Employment law changes in 2012

Like tax, employment law is constantly evolving. Karen Plumbley-Jones from law firm Bond Pearce lays out a roadmap for the key changes coming in 2012.

Those involved with HR are set for a busy year, with a raft of new legislative proposals in the offing. Based on Bond Pearce’s 2012-13 employment law timeline, this article aims to help you plan for the year ahead by setting out details of anticipated rulings and what is coming into force when.

1 February 2012

  • The annual increase to Employment Tribunal limits will take place. The maximum compensatory award will rise to £72,300 and the cap on a week’s pay for calculating redundancy payments and basic awards will increase to £430.

8 March 2012

  • Implementation of the new Parental Leave Directive is required by this date, which will see parental leave increased from three to four months.

April 2012

  • The qualifying period for unfair dismissal will rise from one to two years. No transitional provisions are available yet and unfair dismissal cases will be heard by a single judge sitting alone (unless they decide otherwise). Other Employment Tribunal changes coming into force will include an increase in the maximum deposit order from £500 to £1,000 and a doubling of the maximum costs that a Tribunal can award to £20,000. Witness statements will be taken as read unless the judge decides otherwise and witness expenses will be paid by the relevant party. The judge will be able to order the losing party to pay the successful party for these costs.
  • A new apprenticeship structure and prescribed form apprenticeship agreements will be introduced.
  •  The rate of statutory sick pay is due to rise to £85.85 per week. Statutory maternity/adoption/paternity pay and maternity allowance are scheduled to rise to £135.45 per week from 9 April.
  • The Government’s response to the consultation on amending the Working Time Regulations is due in early 2012, but it remains to be seen whether this happens in time for the changes (which largely deal with holidays and sick leave) to be implemented in April.

1 October 2012

  • Pensions auto-enrolment and minimum employer contributions will apply to the largest employers.
  • Annual rises in the national minimum wage may take effect, depending on the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission.

A number of other changes to the employment tribunal process will take place during the year, but dates for their implementation have not yet been published. A consultation exercise is currently taking place about the various options to charge claimants fees to take part in a tribunal, with any scheme unlikely to start until 2013 or 2014. Whistle-blowing legislation will be changed so that staff members cannot rely on a breach of their contract of employment in order to start a whistle-blowing claim.

Karen Plumbley-Jones is a practice development lawyer at law firm, Bond Pearce. Visit the firm’s website to download a copy of its 2012-13 employment law timeline. A longer version of this article originally appeared on HRZone.co.uk