In October, a number of changes to employment law go into force. UK HR leaders discuss which changes will pose the greatest challenges to their organisation. Compiled by Michael millar
Angie Risley, group HR director, Whitbread Group plc
The biggest challenge for us will be the regular increases in the National Minimum Wage.
The rapid (and quite substantial) increases are a real challenge. Passing the costs on to customers in an industry as competitive as ours is not a very realistic option and you can only look to productivity increases so many times before it becomes a matter of reviewing the number of people you've got or potentially reducing the benefits (and therefore overall packages) of these employees.
It has got to the stage where it is becoming increasingly difficult for employers to avoid using an age policy. This could mean employing increasingly younger people - both under 22 or even 16/17 year olds. We're not at that point yet, but it is something that is a broader, industry wide issue.
At Whitbread, we are doing a considerable amount of work on employee types to understand what each group wants. We hope that by doing this we'll be able to find a way to really crack the pay conundrum and find the right balance of pay, benefits and flexibility that will meet each of our employees needs.
Other changes to employment legislation will not pose any major challenges for Whitbread.
We have always adopted similar best-practice procedures to those proposed on discipline and grievance and are focusing on improving the skills of line managers so we can reduce (avoid) the need for discipline and grievance.
With dispute resolution, we have adopted the recommended approach for a number of years. We have been training up in-house experts in employer law and getting them involved in employment tribunals/cases with a view to identifying ways of avoiding situations being escalated to a tribunal.
Paul Stephenson, director of HR services, Severn Trent Water
This year's legislative changes, although many, are perhaps not as significant or challenging as 2003. In 2003 we had extensive new diversity and work life balance legislation - Flexible Working, Religion and Sexual Orientation Regulations brought new statutory provisions into previously unlegislated areas and new employee relations challenges for business - flexibility vs. business continuity and cost.
The 2004 timetabl