There are a number of legislative changes coming into force on 6 April 2010, or receiveing Royal Assent in April 2010, as set out below.
“Fit” rather than “Sick” notes
New “fit notes” (Statements of Fitness for Work) will come into effect on 6 April 2010 to replace the current system of sickness certification.
These require a GP to indicate if an employee is either not fit for work or may be fit for work. If he/she may be fit for work the GP will complete a tick-box section to indicate whether a phased return to work, altered hours, amended duties and/or workplace adaptations might facilitate the employee’s return to work. The GP will also have room on the form to make other recommendations and to indicate how the employee’s condition will affect their work. If the employer cannot make the adjustments suggested by the doctor, the employee should be treated as if he/she were not fit for work.
The aim is that the new fit notes will encourage employer and employee to work together to establish what support the employee needs and get him/her back to work sooner than would otherwise be the case.
While GPs will make recommendations the employer is not technically obliged to act on them. However, a Tribunal or Court would, no doubt, be unimpressed by a failure to do so, that could not be justified, in the context of a personal injury, unfair dismissal or disability discrimination claim.
New right to request time off to train
Employers with 250 or more employees will need to consider requests for time off to train from 6 April 2010 (all employers will be covered from April 2011). Employees will be eligible where they have: i) 26 weeks’ continuous service; and (ii) the training is for the purpose of improving both their effectiveness at work and the performance of their employer’s business. The process to be followed will have the following key features:
the request must be in writing and contain certain prescribed information, including, the subject matter of the proposed training or study; the qualification it would lead to (if any) and how the employee thinks the proposed training or study would improve their effectiveness and performance of the employer’s business;
only one request may be made per employee per year;
the procedure to be followed is almost identical to the flexible working request procedure. In summary, there must be a meeting within 28 days of the request and a decision, in writing, within 14 days of the meeting;
the request may be refused where there is a good business reason to do so.
A Tribunal will be able to award up to 8 weeks’ pay if there is a failure to comply with the procedure.
Additional Paternity Leave and Pay
New Regulations come into force on 6 April 2010 allowing (usually) fathers of babies born or adopted on or after 3 April 2011 the right to take up to 26 weeks’ paternity leave.
The right will apply only if the mother (or primary adopter) returns to work before the expiry of her entitlement to ordinary and/or additional maternity leave and the baby is over 20 weeks old.
If the leave is taken during the mother’s (or primary adopter’s) statutory maternity pay period of 39 weeks, the father will be entitled to the equivalent pay during that period. If the statutory maternity pay has been exhausted, then the father will be entitled to leave only.
Employers will need to update their policies by mid-2010 to provide for the forthcoming changes. We will send out an alert setting out the detail of the Regulations and their impact shortly.
Regulators to be informed of whistleblowing claims
From 6 April 2010, tribunals will have the power to pass an ET1 Form to an appropriate regulator where an employee brings a claim for whistleblowing and gives their consent. The regulator may then investigate the whistleblowing allegations.
Equality Bill 2010
The Equality Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent in April, with the majority of its provisions coming into force in October 2010. One of the aims of the Bill is to harmonise discrimination legislation. However, it will also introduce a number of new concepts into discrimiantion law.
We will send out a detailed alert on the Equality Bill, what it means for employers and the changes that may need to be made to policies once Royal Assent has been received