Thinking ahead

This year has been awash with new legislation, but what does the legal
calendar for 2004 look like? Pattie Walsh and Robin Jeffcott* outline the key
dates to remember in the new year

Employers breathed a sigh of relief when, earlier this year, the Government
announced its decision to set 6 April and 1 October as the two dates each year
when domestic employment regulations come into effect. This decision removed
some of the difficulties faced by businesses wishing to comply with regulatory
requirements. But employers should not become complacent as European directives
will still be implemented on a case-by-case basis, and the annual compensation
limits increase will remain as 1 February.

This year has, of course, seen a vast new crop of legislation arising both
under the Employment Act 2002 and from implementation of European directives.
Next year may not be quite as frantic, but HR departments can still expect to
be kept busy. As well as ensuring policies and procedures comply with both the
legislation already in force and that expected in 2004, it may be sensible to
consider the longer term by preparing for legislation (such as age
discrimination) due to come into force in the longer term.

January 2004

– DTI will publish first annual
statement of forthcoming employment regulations

– DTI consultations closing this month include:

– Implementation of the European
Company Statute

– Fair piece rates for output
workers

– Application of  Working Time Regulations to road transport
sector

February 2004

– Coming into force 1 February are
regulations implementing the annual increase in tribunal award limits.

– Parliamentary debates will begin on Dispute Resolution
Regulations.

Look out for:

– DTI consultation on draft Age
Discrimination Regulations

– EU’s decision on whether to end or
retain Working Time Directive 48-hour opt-out

– Draft regulations amending the
Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981

March 2004

– DTI ‘Awareness Campaign II’ begins
in relation to the Dispute Resolution Regulations. Review your disciplinary and
grievance procedures, contracts of employment and other relevant policies  

– Look out for announcements on the outcome of the Acas pilot
‘Advice and Mediation Scheme’ launched in October 2003

April 2004

– Expected to come into force on 6
April 2004 are:

– National Minimum Wage Regulations
to introduce fair piece rates for output workers

– The Income Tax (Pay As You Earn)
Regulations 2003/2682

May 2004

– Look out for the White Paper
containing proposals for a new Commission for Equality and Human Rights,
expected to be formed by 2006

June 2004

Consider the Information and
Consultation Regulations which should be laid before Parliament during 2004.
Formulate your own consultation procedures before the Regulations come into
force (March 2005 for undertakings with 150 or more employees, March 2007 for
100 or more, and March 2008 for 50 or more)

July 2004

Prepare for the Disability
Discrimination Act 1995 (Amendment) Regulations 2003 by considering the
Disability Rights Commission’s Code of Practice. Review your procedures and
policies to ensure compliance with the changes

August 2004

Working Time (Amendment) Regulations
2003 will give working time and holiday rights to junior doctors as from 1
August 2004

September 2004

Check that your preparations for
October’s new legislation are in place. Review the various annual reports
published over the summer months, including Acas, Tribunal Service, Central
Arbitration Committee and the Disability Rights, Equal Opportunities and Racial
Equality Commissions

October 2004

Expected to come into force on 1
October 2004:

– Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (Amendment) Regulations
2003

– Employment Act 2002 (Dispute Resolution) Regulations 2004

– Regulations on tribunal reform under Employment Act 2002

– Regulations implementing the annual increase in the National
Minimum Wage

– Regulations amending the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection
of Employment) Regulations 1981

November 2004

The Age Discrimination Regulations,
due to come into force by 1 October 2006, are expected to be laid before
Parliament before the end of 2004. Review HR policies to ensure they are not
directly or indirectly discriminatory and formulate plans to educate and
prepare senior and line managers

December 2004

Proposed regulations which, if
passed, will ban larger stores from opening on Christmas Day. They will be in
force by now

There are a number of matters that
are difficult to diarise because it is unclear if and when they will be
implemented. During 2004, we may see the Government announce some firm
proposals on ‘fat cat’ pay following the recent close of the DTI ‘Rewards for
Failure’ consultation. We have still not yet seen any proposals from the Government
following the discussion document on employment status since consultation
closed in December 2002. And what about the long-awaited reform of the
Employment Agencies Act 1973, where consultation closed on 1 November 2002? On
the subject of agencies, we are also still expecting definitive news on the
Agency Workers’ Directive. At the time of publication, the draft regulations
amending the 1981 Transfer of Undertakings Regulations are expected, as is the
fourth part of the Data Protection Code on medical records, along with the
draft regulations on tribunal reform pursuant to the Employment Act 2002. In
the Queen’s speech, we were told to expect an Employment Relations Bill, a
Pensions Bill and another extending the rights and opportunities of disabled
people.

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