There are a number of legislative changes coming into force in April 2011, as set out below.
The statutory retirement procedure is abolished and the default retirement age is to be phased out
A dismissal which purports to be because of retirement will, unless objectively justified, from 6 April onwards constitute unlawful age discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 and will have to be justified by reference to another potentially fair reason. After some limited transtion provisions the principle of default retirement ages will be unlawful.
Additional paternity leave and pay regulations
On 6 April additional paternity leave and pay regulations come into force but apply to parents of children due (or matched for adoption) on or after 3 April.
If a new mother decides to return to work before the end of her maternity leave she may transfer up to six months of this leave to the father, partner or civil partner. Some of the leave may be paid, if taken during the mother’s 39 week maternity paid period, at either 90% of the father’s average weekly earnings or the standard statutory maternity pay weekly rate, whichever amount is lower. The transfer of adoption leave is covered by equivalent provisions.
Positive action in recruitment and promotion
On 6 April the positive action in recruitment and promotion provisions in the Equality Act 2010 will come into force enabling an employer to take into account a protected characteristic if that employer reasonably regards a candidate to have a protected characteristic listed in the Equality Act 2010 that is under-represented in the workforce or that people with the characteristic suffer a disadvantage. However, such positive action is entirely voluntary and will only be available when certain specific conditions are met.
Codes of Practice
The Equality Act 2010 Codes of Practice on services, public functions and associations, employment and equal pay come into force on 6 April. The Codes give guidance on all protected characteristics and take account of the changes introduced by the Equality Act 2010. As the Codes will be admissible as evidence in tribunal proceedings, employers should familiarise themselves with them and review their policies and practices, updating where necessary.
Moratorium exempting micro and start-up busineses from new domestic regulation
A general moratorium came into force on 1 April for employers with less than ten employees and start ups, exempting such companies from the Government’s mooted extension of flexible working rights and compliance with the new flexible shared parental leave scheme. This moratorium will only be breached in ‘exceptional instances’ where there is a compelling argument and will last for three years.
Statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay increases
On 3 April statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay increased by £3.85 from £124.88 to £128.73.
General public sector equality duty
On 5 April the general public sector equality duty in the Equality Act 2010 comes into force requiring public bodies and bodies which exercise public functions to: advance equality of opportunity; have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation; and foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not share it. This duty covers the protected characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
Statutory sick pay increases
On 6 April the statutory sick pay increases by £2.45 from £79.15 to £81.60.
Maternity allowance increases
On 11 April the maternity allowance increases by £3.85 from £124.88 to £128.73.