The Employment Act 2002 will come
into force in April 2003. It covers three main areas:
Working parents - maternity,
paternity and adoptive leave and pay
Improving the skills of
This bulletin highlights the main
Paternity and maternity leave
Two weeks paid paternity leave within
56 days of birth or adoption of a child for new fathers. Statutory
Paternity Pay will be at the same standard rate as Statutory Maternity
Pay - £100 per week (or 90% of average weekly earnings if this is
The minimum entitlement to ordinary
maternity leave or adoption leave is to increase from 18 to 26 weeks
and the right to Statutory Maternity Pay will be extended to the same
The normal provisions under which
larger employers can recover 92% of SMP from the State are to be
extended to enable recovery of monies due to the Inland Revenue. The
105% recovery by small employers will continue to be set off against
Employment Tribunals and Dispute
The extension of the powers of
employment tribunals and EAT to award costs.
Tribunals will have the power to
postpone hearings to facilitate conciliation.
The President of the Employment
Tribunals will have formal power to issue practice directions.
For forms to be standardised to
facilitate determining of disputes without a formal hearing. Also
extending the power of tribunals to strike out cases without merit at
a pre-hearing review.
In every contract of employment a new
contractual term is to be implied incorporating the minimum standards
for formal disciplinary and grievance procedures.
Tribunal awards to employees are to
take into account any failure to follow the minimum standards
outlined. Percentage adjustments are to be made before any reduction
for contributory conduct by the employee.
The time limits for claims to
tribunals are to be relaxed to assist the correct operation of
disciplinary and grievance procedures.
The original Bill provided regulations
that required employees to exhaust internal grievance procedure
arrangements before bringing claims of particular types before an
employment tribunal. This clause has been completely redrafted and is
to become primary legislation.
Further clarification is expected
regarding employers who failed to use proper internal procedures and
use the ‘Polkey’ defence ‘it wouldn’t have made any difference
The exemption of small employers from
the rules in ERA 1996, requiring employees to be given details of
disciplinary and grievance procedures, is to be withdrawn and the
requirement itself is to be modified.
In employment law, compromise
agreements are only legally binding in relation to a ‘particular
complaint’ or complaints. The government were considering removing
this clause, but this has now been dropped.
Equal pay, union learning
representatives and fixed term employment contracts.
A new section 7B is to be inserted
into the Equal Pay Act 1970 to introduce an equal pay questionnaire.
A new s.168A is to be inserted into
the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 to give
Union Learning Representatives the statutory right to a reasonable
amount of paid time off work to carry out their role. Dismissal of a
person who asserts this right will be added to the list of
automatically unfair dismissals.
The Employment Bill will make it
unlawful to pay fixed-term workers less than others. This also
concerns the provision of pensions as it will become unlawful for
occupational pension schemes to exclude temporary employees who are on
fixed-term contracts, if comparable permanent employees are eligible
The weekly rate of maternity allowance
for women who have paid sufficient NI contributions will be brought
into line with SMP. The Act allows for claimants of various Social
Security Benefits who are not married but have a partner to lose the
benefits if their partner refuses without ‘good cause’ to attend