• Key Changes in Employment Law Today

    A raft of new employment laws come into force today.

    Among the changes are a new system of fit notes, which replace sick notes; additional paternity leave and pay; a power for employment tribunals to refer whistleblowing complaints to regulators; and new rules governing ‘no win, no fee’ agreements.

    The changes include:

    Additional Paternity Leave Regulations 2010: we referred to these new regulations in our last blog. The Regulations give fathers and partners (including same-sex and civil partners) up to six months’ additional paternity leave, provided the mother has returned to work without exercising her full entitlement to maternity leave. Some of the leave may be paid if it is taken during the mother’s maternity pay period. The entitlement to transferable paternity leave and pay applies to parents of children due (and adoptive parents notified of a match) on or after 3 April 2011.

    The Social Security (Medical Evidence) and the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) (Amendment) Regulations 2010: as we have previously discussed on this blog under the new system sick notes will be replaced by ‘fit notes’ which will allow a GP to indicate whether an employee is fit for some work and suggest changes that could be taken by the employer to an employee’s work environment or job role to help facilitate a return to work.

    Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009: This Act will introduce a new right for employees to request time off to undertake study or training. It applies to employees with at least 26 weeks’ service and employers will be required to give serious consideration to all requests. This right will be phased in and will be made available to employees in organizations with 250 or more employees from 2010 before being extended to all employees from April 2011

    Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2010 This Act permits tribunals – where the claimant consents – to pass information about public interest disclosures (whistle blows) to the relevant regulator.

    Coroners and Justice Act 2009: S.71 of the Act makes it an offence for a person to hold another person in slavery or servitude, or require them to perform forced or compulsory labour. The new offence is aimed at protecting vulnerable workers such as migrants, and carries a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison.

    Damages-Based Agreements Regulations 2010 This new Act will regulate the use of damages-based agreements (DBAs) in employment cases. DBAs (or contingency fee agreements) are a type of ‘no win, no fee’ agreement where the solicitor takes a percentage of the client’s compensation in the event of a win or settlement. Under the new regime such agreements will be much more restricted.

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