UK Employment Law Update – Summer 2010

The following areas of employment law have been subjected to change; GP sick notes, paternity leave allowances, maternity; paternity and adoption pay awards, pension age, data protection, requesting study leave and trade union blacklisting. This article provides important information for employers on these topics.

Sick Notes

Sick notes obtained from a GP are changing from 06 April 2010 to become ‘fit notes’. The essential difference is that the GP is permitted to make occupational suggestions to the employer in order for them to prevent that particular employee going off sick again.

The suggestions are not legally binding on the employer. This can give an insight into things that are happening at work which cause employees to go off sick which can be fixed thus preventing further absences. If the employer chooses not to implement the changes recommended on the fit note, then the employee can automatically be assumed as not being ‘fit for work’. If this is the situation then it is up to the employer to advise the employee to go back to the doctors or see an occupational health therapist if they think necessary.

The requirement that an employer must see a GP note of 7 days off, still is the same. If an employee fails to do so then they are not entitled to statutory sick pay. Not only this, but the requirement for an employee to produce a fit note should be implemented within your internal sickness policy just as a normal GP sick note would have been. This means that an employee must produce a fit note in order to receive occupational sick pay, or must do so to avoid a disciplinary action under unauthorised absence.

Increase in Paternity Leave

From 06 April 2010 fathers are now able to share the maternity leave period with the mother of a child under 1 year old. Fathers can now take up to 26 weeks leave, which enables the mother to return to work after taking 6 months of their allocated maternity leave.

Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Pay

There will be an increase in the amount of statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay awarded from 04 April 2010. The weekly pay for all parties will increase from £123.06 to £124.88.

Statutory sick pay is remaining the same at £79.15 per week.

Eligibility for Taking a Pension

Currently the minimum age that an employee is able to retire and take their pension is 50. From 06 April 2010 this is heightened to 55. An employee can still retire earlier than this age on grounds of ill health or if they have a protected pension age. Note if your employee has already begun to access their pension below this age of 55, then they can still do so (pre 06 April 2010).

In order for an employee to receive the full amount of state pension, the amount of years worked must be 30. There are also plans to increase the state pension retirement age for woman from 60 to 65 within the next 5-10 years.

Data Protection

Due to the European Directive on data protection, the UK will have to implement significant changes in order to be compliant. One change, which will effect organisations from 06 April 2020, is an increase in the fine awarded (to £500,000) for a serious breach of the Data Protection Act.

Study Leave

From 06 April 2010 employees whom are employed in an organisation with more than 250 employees have a statutory right to ask their employer’s for time off to study or train. An employer can only refuse this request based on one of the statutory grounds available. From 06 April 2011 this will then apply to all organisations irrelevant of their size.

Trade Union Prejudices

From 02 March 2010 it became unlawful for an employer to blacklist an employee on the grounds that they are a member of a trade union. This essentially means that an employer cannot discriminate against a trade union member at the recruitment stage or sack them on the grounds of this membership.

Employment law is complex. Whether you are an employer or employee, you need to know your legal position. If you’re in any doubt with regard to employment documents, make sure you take advice from a specialist employment solicitor.

About the Author:
If you want a specialist employment law solicitor then contact Bonallack & Bishop today, a law firm with particular experiences in redundancy compensation claims. Tim Bishop is senior partner at the firm, responsible for all major strategic decisions. He has grown the firm by 1000% in 13 years and sees himself as a businessman who owns a law firm.
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