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Proposed New Employment Laws Under the New Coalition Government

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In the wake of the recent election results and the new coalition government, we are now able to report on the government’s plans to introduce new employment laws over the course of the next 12 months.

WestminsterThere is still uncertainty in many areas but we set out below the key information and what is likely to be on the agenda as far as employment law changes are concerned.

“Family friendly” Rights

Before the election, both the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats emphasised the importance of such matters and to this end, the Lib Dems stated that they would allow parents to share maternity and paternity leave between them although mothers would have to take the first 2 weeks following the birth as this is already required by law. They would seek to extend the period of shared parental leave for up to 18 months. The Conservatives stated that they would introduce a new system of flexible parental leave but so that only mothers could take the first 14 weeks after the birth. It therefore seems clear that the new government is likely to enable parents to share their rights to leave in the first year after the birth but precise details have yet to be revealed.

Both members of the coalition stated that they had planned to extend the right to request flexible working and this may be to all employees as far as the Lib Dems are concerned whilst the Conservatives stated that they would extend it only to those with children under 18. On any interpretation, this would indicate that some form of extension to this right is likely to take place.
Finally on the issue of work and families, the Lib Dems expressed the view that they would give fathers the right to time off for ante-natal appointments.


The key piece of legislation expected in the next few months is the implementation of the Equality Act which is intended to harmonise all strands of discrimination and bring some clarity to a number of definitions. It will also extend the principle of employers being liable not just for acts of unlawful discrimination carried out by employees but also, in some cases, by third parties. This means that an employer could find themselves liable for sexual or racial harassment of employees by clients.

Retirement Age

Both parties stated that they would phase out the default retirement age which is currently 65. Whilst there is cross party agreement that the current DRA should be abandoned, it is not yet clear what approach the new government will adopt.

Currently, employers can force employees who have reached 65 to retire and for their employment to be terminated provided they follow certain procedural requirements.


Prior to the election, the Conservatives stated that they intended to curb the effect of those parts of Tupe relating to “service provision changes” where these go beyond what is required by European law. This may therefore affect the position of employees who are engaged on a contract which passes from one employer to another.

Employment Tribunals

It is recognised that the current employment tribunal system should be improved to ensure that it offers “fast, cheap and accessible justice” and that it is fair to both sides. It is suggested that this could include raising the limit for deposits (currently £500) and/or cost awards to discourage weak or vexatious claims. Currently, it is in practice extremely difficult for an employer who is successful in defeating a claim to obtain costs from the former employee. It is also recognised that in many cases, employers are often forced to settle claims which they have a very good chance of defeating simply because it is cheaper to do so in the long run.

We will of course report on any significant changes as they occur.

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