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Legal Updates

Spring has Sprung! New legislation in force

06 April 2010 #Employment


Change is in the air (as well as pollen!). No less than 8 new pieces of employment legislation are now in force as of 6 April 2010. Some will have a more immediate impact than others:

Right to request time off for training

Employees with at least 6 months` service can now make a formal application for time off work to undertake training or study which would improve both the performance of their role and their employer`s business. The new statutory procedure is very similar to making a flexible working request.

Currently this new right only applies to employers with 250 employees or more, but will apply to everyone, regardless of employer size, from 6 April 2011.

"Fit" notes

This will undoubtedly be a change which employees and employers will have to come to grips with the soonest. Sick employees will now obtain from their GP a  `Statement of Fitness to Work`. The GP is required to tick a box to confirm whether they recommend a phased return to work, amended duties or any other workplace adjustments which would enable the employee to return to work. So ultimately it is still the employer`s decision as to whether an employee is fit to return to work.

Paternity leave and pay

Employees eligible (fathers or partners of the mother or primary adopter) who are the parent of a baby born (or an adoptive parent notified of a match) on or after 3 April 2011 will be entitled to take up to 26 weeks` paternity leave. They can only take this additional leave if the mother (or primary adopter) returns to work early. Part of their 26 weeks` leave can be paid if taken during the mother`s (or primary
adopter`s) period of paid maternity leave.

Although there is a little breathing space until next year when employees can actually take the extra leave, policies will need to be updated now to ensure employees are aware of this new right and can comply with notice requirements.

Whistle blowing

A claimant bringing a whistleblowing claim in the Employment
Tribunal can now tick a box on their ET1 form to authorise the Tribunal to notify the relevant regulator or governing body for the industry of their complaint. It will then be up to the regulator to decide whether to investigate the alleged malpractice.

Working visas

Changes introduced by the Home Office include new points criteria for Tier 1 and Tier 2 working visas, a simplified process for Tier 1 applicants without a Masters degree, greater flexibility for short-term transfers by multinational companies and more protection against multinational companies using such short-term transfers to avoid appointing UK resident workers to long-term vacancies.

See the Home Office website.

Contingency Fees

All contingency fee arrangements between a claimant and their lawyer will now be governed by the Damages-Based Agreements Regulations 2010. Importantly, the new regulations place a cap on the maximum percentage of a claimant`s compensation that a lawyer may take as their fee is at a maximum of 35% (including VAT).

"Anti-slavery" criminal offences

It will now be a criminal offence to hold someone in slavery or servitude, or to request a person to perform forced or compulsory labour. Employers will be liable if they knew or should reasonably have known that the arrangement with the individual was oppressive and not completely voluntary.

This new law is intended to protect migrant workers and those trafficked into the UK and will carry stern penalties of up to 14 years` imprisonment or a fine or both.

If you need to do a spring clean of your HR policies to include any of these changes, check out EmploymentBuddy for further information.

Clarkslegal, specialist Employment lawyers in London, Reading and throughout the Thames Valley.
For further information about this or any other Employment matter please contact Clarkslegal's employment team by email at employmentunit@clarkslegal.com by telephone 020 7539 8000 (London office), 0118 958 5321 (Reading office) or by completing the form on this page.

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