Employment Law Newsletter April 2007

Employment Law Newsletter April 2007

It’s Spring, and as usual that means legislative changes afoot.

Maternity and adoption

New rights and obligations apply to all pregnant women and new mothers whose expected week of childbirth is on or after 1 April 2007.

  • They are entitled to statutory maternity pay (SMP) for a period of 39 weeks (increased from 26), which can now start on the same day as ordinary maternity leave (OML).
  • They are entitled to 12 months’ maternity leave: 6 months’ OML and six months’ additional maternity leave (AML), regardless of length of service.
  • They must now give at least 8 weeks’ notice (increased from 28 days) if they want to return to work before the end of their AML period.
  • Employers will be entitled to make ‘reasonable contact’ with them during maternity leave.
  • Provided both parties agree, they can work for up to 10 days (‘Keeping in Touch’ or KIT days) during their maternity leave without affecting their rights to maternity leave or to SMP. The terms can be agreed between the parties.

The changes to maternity rights are mirrored for adoptive parents.


From 6 April, employees who care for adults who are their spouse or partner, a near relative or who live at the same address, can request flexible working in the same way as those who care for children.

Information and consultation

The duty to make formal information and consultation procedures available will, from 6 April, apply to all businesses employing at least 100 employees.

Increases in statutory payments

From 6 April, basic rate SMP, paternity pay and adoption pay increases from £106 to £108.85 a week, and statutory sick pay from £68.20 to £70.05 a week.

…and one behind the ear for later

Smoke-free workplaces

From 1 July 2007, enclosed public spaces and workplaces in England will become smoke-free.  This includes offices, factories, shops, pubs, restaurants, public transport and work vehicles used by more than one person. All smoke-free premises must display a sign of at least A5 size, with the No Smoking symbol and the words “It is against the law to smoke in these premises”.

Disciplinary, dismissal and grievance procedures

Statutory procedures were introduced in 2004 to reduce the number of tribunal claims being brought, but they have tended to have the opposite effect as the courts struggle to interpret them. Recent cases before the Employment Appeal Tribunal have clarified that a tribunal claim does not amount to a grievance; that no separate grievance is needed where a dismissal is alleged to be an act of discrimination as well as unfair dismissal, but that where disciplinary proceedings are ongoing, and the employee resigns for unconnected reasons, a grievance is required.

In a development that will be welcomed by employers and employees alike, the Department of Trade and Industry is now consulting on whether to abolish the procedures altogether. This follows a recent report on their workings and its findings that the intentions of the procedures were sound but that they have had “unintended consequences which have outweighed their benefits”.

For more information and to take part in the consultation, visit http://www.dti.gov.uk/consultations/page38508.html

In the meantime, all employers should ensure that their procedures comply with the minimum statutory regime and are robust enough to reduce the risk of unfair dismissal claims.  Cases are still regularly coming to the appeal courts about procedural failings by employers: recently it has been confirmed that any expired disciplinary warnings must not be taken into account when imposing sanctions, and that where new evidence comes to light at an appeal stage, leading to an increase from final written warning to summary dismissal, the employer should have recommenced its disciplinary procedure.

Knight-Webb Solicitors are specialists in employment law. We can help you to avoid the pitfalls by ensuring that your procedures are up-to-date and take into account all the recent changes in the law, including those outlined in this Newsletter and the age discrimination law that came into effect last October. We will also guide you through the process when you need to implement them. Contact Sunita Knight-Webb on 020 7207 6195 or at sunita@knightwebb.com.