New bill to help working parents and resolve workplace disputes

The Government introduced a new
Employment Bill in Parliament yesterday aimed at supporting working parents,
reducing red tape for employers and improving the resolution of disputes in the
workplace.

The measures include:

– six months paid and a further six months unpaid maternity leave for working
mothers;

– two weeks paid paternity leave for working fathers;

– six months paid and a further six months unpaid leave for working adoptive
parents;

– a total increase of over 60% in the rate of statutory maternity pay from £62
to £100;

– reimbursement of maternity, paternity and adoption payments made by
employers, with a full 100% recoverable by small employers and a further
compensation payment on top.

The Government says that over 350,000 new mothers and around 450,000 new
fathers in work per year will benefit from these measures from April 2003..

The Bill also includes steps to help employers and employees resolve their
disputes internally, and proposals to modernise the employment tribunal system.

These include:

– new ways of handling disputes in the workplace and requirements for employees
to raise grievances with their employer before applying to a tribunal;

– changes to the way tribunals calculate awards to support discussion in the
workplace;

– a fixed period of conciliation to promote timely settlement of disputes;

– a fast track system and other measures to modernise employment tribunals.

The Government also announced that, having listened to concerns expressed
during consultation, it would not be taking forward proposals to charge
applicants for bringing a claim to an employment tribunal.

Announcing the changes, Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said:

" This Government is committed to delivering for working families and to
simplifying regulation for business. This package is good for
British business and it is good for the people who work in business.

The measures will come into effect in April 2003.

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