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october employment changes: what you need to know

9 October 2008

Agency workers

Agency workers on contracts of less than three months are from 27 October 2008 entitled to statutory sick pay during periods of sickness absence.

Employers liability

From 1 October 2008 Employers can display their employers liability insurance certificate in electronic form so long as it is reasonably accessible to employees (Employers Liability (Compulsory Insurance (Amendment) Regulations 2008).

The national minimum wage

The adult rate of the national minimum wage rises from £5.52 to £5.73 per hour; the development rate rises from £4.60 to £4.77; and the rate for workers aged 16 and 17 rises from £3.40 to £3.53 per hour.

Maternity and adoption leave

For those whose expected week of childbirth or adoption is on or after 5 October 2008 the following changes will apply.

The right to all benefits (apart from remuneration) will continue during additional maternity leave as if they had not been absent. These include reimbursement of professional subscriptions, health benefits, company cars, company mobile and contractual holiday entitlement.

The employers liability to pay pension contributions, however, is limited by Schedule 5 of the Social Security Act 1989 to the period of paid maternity leave (39 weeks for Statutory Maternity Pay but it could be longer if the contract provides for maternity pay for a longer period). The employers contribution is based on full pay but the employees contribution is based on their maternity pay.

Employment and support allowance

A new requirement to have a work capability assessment in order to claim disability benefits is to be phased in over the next two years from 27 October 2008. Those considered to have some capacity to work will be required to make efforts to find employment or lose payments. The Department for Work and Pensions estimates that the new assessment will only reduce the number of people entitled to full benefits by 60,000. However, other commentators have suggested that the figure may be closer to 1.3 million. A significant number of disabled applicants may therefore come into the labour market.

Employers must ensure that they give proper consideration to such applicants - otherwise they may face costly disability discrimination claims. It should not be assumed, for example, that because they have not worked for a lengthy period that they lack skills or are work-shy. Those applicants whose condition qualifies under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) are entitled to have reasonable adjustments made to working conditions and premises to overcome any disadvantages they would face in employment as a result of their disability. Thought must be given to how realistic adjustments might be made for them as part of the application process.

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The content on this page is provided for the purposes of general interest and information. It contains only brief summaries of aspects of the subject matter and does not provide comprehensive statements of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not provide a substitute for it.

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