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Employment law 2013: progress on reform

The document is primarily an opportunity for the Government to reiterate its vision for the UK labour market and to take stock of the changes which have already been planned. It is an interesting read for employers; the statements about the Government’s vision for a flexible, effective and fair labour market may help employers plan their HR strategy while the schedule of implementation for further changes is much needed clarification considering there are so many different initiatives at present.

The schedule of implementation shows that the changes we can expect this spring are

the consolidation of National Minimum Wage regulations (so that the current body of 17 different regulations are streamlined and are easier to understand).
the changes to collective redundancy so that consultation periods are reduced from 90 to 45 days where 100 or more employees are affected. This is expected to be in force from 6th April.
a new Acas “guide” (non-statutory code of practice) to help improve the quality of collective redundancy consultation and provide guidance on tricky issues such as the meaning of “establishment”.
the completion of consultation on reforming the regulation of employment agencies and employment businesses in the recruitment sector. The aim is to strip away “unnecessary red tape” and provide greater flexibility for this sector.

Further changes will be gradually introduced over the next two years. This summer highlights include the setting of the 12 month’s pay cap for unfair dismissal compensatory awards, the introduction of revised employment tribunal rules and employment tribunal fees and the introduction of measures to make settlements easier (such as an Acas statutory code of practice on settlement agreements which includes template letters). Other changes will filter through in the autumn – the most significant of these are the TUPE regulations reforms, though given the complexity of TUPE this time frame may be overly optimistic in practice. The right to request flexible working for all employees and the introduction of employment tribunal penalties are not expected until spring 2014.

The Employment Law Review Update is divided into three sections – taking people on, managing staff and letting people go and the planned reforms are intended to help employers in these situations. We appreciate that many employers feel that they are beleaguered by the amount of new legislation and the pace of change; the update explains why so many changes are considered necessary.

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