Minimum Wage Increase
The Government intends to increase the minimum
wage to £5.05 from £4.85 per hour from October 2005, with
a further increase to £5.35 next year.
The rate for 18-21 year olds will also rise
from £4.10 to £4.25 per hour but the newly introduced rate
for 16 and 17 year olds is frozen at £3.00 per hour.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said that the move
would benefit "about 1.4m people."
UNISON had made a submission to the Low Pay
Commission on the proposals and Dave Prentis expressed concern
at the decision to freeze the 16-17 year old rate.
Unfair Dismissal and Redundancy Payments
Statutory payments and awards made to workers
faced with unfair dismissal and redundancy increases from
1 February in line with inflation.
The maximum amount for calculating a week's
pay rises from £270 to £280 and the maximum compensatory
award for unfair dismissal rises from £55,000 to £56,800
In cases of dismissal for trade union duties
or activities; health & safety responsibilities pension
scheme trustee or employee rep the minimum basic award rises
from £3,600 to £3,800.
Employment Law Timetable
6 April 2005
New trade union laws come into force amending
the statutory union recognition procedure.
The rates of the Working Tax Credit and
the Child Tax Credit all increase.
- National Insurance Contributions Rise
The rates of Class 2 and Class 3 contributions
increase from £2.05 to £2.10 and from £7.15 to £7.35 respectively.
Health & Safety
Deadlines can Kill
New research has confirmed the long-held union
view that stress caused by working to short deadlines, coupled
with a long working hours culture can cause heart attacks.
Results of a survey carried out in Sweden
found that short-term high demands, competition and conflict
in the workplace led to an increased risk of a heart attack.
Women were three times more likely and men up to 6 times
when compared with other workers.
HSE Enforcement Decline leads to Deregulation
Despite numerous studies that inspections
and enforcement action help secure health & safety improvements
the HSE's annual report for 2003/4 showed a steep decline.
In July 2004 a Select Committee report severely
criticised the HSE's current strategy and called for increased
enforcement and rights for safety reps. Despite this the
HSE appear to have bowed to deregulatory pressure to "reduce
burdens on business" and "be more sympathetic
to business needs".
Delays to Corporate Manslaughter laws alarm
Despite the announcement of a new corporate
manslaughter law in the Queen's Speech last year, unions
are concerned that the proposed bill may be lost due to
the impending general election. In addition the bill will
not impose duties on individual directors.
However, the Scottish Executive is to publish
a consultation paper later this year, which will put forward
options for changes in the law to create a new offence of
"corporate homicide" in Scotland
Jarvis saved by Refinancing Deal
Jarvis was forced to seek a refinancing deal
after debts of £240m threatened its survival. Agreement
was reached with creditors, subcontractors, Local Authorities
and the NHS for £110 m to fund the outstanding construction
work and the company was forced to sell off subsidiary companies.
Company Pension Schemes
The Government is likely to adopt a scheme
where people are automatically opted in to company pension
schemes in an attempt to encourage more people to be part
of their organisation's contributory pension scheme
EQUALITY AT WORK
Increase in Paid Maternity and Paternity
The Government has unveiled plans to extend
maternity pay to 9 months by 2007, with the option of transferring
some leave to fathers. This would give an extra £1,400 to
new mothers, with the Government paying the bill, instead
Work Life Imbalance
A new survey has shown that workers in their
30s are more stressed out by long hours working, pressure
of work and juggling with childcare than those in other
ages. Researchers at the Employers' Forum on Age found that
just 54% of this age group were happy with their work-life
balance. Over 60s are the happiest in work, with satisfaction
rates of 93%.
The Equal Opportunities Commission has found
around 30,000 working women are sacked, made redundant or
leave their jobs due to pregnancy discrimination.
Almost half of the women surveyed said they
experienced some form of
discrimination; a fifth said they lost out
financially and 5% were put under pressure to leave their
jobs after announcing their pregnancy. The EOC are calling
for urgent action to end this unlawful treatment of pregnant
Proposals for Universal Equality Body
Plans for a single equality commission will
not be pushed through parliament until after the next election.
The proposals concerns the ;scheme to combine
the Commission for Racial Equality, the Equal Opportunities
Commission and the Disability rights Commission.
Age Discrimination Legislation
Age discrimination legislation due to be introduced
during 2006 is set to give legal rights to the over-65s
in employment. This will mean equality in issues like compensation
payments at tribunals which will be uncapped. The Government
has also done a u-turn and is preparing to give employees
over 65 the same entitlement to redundancy pay as younger
workers currently receive and redundancy pay will no longer
by age-restricted as it is at present.
Probation Officers to ban BNP
The Chief Inspector of Probation has called
for the ban on prison officers being active members of the
BNP to be extended to include the probation service. In
a report entitled I'm not a racist but . . ., it
is claimed that in most cases probation officers fail to
challenge the attitudes and behaviour of convicted racists.
The Home Office has accepted 15 of the 16 recommendations
in the report including the need for a national strategy
to tackle the problem.
Getting on at work
The TUC has issued a warning that Workplace
Romance is in danger as some employers attempt to copy
their counterparts in the United States where relationship
bans and "love contracts" have been introduced.
Whilst accepting that employers have a right
to set guidelines to ensure that any romance or friendship
between employees does not have an adverse effect on an
individual's work, UNISON's policy officer said that employers
had to remember that their staff were not robots and that
work was a place where friendships of many kinds were