Employment law implications of the Budget
Not so flexible working
The extension of the right to make a flexible working request in relation to a child will remain limited to children under the age of 17 (18 in the case of disabled children).
Regulations were due to come into force on 6 April 2011 to extend the right to parents of children under 18; however, Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has now said that these regulations will be repealed before they come into force in order to give businesses some breathing room. The Government have stated that this is only a temporary delay and that it remains committed to extending flexible working rights in the work place.
Reprieve for small and start-up businesses
Small businesses with less than 10 employees and start-ups can breathe a small sigh of relief following the budget. The Government has announced that it will introduce a general moratorium for these businesses exempting them from compliance with new domestic regulation for three years from 1 April 2011.
The Government intends to follow the HMRC definition of a start-up, covering businesses that commence a trade, profession or vocation on or after the date the moratorium begins. It will not cover situations where the business mostly carried out the same activities in the six months leading up to the start-up, where the new business is the result of a transfer of another business which carried out the same activities or where the new business takes on the whole or part of an existing business.
We do not yet know the extent of the moratorium and note that the moratorium does not apply to general employment law already in force on 1 April 2011, with which all employers, regardless of their size or age, have to comply.
The sections of the Equality Act 2010 prohibiting discrimination on grounds of two combined protected characteristics are not going to be introduced yet and there is currently no date for implementation.
Protection from Third Party Harassment
The Government will consult on whether the provisions in the Equality Act which provide that employers must take reasonable steps to protect employees from third party harassment should be reviewed or removed. There have been a number of complaints from industry that these provisions are unworkable.
Time of for training
It was confirmed that the Government would not, at this stage, extend the right to time off for training to businesses with fewer than 250 employees, again in an attempt to ease the burden on smaller businesses.
What was missing in the Budget was any mention of changing the application of maternity leave in relation to businesses with less than 10 employees. The Telegraph reported that the Budget would announce that these businesses would be able to negotiate the terms of any maternity leave with their employees, rather than comply with current legislation. The Times also reported that details of this change would be reported in the Budget. However, Vince Cable did not touch on this area, proving that you cannot believe everything you read (except in Know How, of course!).