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Employment and the Law – Recent Developments

Coalition – key issues

After forming the first coalition Government in Britain for 70 years, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats recently published their programme for “partnership government”, stated to be “more radical and comprehensive” than their individual manifestos. 

The programme has a number of implications for employers, including the following:

Equalities

• The Government will promote equal pay and take a range of measures to end discrimination in the workplace.
• The right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees and the Government will consult with businesses on how best to do this.
• Gender equality on the boards of listed companies will be promoted. 

Europe

• The Government will work to limit the application of the Working Time Directive in the UK.
Families 
• The Government will encourage shared parenting from the earliest stages of pregnancy, including the promotion of a system of flexible parental leave. 
Government transparency
• The Government will introduce new protections for whistleblowers in the public sector.

Immigration 

• An annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work will be introduced. The mechanism for implementing the limit will be considered jointly.
Jobs and welfare 
• The Government will end all existing welfare to work programmes and create a single welfare-to-work programme to help all unemployed people get back into work. 
• The programme outlines the Government’s support for the National Minimum Wage (although no statement is made about increasing it).

Political reform

• The Government will reform the Civil Service Compensation Scheme to bring it into line with the practice in the private sector.

Retirement age

• The default retirement age will be phased out and the Government will hold a review to set the date at which the state pension age starts to rise to 66, although it will not be sooner than 2016 for men and 2020 for women.

Legislation

• The Government will cut red tape by introducing a ‘one-in, one-out’ rule, whereby no regulation is brought in without other regulation being cut by a greater amount. 
• The Government will review employment and workplace laws, to ensure they maximise flexibility for both parties while protecting fairness and providing a competitive environment.

By Louise Fernandes-Owen of Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP.

Skills shortage during recovery

According to a recent report from the CBI, employers fear that they will be unable to find people with appropriate skills during the recovery.

Half of employers (51%) are concerned they will not be able to fill posts requiring the right graduate level or higher skills in the coming years, and a third (32%) don’t believe it will be possible to fill intermediate level jobs, requiring skills equivalent to A level. A third (30%) of employers predict the need for lower-level skills will decrease, while just 17% say it will increase. 

Nearly half of employers (45%) say they are already having difficulty recruiting staff with skills in science, technology, engineering and maths, with manufacturers and science-related businesses having the most difficulty finding highly-skilled people to fill their posts, in spite of the recession. Even more companies (59%) expect to have difficulty finding people with such skills in the next three years.

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