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Parental leave
From 8 March 2013, unpaid parental leave entitlement (for employees with 12 months’ continuous service) will be extended from 13 to 18 weeks. Note that the maximum amount of unpaid parental leave that an employee can take in any one year will remain limited to four weeks.

New "owner-employee" employment contract
Employees will be asked to give up some of their employment rights in exchange for shares in their company and tax-free gains, under a proposed new "owner-employee" employment contract announced by the Government today at their conference on 8 October 12.

In his speech to the Conservative Party conference, Chancellor George Osborne set out a "voluntary three-way deal", which would see employees give up such rights as those around unfair dismissal and redundancy.
In return, employees would get between £2,000 and £50,000 worth of shares in the business they work for and would be exempt from paying capital gains tax on any profit made from them.

While the new owner-employee employment contract will be optional for existing employees, firms will be able to choose to only offer this type of contract for new employees employed after April 2013.

People employed on the contract will give up their rights around unfair dismissal, redundancy, the right to request flexible working and time off for training. Women will also have to give 16 weeks' notice of their date of return from maternity leave, instead of the usual eight weeks.

The new contract is intended for "fast growing" small and medium-sized companies, although firms of any size will be able to use it.

These are only proposals at this stage so employees need not take any action at this time, indeed there may be a period of consultation before any legislation is put before Parliament.

Employing under 16’s:
Under 16’s have many more rights than 16-18 year olds as they are not yet really classed as young workers. They will still be classed as children and therefore you must always err on the side of caution when employing workers of this age. You therefore must make sure that you are following the rules accordingly.
Key Points to remember here are:
1. 13 -14 year olds are only allowed to work as follows;

a. Schools days: no more than two hours per day outside of school hours but not between 7pm and 7am.

b. Saturdays: five hours

c. Sundays: two hours

d. School holidays: five hours per day

e. Maximum hours: 25 hours per week (ie during school holidays), but 12 hours in any week the child’s school is open

2. 15-16 year olds can work as follows:

a. School days: not more than two hours per day but not between 7pm and 7am.

b. Saturdays: eight hours

c. Sundays: two hours

d. School holidays: eight hours a day

e. Maximum hours: 35 hours per week (ie during school holidays), but 12 hours in any week the child’s school is open (ie during term time).
3. Even in the school holidays all workers under 16 should not work between 7pm and 7am.
4. Employees of this age must have a two-week break from any work during the school holiday in each calendar year
5. There is no minimum wage for under 16’s but it is always advisable to pay them a fair wage so as not to risk breaching any child slavery laws.
6. You will need to get a Child Employment Licence or permit form for you to employ workers of this age. This information is usually on your local council website,
7. You will also have to inform the school of their employment as well.
8. Ensure the correct risk assessments have been undertaken and be more diligent than usual when you give health and safety training.

Employment Tribunal Fees Announced:
It has now been released as to what fees Claimants will have to pay to issue an Employment Tribunal Claim. The fees will be implemented from Summer 2013.

Level 1: Mainly covering small monitory claims such as deduction from wages, holiday pay, notice pay, no section 1 statement etc. This will attract an issue fee of £160 and a hearing fee of £230.
Level 2: Covers most other larger scale claims, such as discrimination, and dismissal claims. This will attract a £250 issue fee and a £950 hearing fee.
Like the civil court system fees will also be introduced to implement or request certain actions, for example:

  • Review Default Judgment
  • Application to dismiss following settlement
  • Mediation by the judiciary
  • Counter-claim
  • Application for review

Again this will attract different fees dependent on the level of the claim issued. A more definitive structure should be released prior to implementation in 2013.

Workplace Pension Reform
You may already be aware that major changes to pension provision will be introduced later this year which will affect almost every employer.

What are the changes?
It will become mandatory for all employers to:

  • Automatically enrol all eligible employees into a pension scheme that meets a number of conditions based on level of contributions paid or benefits they receive.
  • Make pension contributions on behalf of employees
  • Register with the Pensions Regulator
  • Provide employees with certain information about the changes

When are the changes happening?
The changes are being introduced over a 4 year period commencing from 1 October 2012. Each employer will be issued with a start date which will be based on the number of employees they have. Employees with the largest number of employees will have the earliest start dates

Are all existing pension schemes suitable?
Employees will need to be enrolled into a “qualifying” pension scheme dependant on minimum contributions or the rate at which benefits will build up so it will be important to check that existing schemes are qualifying schemes

What next?
Pensions are a complex matter but if you want further information or guidance on setting up a qualifying scheme we will be happy to make the appropriate introductions to experts in the field .

Qualifying Period to bring a claim for Unfair Dismissal to rise to 2 years in April 2012
It is expected that when the qualifying period for unfair dismissal rises to 2 years in April 2012, the change will only affect employees who begin employment on or after 6 April 2012. Although there has been no formal statement by the Government yet, this announcement has been made.  It is planned that those already in employment on 6 April 2012 will retain the right to bring a claim for unfair dismissal with one year’s continuous service.

Rise in National Minimum Wage.
The new hourly rates will be:
6.08 (from 5.93) for standard rate (workers aged 21 and over)
4.98 (from 4.92) for development rate (workers aged between 18 and 20)
3.68 (from 3.64) for young workers rate (aged under 18 but above the compulsory school age who are not apprentices)
2.60 (from 2.50) for apprentices (those under 19 years of age or aged 19 and over but in the first year of their apprenticeship).

Bribery Act
The 1 July 2011 saw the introduction of the new Bribery Act which does affect employers as it creates a new corporate offence of failing to prevent bribery, which has a wide definition. Therefore employers will have to prove that they have in place adequate procedures to prevent anyone associated with them from undertaking prohibited conduct.

Agency Workers Regulations
The new Agency Workers Regulations will come into force on 1 October 11 and will give Agency Workers the same employment Rights as other employees if they are engaged for 12 weeks or more. It will not be possible to get around the Regulations by ending an arrangement just before 12 weeks and then re-engaging the workers again as the Regulations specifically forbid that.

Government confirm the abolition of the Default Retirement Age 14 on January 2011
The Government has announced that following consultation the abolition of the Default Retirement Age of 65 is to go ahead as planned.  The transitional arrangements previously announced and reported below will remain in place.  This means that after 1 October 2011 an employer will not be able to compulsorily retire an employee at all, except in the most exceptional of cases.  ACAS have published guidance for employers on future best practice to adopt in the future when managing more mature employees.

Richards HR Solutions celebrates 5 years of success on 1 December 2010
In December 2010 Richards HR Solutions celebrated their 5th anniversary in business by inviting clients and business associates to a celebration held in a Corporate Suite at the Peterborough Greyhound Stadium.  Guests too numerous to mention but from a range of industry sectors as diverse in nature as professional services firms to manufacturing enjoyed a relaxing, fun evening in superb surroundings and some actually came away with winnings!   

Managing Director Trevor Richards said, “I wanted to mark this occasion and thought it would be appropriate to invite both clients and those from the local business community that have helped us over the last 5 years. Some of the clients here tonight have been with us from the beginning and it’s a pleasure to see so many of them here enjoying themselves.  At a time of economic uncertainty we are proud of our achievements’ and are looking forward to the next 5 years.”    

Another Design Agency Andrews & Co Trevor and Smiths Gore

The photographs from left to right show, Amber Every from graphic design firm “Another Design Agency” together with Penny Touson of “Miss MoneyPenny PA Services: Elaine Richards the Managing Directors wife and Stephen Henson from Accountants “Andrews & Co” and lastly Trevor Richards with the Finance Director of Chartered Surveyors Smiths Gore.   

Equality Act 2010
The Equality Act 2010 was introduced on 1 October 2010 and will have some wide ranging consequences. The first thing to note is that it draws together all the various legislation which existed in respect of discrimination, for example race and religion and creates “protected characteristics”. Consequently this will necessitate a re-write of your Company Handbook and policies on the subject of discrimination. The Act also introduces new forms of discrimination, associative and perceptive.

Furthermore the Act also aims to address the gender pay gap by doing away with secrecy clauses in contracts of employment and prohibiting employers from asking health related questions before making an offer of employment. So as you can see there is much more to the Equality Act than first meets the eye.

National Minimum Wage
On 1 October 10 the National minimum wage has been increased; the new rates are:
£5.93 for workers aged 21 and over
£4.92 for workers aged 18 to 20
£3.64 for workers aged 16 to 17

There is also an apprentice rate of £2.50 aged 19 and under, or in the first year of apprenticeship.

Default retirement age (DRA) likely to be scrapped on 1 October 11
Currently employers can force staff to retire at the age of 65 regardless of their circumstances.

New proposals state that from 6 April 2011, employers will not be able to issue any notifications for compulsory retirement using the DRA procedure. Between 6 April and 1 October, only people who were notified before 6 April, and whose retirement date is before 1 October can be compulsorily retired.

After 1 October, employers will not be able to use the DRA to compulsorily retire employees; if they wish to use retirement ages they will have to be able to demonstrate that these are objectively justified. With the DRA removed there will be no reason to keep employees' right to request to work beyond retirement or for employers to give them a minimum of six months' notice of retirement.

National Minimum Wage set to be increased in October 2010
The latest National Minimum Wage Regulations have been announced and state that from 1 October 2010, the adult NMW rate will be payable to workers who are 21 and over. Currently, only workers who are 22 and over are entitled to the adult rate. The rate will also rise to 5.93 per hour from the current 5.80 per hour.

Workers aged 18-20 will be entitled to a minimum hourly rate of 4.92 and workers under 18 (who have ceased to be of compulsory school age) will see their minimum hourly rate rise to 3.64.

For the first time, there will also be an apprentice minimum wage of 2.50 per hour. The new rate will apply to those apprentices under 19 or those that are aged 19 and over but in the first year of their apprenticeship.

All the new rates are due to come into force from 1 October 2010.

Additional paternity leave likely to be scrapped
The additional paternity leave regulations, which give fathers of babies (or other eligible partners) the right to take up to 26 weeks' paternity leave, could now be shelved by the Coalition Government.

Last week in Parliament, Theresa May, Minister for Women and Equalities, said that the Government is looking into how they can avoid constantly burdening businesses to effect innovations and are examining the timetabling of the additional paternity leave and flexible parental leave regulations.

It is now believed that the Coalition Government is preparing to scrap the incoming additional paternity leave scheme in favour of a more far-reaching system of flexible parental leave.

The current regulations came into force on 6 April 2010 but affect working parents whose babies are due on or after 3 April 2011.

Jan 2010 Time off for Training
The right to request time off for training is being introduced on 6 April 2010 for businesses with 250 staff or more and will be extended to firms of all sizes in 2011.  The procedure to be followed will be very similar to that which has to be followed when requesting flexible working.  The employee must have at least 26 weeks service and be able to demonstrate how the training will be of benefit to the employees’ effectiveness and the employers business.  There will be no obligation on the employer to pay for the training or pay the employee for the time off if approved.

Sept 09 - Redundancy pay changes again on 1 October 2009. 
The cap on a weeks pay for the purposes of calculating redundancy pay has been increased again with effect from the 1 October 2009.  The new figure is now £380 per week.

6 April 2009 - Demise of the statutory discipline, grievance and dismissal procedures
The 6 April 2009 sees the end of statutory dismissal procedures and the introduction of the ACAS Code of Practice which should simplify matters for employers.  However, whilst the Code itself is only some 11 pages long it is accompanied by a 74 page guide!  Furthermore there are transitional arrangements in place which mean that any proceedings commenced before the 6 April will continue to be dealt with under the old rules until completion of those proceedings.

April 2009 - Other changes being introduced
Other changes being introduced at the beginning of April 2009, in addition to the introduction of the ACAS Code of Practice include the right to request flexible working for parents of children up to the age of 16 and the increase in the minimum statutory holiday entitlement to 28 days which may include Bank Holidays.

3 December 2008 - Redundancy Pay - A weeks pay for calculation purposes
The maximum amount of a week’s pay used when calculating statutory redundancy pay rises from £330 to £350 with effect from 1 February 2009.

3 December 2008 - Other increases
Increases in the limits applying to certain employment tribunal awards and other amounts payable under employment legislation will also take effect from 1 February 2009;

The limit on compensatory awards for unfair dismissal rises from £63,000 to £66,200;

The maximum statutory redundancy payment/basic award rises from £9,900 to £10,500.

The above increases apply in respect of claims where the date of termination is on or after 1 February 2009. In the mean time existing compensation limits will continue.

3 December 2008 - End in sight for the Statutory Dispute Resolution Procedures
The statutory dispute resolution procedures will be repealed in April 2009, so watch this space for details of what is to replace them.

15 May 2008 - Proposed new legislation that may have a significant impact on small employers in particular has been announced.
Yesterday, an independent review of how to extend the right to request flexible working to parents of older children up to the age of 16 was published.

Currently the flexible working Regulations are limited to employees with children under the age of six or 18 in the case of a disabled child and to employees who have caring responsibilities for adults.

A further extension to the right to request flexible working will be significant and it is proposed that legislation amending the existing Regulations will come into force in April 2009.

This is in addition to the proposed right of employees to request time to train which the Prime Minister outlined in his draft Queen's Speech.  This would be modelled on the right to request flexible working, in circumstances where the training would benefit both the employee and the employer. 

Employers will need to think about amending their flexible working policies in preparation of this further change to legislation.

6 November 2007 - Proposed new legislation that will affect employers has been announced in the annual Queens speech.
A summary is shown below.

Apprenticeships (draft) Bill

This bill is likely to give 16 to 18-year-olds an entitlement to an apprenticeship, in an effort to reduce the number of young people not in education, training or employment.

Education and Skills Bill

This bill will require all 16 to 18 year olds to stay in some form of education or training by 2015. It will also place a duty on employers to release young people for the equivalent of one day's training a week.

Employment Bill

This bill proposes clearer and stronger enforcement of employment law and to bring in measures to resolve disputes more quickly.

National Insurance Contributions Bill

This bill would harmonise the upper earnings limit (UEL) for national insurance contributions with the higher rate income tax threshold. The UEL will rise in phases, to match the higher rate income tax threshold by April 2009.

Pensions Bill

This bill will mean eligible workers are automatically enrolled into a pension scheme, with a minimum employer contribution introduced.
New laws will set up an additional state pension system, known as personal accounts.
The system will introduce compulsory pension saving for employees who are not already members of good company pension schemes. Employers as well as staff will have to make contributions. There will be a duty on every employer to contribute to good quality workplace pensions for their employees.
It is expected that the new system will be operational from 2012 with staff paying in 4% of their salaries and employers 3%, with an extra 1% from the government in the form of tax relief.

20th October 2006: Quality Award for Richards HR Solutions

Following an assessment by an independent body, Richards HR Solutions has been awarded ISO 9001 certification. This certification has only been achieved by about 5% of UK businesses and this prestigious award is recognised world wide.

A delighted Trevor Richards said “We have always been proud of the service we offer our clients and the way we conduct our business. Now with the award of ISO 9001 certification, this has been confirmed by independent outside experts who are used to judging quality standards on a daily basis in a variety of trades, industries and professional services firms”.

Stuart Clark a Lead Assessor, who undertook the assessment for QMS Quality Management Systems, paid particular tribute to “the investment and emphasis placed on quality, people and training that enables Richards HR Solutions to provide an efficient service to all their clients”.

The award of ISO 9001 is all the more impressive given that Richards HR Solutions was only established in 2005 to provide a practical and pragmatic HR service to small and medium sized firms and already has clients from a very diverse cross section of businesses.

12th September 2006: We are delighted to announce that Trevor Richards, the Managing Director of Richards HR Solutions has had his professional ability and experience recognised by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development by being appointed a Chartered Fellow.

Trevor said, “I am very pleased to have my membership of the CIPD upgraded to Chartered Fellow. It is recognition of my vast experience in the field of HR, but more importantly our clients can be sure they are receiving a first class professional service.”

Thinking of HR? -  think of Richards HR Solutions