New Employment Bill introduced
8 November 2001 - The Government claims that its new Employment
Bill is aimed at delivering a balanced package of support for working
parents and, at the same time, reducing red tape for employers and simplifying
the process for settling disputes in the workplace.
The bill provides for:
- 6 months paid and a further 6 months unpaid maternity leave
for working mothers;
- 2 weeks paid paternity leave for working fathers;
- 6 months paid and an extra 6 months unpaid leave for working
- a total increase of over 60% in the rate of statutory maternity
pay, taking it up from £62 to £100;
- reimbursement of maternity, paternity and adoption payments made
by employers, with small employers being able to recover 100% with an
additional compensation payment on top.
The measures should come into effect from April 2003,benefiting 350,000
new mothers and 450,000 new fathers in work per year.
Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt said:
" This Government is committed to delivering for working families
and to simplifying regulation for business. This package is good for
British business and it is good for the people who work in business.
" From April 2003, these new measures announced today will help
hundreds of thousands of working parents find a better balance
between their work and their family - especially when a new baby
" Creating simple maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay
rules will cut red tape, especially for small firms, and help
employers plan ahead with more certainty. Firms will now be able to
claim back these payments before leave is taken - a particular bonus
for small firms.
" Overall this is a winning ticket - delivering for individuals,
business and the economy and helping create a modern, productive
workplace fit for the 21stcentury. "
Theo Blackwell, Industrial Society policy specialist, said:
"This is a move in the right direction for parents. As employers come
to believe that family friendly policies are a business asset rather
than a liability, the government could be persuaded to go further.
The real test will come with the publication of the Bain Commission
on flexible working rights. If the Government is serious about
helping working parents, then it must give mothers and fathers
the clear right to request flexible working."
Employers and employees will be given help to resolve their disputes
within their organisations and the Bill also includes proposals to 'modernise'
the employment tribunal system. These include:
- new ways of dealing with disputes in the workplace with requirements
for employees to raise their grievances with employers before they apply
to a tribunal;
- changes to the way in which tribunals calculate awards aimed at supporting
discussion in the workplace;
- a fixed conciliation period to promote the timely settlement of
- a fast track system and also other measures to 'modernise' employment
that proposals to charge applicants for bringing a claim to an employment
tribunal will be dropped were confirmed - the Government announced that
it would not be taking these forward.
On the Government's proposals to encourage dispute resolution and
reform the Employment Tribunal System, Patricia Hewitt said:
"The Government wants to raise standards of dispute management to
help resolve problems as they arise in the workplace.
"Many disagreements can be successfully resolved through better
communication and procedures between an individual and an employer.
"Our changes on dispute resolution will encourage better dialogue
between employees and employers and create better awareness of rights
and responsibilities in the workplace.
"These measures will benefit both business and individuals, reduce
the strain on the employment tribunal system and help create modern
dispute resolution procedures for those who need them."
Proposed changes are to be implemented when a full programme of advice and
guidance to business (especially small businesses) and to individuals is up and running.
and the Small Business Service will have key roles in this process.
The Bill also includes provisions to:
- give union learning representatives the right to time off for
carrying out their duties;
- introduce questionnaires to inform equal pay cases;
- the introduction of work focused interviews for partners of
people receiving working age benefits and;
- enable the Secretary of State to make regulations
preventing less favourable treatment of fixed term employees.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Alistair Darling said:
"This Bill is another key step in reforming the welfare state. It
paves the way for a culture where those who are able to work can do
so knowing that they are supported in balancing their work with
"That is why we are offering more support to mothers and
mothers-to-be when they take time off to have children - with the
biggest ever increase in the rate of payment to women on maternity
leave as well as extending the period of paid leave to help women
stay off work longer if they want to.
"This will complement the measures for fathers and adoptive parents
to ensure that all families get the support they deserve."
On partners of working age benefit claimants, Mr Darling said:
"They will receive the same tailored personal adviser service as
benefit recipients, helping them make the most of the wide-ranging
opportunities available to them."
Yvonne Bennion, policy specialist at The Industrial Society said:
"The Industrial Society welcomes the emphasis on resolving disputes in the
workplace, but is concerned that the proposals for a minimal grievance
procedure will fall short of recommended best practice and lead to new
delays in the tribunal process.
"We fear that shortening the discipline procedure could give the impression
that employees can be dismissed without a thorough prior investigation of
the circumstances. There is a danger that a myth could develop amongst
employers that they are protected in law when the they sack someone
summarily without finding out what has really happened.
"We are very pleased that the Government has abandoned some unworkable
proposals in its consultation paper, including fees for applications and
tribunal hearings, removing conciliation from fast track claims and
bringing in non-ACAS conciliators.
"We also welcome the strengthening of the provisions on the statement of
terms and conditions and enabling the Presidents of Tribunals to issue