only to determine their ability to perform the job at hand
– Employees cannot be discriminated against for their race or sexual orientation and employees who have undertaken gender transformation are also protected.
2) Rehabilitation of offenders: Periods after which criminal convictions become spent will be reduced in March and former offenders cannot be prejudiced against for any spent convictions.
3) Third-party harassment provisions in Equality Act repealed: Employers will now be liable, in certain circumstances, if an employee is harassed by a third party.
While none of the above will come as a major surprise to employers, the constantly evolving and increasingly complex nature of the UK’s employment laws has seen a sharp rise in demand among employers for advice on how best to pre-empt and effectively react to various employment issues. By familiarising yourself with the pertinent aspects of contract law you will at least be aware of the key changes that must be considered when preparing any new contract of employment.
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