Recruitment law update

It has been a little while since the last recruitment law update in AgencyZone. We present here a summary of recent legal developments that may affect recruitment businesses and their clients.

   The new right for time off to train or study.

Employees now have a statutory right to request time off work for study or training, where it would improve the employer’s business or the employee’s effectiveness within it. This right is available to employees with at least 26 weeks of service and where the employer has 250 or more employees (from April 2011 this will be extended to organisations of all sizes).

The legislation does not include requirements for the employer to fund the training, and there are various ‘permissible grounds for refusal’, which should cover most of the problems that might arise as a result of the employee’s time off. However, failure to follow the correct procedures may result in a complaint to an employment tribunal, so caution is advised in the event of a request from an employee.

Note that this right applies to internal employees rather than agency workers.

    ‘Fit notes’ introduced

A new system has been introduced to replace the previous ‘sick notes’, which have been issued by GPs since 1948. Sick notes were used by employees or agency workers to support claims for time off or for sick pay. The sick note would either confirm that the employee was unfit for work, or it would not. There was no third way.

Sensibly, the new system of ‘fit notes’ includes an additional option under which GPs may state that the employee is fit for work, subject to the advice given. For example, a recruitment consultant that visits her GP because she has lost her voice might have previously been regarded unfit for work – as she would not be able to answer phones. Under the new system however, that same employee might instead be regarded as fit for work subject to advice that she should not be expected to answer the phones. It would therefore be acceptable to expect the employee to turn up to work, provided that alternative work is available.

It is thought that this new approach will reduce the instances of sick leave, which is said to cost the economy over £100billion per year.

   New paternity/maternity rights

The right to paternity leave has been enhanced, including new rights for a mother’s second 6 months of maternity leave to be transferred to the father. There is also the right not to be dismissed or disadvantaged due to the exercise of this right.

Standard rates of statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay have increased to £124.88 per week. 

   Minimum wage increase

From October 2010, minimum wage will increase according to the following figures:

  • Workers aged 21 and over: £5.93 per hour (currently £5.80).
  • Workers aged 18 – 20: £4.92 per hour (currently £4.83).
  • Workers aged 16 – 17: £3.64 per hour (currently £3.57).

   Amendments to the Conduct Regulations

We are still waiting eagerly for the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2010 to be finalised by parliament. These amendments to the Conduct Regulations are due to come into force in October 2010. The main change for recruiters is likely to be the removal of the requirement to contract with permanent candidates and check their identity, although it is advisable that agencies continue to do so. Watch this space for a full summary as soon as the final draft becomes available.

For more information on these issues or any other commercial or legal issue affecting recruitment business, call us now on 01273 236 236.