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This year’s employment law change – what do you need to know?

What have you missed already?
February 2012 - Statutory redundancy payments and guarantee payments increase
The maximum amount of a week's pay used to calculate a statutory redundancy payment and the basic and additional awards for unfair dismissal increased from £400 to £430 on 1 February 2012. The maximum unfair dismissal compensatory award increased from £68,400 to £72,300. The limit on the amount of a guarantee payment payable to an employee in respect of any day also increased from £22.20 to £23.50.

What happened in April 2012?
Qualifying period for unfair dismissal protection is increased
The biggest change to employment rights for 2012 is the increase of the qualifying period for an employee to bring an unfair dismissal claim from one year to two years. This change came into force on 6 April 2012. The Government has said that it has increased the qualifying period for unfair dismissal to "provide more time for employers and employees to resolve difficulties, give employers greater confidence in taking on people and ease the burden on the employment tribunal process".

Changes to employment tribunal procedure
The Government has announced a "fundamental review" of the Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure, with substantial changes to employment tribunal procedure introduced on 6 April 2012. Employment judges will hear unfair dismissal cases alone in the tribunal, unless they direct otherwise. The maximum amount of a deposit order, which a tribunal can order a party to pay as a condition to continuing with tribunal proceedings, will increase from £500 to £1,000. The maximum amount of a costs order, which a tribunal may award in favour of a legally represented party, will increase from £10,000 to £20,000. Witness statements are to be taken "as read" unless a tribunal directs otherwise.

Maternity, paternity, adoption and sick pay increase
The Government has confirmed that the standard rate of statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay will increase from £128.73 to £135.45 per week from 1 April 2012. Statutory sick pay will increase from £81.60 to £85.85 per week from 6 April 2012.

Anything else?
October 2012 - Pensions auto-enrolment begins
In what may prove to be one of the biggest challenges of the year for larger employers, starting from 1 October 2012, employers with 50 or more employees have to enrol eligible employees automatically, and make mandatory employer contributions, into a qualifying workplace pension scheme or the National Employment Savings Trust (Nest).

If you are confused by the recent changes in employment law please contact one of our employment legal specialists for advice.

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