In this article...
Marie-Claire Boyle reports on the latest developments in employment law including a number of new Guidance documents; an update on the progress of the Equality Bill through Parliament, a summary of the CBI’s request to introduce an 'alternative to redundancy' scheme and news of a limited derogation for junior doctors from 1 August 2009.
New Guidance on TUPE 2006
New guidance on the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (TUPE) has been published by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS). The Guidance, titled Employment Rights on the Transfer of an Undertaking (June 2009), replaces the March 2007 version and incorporates the changes to the disciplinary and grievance employee liability information required to be provided under regulation 11 of TUPE following the repeal of the statutory dispute resolution procedures.
TUC guidance on rehabilitation of sick workers
The TUC has published a brief guide to assist with the rehabilitation of sick employees. Rehabilitation: A Short Guide to the Evidence highlights the lack of support available to encourage employees to get better and return to work. With 172 million working days lost to stress last year alone the Guidance also suggests steps employers and employees can take to address this issue.
Stonewall guidance on dealing with gay and religious staff
Stonewall, the gay equality charity, has also recently published guidance for employers on how to manage tensions and diffuse conflicts between religious and gay workers. Religion and Sexual Orientation: How to manage relations in the workplace was funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and emphasises the need for employers to look at both sides of a conflict while also providing advice on avoiding conflicts arising in the workplace. The guidance includes case studies from a range of sectors which show how employers can accommodate the needs of both parties in any disagreement and the lessons learned from each case.
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Well its progress may not be setting any world land speed records, but the Equality Bill, on 7 July 2009, completed its passage through the Commons Committee stage. Perhaps surprisingly the Bill has emerged relatively unscathed. The main change from an employment perspective is the introduction of ‘Dual Discrimination’ at clause 14 of the Bill to deal with situations where it will be discriminatory to treat someone less favourably on the basis of a combination of the following protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.
Other changes relate to the removal of a comparator for work related pregnancy and maternity discrimination in clause 18 and an amendment to clause 140 to prevent contracting out from provisions made under the Equality Bill in addition to the provisions of the Bill itself.
Amendments were also suggested to (what is now) clause 15 - which is the clause that attempts to restore the level of protection enjoyed by disabled people before the House of Lords' decision in Mayor and Burgesses of the London Borough of Lewisham v Malcolm. The amendments were tabled because it was feared that the clause as originally drafted was unclear and would fall short of filling the gap left by Malcolm as the Government intends. The amendments were ultimately withdrawn; however the Solicitor-General has acknowledged that the Government needs to look more carefully at the drafting in order to ensure the policy aims were being met. It is anticipated that a further amendment will be brought forward at the Report stage.
The next stage is the Report stage, however no date has been set for this yet. The amended Bill can be found here.
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The CBI has asked the Government to introduce what it refers to as an ‘Alternative to Redundancy’ or ‘ATR’ scheme; in order to stem the flow of job losses which it estimates will reach 3 million.
The scheme is one of a number of labour market reforms the CBI is proposing to stabilise the rise in job losses and would allow employers to place employees on ‘ATR’ for up to six months during which time they would not work but would receive an ‘ATR allowance’ of double the amount of job seekers allowance, to be funded equally by the employer and the Government.
At the end of the six month period (or earlier if business conditions had improved) the employees would return to work. If there had been no improvement and redundancy was still necessary the employees could be made redundant at that time and the six months spent on ‘ATR’ would be counted towards their continuous service.
The CBI’s full proposals can be found here.
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From 1 August 2009 the limit on the average working week for junior doctors was due to drop from 56 to 48 hours. Amid fears for patient safety and quality of training, the Government is however extending a limited derogation for some junior doctors, imposing a 52 hour limit until 31 July 2011. The Working Time (Amendment) Regulations 2009 contain details of the areas and specialism which will be covered by the derogation.
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