Strategic agenda for HR terms

It seems that every year is hailed as a "busy year for employment
law" and this is no exception. HR teams should all have an agenda for
strategic issues to consider now.

Age discrimination legislation

Age discrimination laws, which should be in place by December 2006, will
radically change the landscape in relation to retirement issues and will
significantly hinder the replacement of "tired management" with
"new blood". Blanket retirement ages could well become unlawful and
employers might be faced with an annual process of assessing whether or not an
individual is still able to carry out his or her job satisfactorily – which may
be both bureaucratic and distasteful. In certain areas, age discrimination will
be justifiable and thus lawful, but they are likely to be narrowly construed.
Now is the time to look at retirement issues and to ensure that age is not a
factor in recruitment and promotions.

Introduction of domestic works councils

Long resisted by the UK and others, it is now inevitable that domestic works
councils will eventually have to be established for all employers with more
than 50 staff. Their focus will be on looking at major recruitment or
redundancy initiatives, restructurings and changes to contractual terms. The
question is when? Recent developments in the European Parliament may bring
forward the long timetable previously published. It could be that, at least for
employers with more than 150 employees, stable, permanent and independent
bodies of employee representatives must be in place in a little over three
years’ time. Completing negotiations on the remit of such bodies, and their
constitution, can take time. Prudent employers will begin to consider the issue
now.

Any other business?

The new Tupe regulations could be radical. There is talk of including
pensions within Tupe (a costly move for contractors) and allowing binding
changes in terms and conditions of employment after a transfer, where there is
"an ETO reason" (a rather complex legal concept) or possibly where
employee representatives agree. The new regulations are likely to be in force
early next year.

The DTI is consulting about significantly reducing the compensatory award
where employees do not raise a grievance before making an unfair dismissal
claim. Conversely, where employers fail to facilitate this, greatly increased
compensation might be possible.

These issues and more will be covered at Boodle Hatfield’s free seminars
in London on 17 October and Oxford on 18 October. For further information visit
www.boodlehatfield.com  or e-mail hredfern@boodlehatfield.com

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