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The Government has recently launched a consultation over how the system for shared parental leave and pay will work.

The consultation will look at how the new system will work and fit together with current arrangements for maternity and paternity leave and adopters, as part of the Government’s commitment to create a modern workplace.

This will influence how the Government legislates under the Children and Families Bill 2013, introduced earlier in the year, which includes the proposals for shared parental leave and flexible working.

Business Minister Jo Swinson said:

“Current workplace arrangements for maternity leave are old-fashioned and rigid. Our measures for shared parental leave and flexible working give us a great opportunity to make our workforce even more flexible, help working families and boost economic growth.

“Crucially, these proposals will drive a real cultural shift and help working dads play a greater role in their child’s early months. We want to shatter the perception that it is mainly a woman’s role to stay at home and look after the child, and also that flexible working only has benefits for parents and carers. Employers too can gain from a system which allows them keep talented women in the workforce and have more motivated and productive staff.”

The Chief Executive of Acas has predicted that workplace tension over pay will continue to be one of the challenges facing employers in 2013. He has also highlighted the need for employers to motivate and engage their workforces.

"Motivating and engaging staff by other ways rather than pay will therefore be a challenge and may require employers to be more inventive,” said John Taylor. “One way of engaging with staff may be to offer more flexible working arrangements. The Government is proposing to extend the right to request flexible working to everyone not just parents and carers. Acas will be producing a new code of practice and consulting on this in the new year."

Speaking of plans for the future, John Taylor said:

"Acas main focus over the course of the next year will be preparing to introduce our early conciliation service which will come in from April 2014. In future anyone thinking of making a tribunal claim will need to contact Acas first to try and resolve the dispute before it becomes a tribunal claim.

"In 2012 our voluntary Pre Claim Conciliation (PCC) service helped resolve over 21,000 workplace disputes between employers and employees avoiding the need to go to a tribunal. The introduction of Early Conciliation in 2014 will allow us to help even more people resolve their disputes early. Our current PCC service is free to use for both employers and employees - and Early Conciliation will be too. At Acas our advice is always that it is better to resolve disputes at the earliest possible stage, ideally in the workplace itself."

A consultation setting out plans for a new employment status called an ‘employee owner’ has been published by the Government.

Under the scheme, employee owners will have a different set of employment rights and they will be given shares in the company of between £2,000 and £50,000. The employment rights affected are:

  • unfair dismissal rights (apart from automatically unfair reasons and where dismissal is based on discriminatory grounds),
  • rights to redundancy pay,
  • certain statutory rights to request training,
  • the statutory right to request flexible working, and
  • employee owners will have to give more notice to their employer of their intention to return from maternity or adoption leave early.

An employer will be able to choose the new status and still choose to offer more rights to their staff (e.g. the right to request flexible working or higher levels of contractual redundancy pay).

Legislation to bring in the new employee owner contract will be introduced via the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, with the aim of companies being able to offer the new type of contract from April 2013.

Women's entrepreneurial potential is underexploited and the EU needs more women entrepreneurs to create growth and new jobs.

This was the main message of the European SME Week Summit in Brussels, which focused on encouraging women to consider setting up and running their own business, usually a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME).

The fact that women only account for 34.4% of the self-employed in Europe suggests that they need more encouragement to become entrepreneurs.

While European women are at least as well educated as men, only a few decide to set up a company in the fifteen years following their graduation. Lack of take-up can partly be explained by difficulties they encounter in reconciling private and professional activities.

In addition, existing business set-up support systems are not always tailored to women’s specific needs. Concerns faced by potential women entrepreneurs include greater difficulty accessing financing, professional networks and training and a possible lack of confidence due to the absence of appropriate role models.

Women also tend to be cautious and take more calculated risks, and to focus on creating companies in familiar areas and for which they can benefit from family support. They can fail to take full advantage of networking opportunities and often grow their businesses slowly and only if their family situation allows them to work long hours with a good probability of success. Women therefore require tailor-made support measures when setting up their businesses.

Plans for a new kind of employment contract called an ‘employee-owner’ were announced at the Conservative Party Conference earlier this week.

The scheme will involve the new employee-owners exchanging some of their UK employment rights for rights of ownership in the form of shares in the business they work for. Any gains earned on these shares will then be exempt from capital gains tax.

The Government is going to consult on the new contract later in the month, but in very general terms it will see employees given between £2,000 and £50,000 of shares that are exempt from capital gains tax. In exchange, they will give up their UK rights on unfair dismissal, redundancy, and the right to request flexible working and time off for training, and will be required to provide 16 weeks’ notice of a firm date of return from maternity leave, instead of the usual eight.

The Government plans to draft legislation to bring in the new employee-owner contract later this year so that companies can use the new type of contract from April 2013. 

A recent report from the Ministry of Justice has revealed details on the level of employment tribunal activity during the 2011/12 financial year.

The data shows that:

  • There were 186,300 claims accepted by employment tribunals during 2011-12, a 15% fall on the number received in the previous year, and 21% lower than the number in 2009-10.
  • Employment tribunals disposed of 110,800 claims during 2011-12, a fall of 10% when compared with the previous year, but in-line with the number of claims disposed of in 2009-10. The recent fall in disposals was seen in both single and multiple claims, with decreases of 6% and 14% respectively.
  • A claim to an employment tribunal can contain a number of different types of complaint, known as jurisdictional complaints. When deciding any claim, the tribunal has to make determinations under each jurisdiction. The total number of jurisdictional complaints accepted in 2011-12 was 321,800, 16% fewer than in 2010-11. During the year there were, on average, 1.73 jurisdictional complaints per claim. The ratio has varied since 2006-7, but generally increased.
  • Of the 321,800 jurisdictional claims received in 2011-12, 31% were for Unfair dismissal, breach of contract and redundancy; 29% were concerning Working Time Regulations (largely airline cases that are resubmitted every three months), and 16% were for unauthorised deductions (Wages Act).
  • In 2011-12, employment tribunals disposed of 230,000 jurisdictional complaints, 6% fewer than in 2010-11. This fall was reflected in all jurisdictions except Disability Discrimination, Age Discrimination and Breach of Contract which had increases of 7%, 5% and 1% respectively.
  • At 31 March 2012, the workload outstanding for employment tribunals (i.e. claims awaiting resolution) was 540,800, as compared with 484,300 at 31st March 2011. The vast majority of those were multiple claims – 514,300 in all.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v1.0.

Nearly three quarters of people off work due to illness required adjustments in the workplace to help their return, an analysis of the Department for Work and Pensions Fit for Work Service pilots by Legal & General has shown.

Half of those who returned to work with support from the service reported changed hours of work, whilst two fifths also reported changed duties and reduced workloads.

The findings show that returning to work from illness is often possible but usually requires specialist adjustments and support.

Graduates believe that they have fewer job opportunities than five years ago, despite most companies continuing to offer graduate schemes.

Two thirds of graduates believe that significantly fewer schemes are on offer than in 2007 and three out of five say the majority of their classmates have been unable to secure a graduate job at all.

However, 85% of companies say that they have not cut back their graduate schemes in the last five years, and almost all (98%) report that their scheme is important to their organisation’s future.

Surprisingly, the research, by the Hay Group, shows that graduates are placing less importance on their overall earnings and benefits than last year, with less than one in ten (8%) stating that base salary is one of their top three considerations when applying for a job. This is in contrast to almost half (45%) in 2011.

In addition, just a year ago, more than a third of graduates considered bonus potential to be important, however this year the figure has fallen to just 7%.

Similarly, only 5% are now considering their pensions and healthcare options to be important, compared to 51% in 2011.

Instead, graduates now appear to be more interested in the ability to make a difference, with 51% considering this to be a key factor in their job choice, compared to just 4% last year.

The European Commission has agreed to give European social partners more time to complete their negotiations over reviewing the Working Time Directive.

László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion said: "The social partners have my best wishes for a successful outcome to their talks on these very important issues. The Commission is willing to provide any support the social partners would find helpful in the context of these negotiations.''

The Commission consulted the European social partners during 2010 about possible changes to the Working Time Directive in order to update EU working time rules. The changes were felt necessary to take account of profound changes in the world of work and to better meet the needs of employers and workers in the 21st century.

The procedure for negotiations is provided in Articles 154 and 155 of the TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the EU). The social partners have nine months for their negotiations, but the period can be extended, if the employers' side, the workers' side and the Commission jointly decide to do so. In the case of the Working Time Directive, the social partners' negotiations began in early December 2011 and will now continue, under the extension of time just agreed, up to 31st December 2012.

The Working Time Directive entitles workers in all Member States to a number of rights with regards to their hours of work, including:

  • a limit to weekly working time, which must not exceed 48 hours on average, including any overtime,
  • paid annual leave, of at least four weeks per year, and
  • extra protection in the case of night work

There is scope for a certain degree of flexibility within these rules.

The Supreme Court has given its ruling in the discrimination appeal case of Hewage v Grampian Health Board, which was on appeal from the Second Division of the Inner House of the Court of Session.

Mrs Hewage was born in Sri Lanka, and has been a British citizen since 1998. She commenced employment with Grampian Health Board (‘the Board’) in 1993 at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary as a consultant orthodontist. In 1996 she became Head of Service for the Orthodontic Department.

She resigned from her employment with the Board, and in September 2005 she commenced proceedings against the Board in which she claimed under section 94(1) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 that she had been unfairly dismissed from that employment. She also claimed under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976 that she had been discriminated against on the grounds of her sex and race.

At a hearing before an employment tribunal, the Board conceded that Mrs Hewage had been constructively and unfairly dismissed. The tribunal held that she had been unlawfully discriminated against on a number of grounds of both sex and race.

In 2009 the Employment Appeal Tribunal (‘the EAT’) upheld an appeal by the Board and dismissed Mrs Hewage’s claims of discrimination. She appealed to the Inner House of the Court of Session, and the Second Division allowed her appeal and quashed the decision of the EAT. It remitted the case to the employment tribunal to decide whether, if it had had regard to the only issues which the court considered to be relevant to the claims of discrimination, it would have come to the same or a different conclusion. The Board appealed against that decision.

The Supreme Court has now unanimously dismissed the Board’s appeal, and affirmed that part of the Second Division’s interlocutor in which it allowed the appeal to the Inner House and quashed the decision of the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

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