Royal Assent for Employment Bill

The
Government’s Employment Bill has received Royal Assent.

From
April 2003, more than 350,000 new mothers will benefit from changes to
maternity rights, around 450,000 new fathers will benefit from changes to
paternity rights and 2.1 million men and 1.5 million women will be able to
apply to work flexibly in order to care for their children.

The
package for parents includes:

·           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 more than 60 per
cent 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 per cent recoverable
by small employers and a further compensation payment on top

·           the legal right to apply to work
flexibly for parents with children under 6 years

·           the legal right to apply to work
flexibly for parents with disabled children up to the age of 18 years

A
consultation on draft regulations needed to implement the right to apply to
work flexibly is taking place and will close on 10 October 2002.

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

These
include:

·           new minimum standards for
disciplinary and grievance procedures which apply to all workplaces and all
employees

·           new requirements for employees in
certain circumstances to raise grievances with their empoyer before applying to
a tribunal

·           a fixed period of conciliation to
promote timely settlement of disputes and other measure to modernise employment
tribunals

These
changes will come into effect later in 2003 following further consultation on
the detailed regulations and a full programme of advice and guidance to ensure
businesses and individuals are fully aware of the changes.

Patricia
Hewitt, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry said: “We are committed to
delivering for working families and simplifying regulation for business. This
package is good for British business and good for the people who work in
business.

“These
new measures will help millions of working parents find a better balance between
their work and family and will cut red tape, especially for small firms, and
help employers plan ahead with more certainty. 

“Overall,
these measures will help create a modern, productive workplace fit for the
21stcentury."

Other
parts of the Bill include:

·           the establishment of union learning
representatives

·           questionnaires to inform equal pay
cases

·           the introduction of work focused
interviews for partners of people receiving working age benefits

·           a power enabling the Secretary of
State to make regulations preventing less favourable treatment of fixed term
employees

Union
learning representatives will have the right to time off for carrying out their
duties for the first time. This will give learning representatives equal status
with other union representatives, while at the same time ensuring they have the
necessary skills to undertake their role. 

By Ben Willmott

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