Facts and Figures

Major changes to equality law expected in 2012

The Government launched various consultations in 2011 on topics including:

  • introducing a new system of flexible parental leave - planned to be implemented in 2015
  • extending the right to request flexible working - a response to the 'Modern Workplaces' consultation is expected in Spring 2012
  • amending the Working Time Regulations in regard to annual leave
  • compulsory equal pay audits.

The outcomes of these may affect legislation in 2012 and beyond.

The Government announced a review of the Equality Act 2010 with the aim of removing unnecessary legislation following the Home Office's Red Tape Challenge, which began in November 2011.

Some of the measures announced include:

  • Repealing third party harassment law, which will ensure employers are no longer liable for the harassment of an employee by a third party
  • Reviewing the public sector Equality Duty - and specifically establishing whether the legal obligation on public bodies to consider the impact of their decisions on different groups is operating as intended
  • Formally repealing the socio-economic duty - a legal obligation on public bodies to consider the impact of their decisions on social class
  • Repealing employment tribunals' 'wider recommendations' powers, which will remove the power of tribunals to recommend the introduction of, or changes to, policies that affect all of an employer's staff - not just the employee who brought the case.

February

Increased limits on employment tribunal awards came into force on 1 February:

  • the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal rose from £68,400 to £72,300

April

The qualifying period for gaining employment protection rights against unfair dismissal increased from one year to two years for those starting a new employment on or after 6 April.

  • Changes to employment tribunal procedures came into force on 6 April. These included: employment judges hearing some cases without lay panel members, increases in costs awards and deposit orders, and witness statements being taken as read.

European developments

The Parental Leave Directive - repeals and replaces the Parental Leave Directive (96/34/EC). The permitted parental leave period following birth or adoption of a child is increased from three to four months, and at least one of the four months will not be transferable between parents. Member states were required to implement this change by 8 March 2012 but the UK Government have stated that due to ongoing consultation they will use the additional year's grace and will implement changes in March 2013.

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