April 2011 employment law changes: eight things employers need to know

Not exactly sure which legislation is being introduced this week? Personnel Today provides guidance for employers on the changes to employment law in force from April 2011.

Legal changes include: the beginning of the transitional period for the abolition of the default retirement age; provisions enabling employers to take positive action when they recruit or promote employees, provided that certain conditions are met; and the right to additional paternity leave, which applies to fathers, and partners of mothers, of children with an expected week of birth beginning on or after 3 April 2011.

1. Retirement

The provisions enabling employers to retire an employee at the age of 65 on the basis that he or she has reached the default retirement age, and the associated statutory retirement procedure, are repealed from 6 April 2011.

2. Positive action

Section 159 of the Equality Act 2010, which comes into force on 6 April 2011, permits an employer, in defined circumstances, to appoint or promote a person (A) with a protected characteristic in preference to another person (B) who does not have the protected characteristic.

3. Additional paternity leave

The right to additional paternity leave applies to fathers and partners of mothers of children with an expected week of birth beginning on or after 3 April 2011. In cases of adoption, the right applies where the notification of the match with a child is on or after 3 April 2011, or where the child enters Great Britain on or after 3 April 2011 in relation to an adoption from overseas.

4. Public sector equality duty

The general public sector equality duty comes into force on 5 April 2011. Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 provides for a single equality duty, which replaces the previous duties on race, gender and disability. The Government has delayed implementation of the proposed specific equality duties, which are intended to enable better performance of, and demonstrate compliance with, the general equality duty.

5. Equality Act 2010 codes of practice

The Equality Act 2010 Codes of Practice (Services, Public Functions and Associations, Employment, and Equal Pay) Order 2011 brings into force from 6 April 2011 the codes of practice on employment, equal pay and public functions and associations (on the EHRC website), which aim to help employers comply with their obligations under the Equality Act 2010.

6. Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and sick pay

The standard rates of statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay increase from £124.88 to £128.73 per week from 3 April 2011. Statutory sick pay also increases from £79.15 to £81.60 per week from 6 April 2011.

7. Exemption from new regulation for small businesses

On 1 April 2011, there is the start of a three-year exemption from new domestic regulation for businesses with fewer than 10 employees and a public audit of almost 22,000 statutory instruments that are currently in force. The three-year exemption from new domestic regulation will apply to businesses with fewer than 10 employees and “genuine start-ups”. The exemption will not extend to regulation in public safety and national security.

8. Changes not coming into force in April 2011

Over the last few months, a number of legislative items that had been expected to come into force in April 2011 have been delayed or permanently put aside. These are:

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