The dating game

Will the DTI’s plan to introduce legislation on just two dates a year help
or hinder employers? Compiled by Simon Kent

Gerald Dawson
Principal personnel consultant, Rebus HR

The plans by the DTI to have two specific dates for the introduction of employment
law changes hold a number of advantages for an employer. However, it is
essential the DTI ensures the introduction of this change does not prevent
proper consultation with the appropriate parties prior to the legislation being
introduced. The new system should not be an excuse to rush through legislation,
as this will limit an employer’s ability to understand the implications of the
proposed changes and thus cause additional work and confusion.

The change should allow employers to focus resources at specific times of
the year. This means we will be able to identify what changes need to be made
to policies and procedures and these can then be communicated to the workforce.

Standing dates could be entered into the respective line manager’s diaries
to facilitate half-yearly updates on the changes and how they affect their
roles. At the moment, with piecemeal implementation and the increased use of
regulations rather than acts of parliament, it can be difficult for employers
to keep track.

The disadvantages will most likely focus on the number of updates
implemented in one go. Widespread changes would place significant strains on
resources, particularly if a key number of policies and procedures require
updating and introducing within short timeframes. This may result in employers
having to prioritise and important areas may get pushed down the pecking order.

From the outsourcer’s outlook, it would mirror what currently exists in
respect of payroll legislation. The clear advantage is it allows forward
planning. As a result, manpower resources can be set aside to update all our
customer’s policies and procedures within the required timeframes. It is also
hoped that through having these policies and procedures on a central database,
the time spent on updating can be minimised, allowing customers to benefit from
the ‘economies of scale’ that an outsourced service can provide.

The disadvantage is that where the service is tailored to individual
customer requirements, the economies of scale factor would not be appropriate
and this may have resource implications.

Mike Hindmarsh
HR president and company secretary, President Office Furniture

It is a good idea, but will have a
very limited impact. The benefit it brings will be offset by trying to remember
what you need to do. Giving two dates is really a halfway house – the date
which is most appropriate for legislation changes is 6 April.

If the DTI were to make all changes on that date, it would have
a better impact, because employers would know everything happens on that day
alongside legislation on other issues such as tax and benefits.

If the DTI wants to use fixed dates, it should limit that to
areas where money-related changes are involved. HR and finance directors could
then remember to make the necessary changes when required. Changes in
employment legislation have a different impact on different businesses, so for
other areas of legislation, it is a matter of making sure it has been thought

Roger Leek
HR director, Fujitsu Services

In principle, it is a good idea. The
set dates will allow us to plan effectively for the roll-out of new legislation
and arrange communications and training strategy for both HR teams and

The annual statement provided each January with the changes
planned for that year will also help. We, like many other employers, have no
official way of being notified about what is coming up, and are constantly on
the lookout in journals and liaising with our lawyers for advance warning of
changes. We have also found the e-mail alert system from the DTI useful.

However, the set dates for legislation do nothing to address
the sheer volume of employment law organisations are forced to deal with. We
have seen an approximately equal number of laws passed in the last five years
as in the previous 25.

Catherine Glickman
HR director in involvement, Tesco

We are in support of the two dates
and believe it will help enormously. Having certain dates when we know
legislation is coming in means we can be confident that we have covered
everything required and can better manage those changes in the businesses.

At the moment, we are very clear about when legislation takes
effect, but we are often waiting for codes of practice. The codes are where the
detail is and so they are as important to us as the legislation. I want to see
the legislation and codes aligned so that as employers, we are clear what we
are implementing and when. Our personnel managers and stores will know that
rather than this drip of legislation throughout the year, everything will be
implemented on these two dates.

Our one concern is that we may end up with enormous chunks of
legislation coming through at once. That could be an issue for us if we don’t
have enough notice.

Diane Sinclair
Lead adviser on public policy, CIPD

The DTI should regard this as a first
step in a series of changes needed to help increase awareness and understanding
of new employment law among employers and workers.

We are pleased the DTI has chosen two set dates for law to come
into effect, broadly in line with our recommendations. The institute did not
favour a single date each year, which would likely put organisations under
heavy pressure if a significant number of changes have to be implemented at the
same time.

However, the DTI should bear in mind that the introduction of
new law will be facilitated by buy-in from employers, so gaining their support
for regulations is still critical. Fixed dates for implementation is one step
towards achieving this, but the DTI needs to build on this to help ensure we
maintain widespread compliance in the face of new laws.

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