A warm welcome to all our subscribers. This month we are beginning to see the effects of a change in Government. Various pieces of legislation are being looked at in a new light, however, the Equality Act 2010 is the main talking point amongst employment lawyers. Over the last few weeks, the details of the Act's implementation have disappeared from the website of the Commission for Equality & Human Rights. I may be reading too much into this, however, there have been whispers of Tory discontent with the equal pay auditing provisions and the "positive discrimination" aspect. It is understood that some Tories are concerned about the effects that these parts of the Act may have on business during a fragile recovery. There are definite rumblings that parts of the Act may well be held up and scrapped, although the consolidation aspects and the main bulk of the Act will doubtless pass into law eventually.
One action that will please many, including author Phillip Pullman, is the Government's halting of the vetting and barring scheme that would have required all those who have regular contact with children to register themselves for checks and to pay an annual fee for the privilege. The scheme, seen by many as the straw that finally broke the camel's back in Labour's stack of child protection legislation, was actually voted for by the Tories when it came before Parliament even though they clearly disagree with the bulk of the provisions. One has to wonder whether they were worried about accusations of "putting children's lives at risk" (as clearly this would have been the call from the then Government had they resisted the legislation) prior to an important General Election. I for one welcome the halting of the scheme and feel it was a step too far.
On a personal note, enjoy your summer holidays if you are lucky enough to be taking them in August.
We'll keep you up to date with any important developments between newsletters on our updated blog and if you have enquiries about the items featured or require any further information then don't hesitate to contact us on 08000 320 974 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month's news:
1. Vetting and Barring Scheme halted
The government has announced that it is re-thinking the Vetting and Barring Scheme, saying that it ".... recognises that many businesses, community groups and individuals see the current scheme as disproportionate and overly burdensome, and that it unduly infringes on civil liberties".
2. Minimum Wage increase 2010
Draft regulations have now been published which will make the following main changes to the National Minimum Wage with effect from 1st October 2010:
3. Rewards for failure
It's not only private sector bank chiefs who can be handsomely rewarded even though they have presided over disasters. One reason for what can sometimes appear to be unwarranted generosity is of course self-interest: senior directors are usually aware of any dirty linen there may be in their employers' cupboards and an important part of the compensation packages they negotiate is often their agreement to keep quiet, euphemistically referred to as a "confidentiality clause". That, of course, can be worth a lot.
4. Retirement age
As pensions and retirement usually go together there is much scope for muddling the rules relating to them. Adding to possible confusion, two government consultations on related matters are both being headed by eminent men with the same surname. Former Labour Minister John Hutton is to chair a commission on public service pensions while economist Will Hutton is to head up a review of fair pay in the public sector.
5. The "without prejudice" rule
As is well known, communications made "without prejudice" between disputing parties in attempts to achieve an out of court settlement of their dispute are not generally admissible evidence if they fail to reach a settlement and the matter goes to trial. The reason, of course, is that it is important public policy to encourage parties to negotiate and settle disputes out of court. But does this public policy apply when an out of court settlement has been reached?
6. Circumventing statutory compensation limits
Mr Edwards was a consultant surgeon working for the Chesterfield NHS Trust. He was dismissed for gross misconduct and subsequently was unable to find employment within the NHS.
Rather than claiming unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal, where compensation is limited by statute (currently to an absolute maximum of £76,700), he brought a breach of contract claim in the High Court where there is no limit on the amount which can be awarded. He claimed a huge amount, a little under £4.3m including a sum in excess of £3.8 million for loss of future earnings.
7. Equality Act 2010 progress
Changes to the Government Equalities Office web pages have recently fuelled rumours that the new coalition government may be rethinking the timetable for introduction of the Equality Act 2010. The Act received Royal Assent on 8 April 2010, immediately before Parliament was dissolved. Major parts of it have been intended to come into force on 1 October 2010.
8. Fit notes - employers beware!
As previously reported in our blog a website is offering fake new-style Med 3s which include a 'Statement of Fitness for Work'. The web-site charges £9.99 - and it's "buy one and get one free".
9. Redefining unreasonable behaviour at an employment tribunal
Judges and juries in criminal trials sometimes need police protection. However those taking part in employment tribunal cases don't generally expect to face physical violence so spare a thought for former solicitor Russell Hardwick. He retired a few weeks ago after a long stint as an Employment Judge no doubt expecting some peace and quiet. This was not to be. Not only does he still sometimes sit in the tribunal in Reading but just the other day he was physically attacked by a litigant who had lost his case.
10. Job applicant refused employment because he's bald
The BBC reports that in June 2010 a Court in Northern Ireland ordered the Police Service there to reconsider an application for recruitment by a bald man. He had been rejected out of hand because he could not give them hairs of up to 3cm in length required for a drug test.
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