Government policies and proposals

Legislative Update for the Week of August 6, 2012

Leg Roundup Image 132 by 140.jpgDOJ Creates New Whistleblower Ombudsperson Position
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced the creation of a new position dedicated exclusively to whistleblower protections. Long-time federal prosecutor Robert Storch has been named as the first Whistleblower Ombudsperson within the DOJ's Office of the Inspector General. Read the full post here. (August 10)

DOL Issues Guidance on the Applicability of WARN to Government Contractors
The U.S. Department of Labor issued Training and Employment Guidance Letter No. 3-12, offering guidance on the applicability of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act to potential layoffs among federal contractors and the defense industry. Read the full post here. (August 10)

Obama Nominates Jenny Yang to be New EEOC Member
To fill a vacancy on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, President Obama nominated Jenny R. Yang, an individual who has held various civil rights-related positions representing employees in both the private and public sectors. Read the full post here. (August 6)

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Legislative Update for the Week of July 30, 2012

Leg Roundup Image 132 by 140.jpgBill Would Apply Whistleblower Protections to Allegations of Antitrust Law Violations
The Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act (S. 3462) would amend the Antitrust Criminal Penalty Enhancement and Reform Act of 2004 by adding a new section on whistleblower protections for employees, contractors, subcontractors, and employer agents. Read the full post here. (August 3)

DOL Revises Fee Disclosure Guidance Applicable to Brokerage Windows
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued Field Assistance Bulletin 2012-02R, which contains several revised FAQs providing guidance on issues related to final regulations for participant-level retirement plan fee disclosure, superseding an earlier set of FAQs released on May 7, 2012. Read the full post here. (August 2)

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Collective Redundancy Consultation Obligations to be Relaxed

By Madeleine Jephcott

JobLossII.jpgThe Government is proposing to reduce the UK's 90-day minimum consultation period for large-scale redundancies.

While the rules governing collective redundancy consultation have remained relatively unchanged since they were introduced in the mid-1970s, the same cannot be said for the UK labour market. In an increasingly global and competitive market, the Government sees the existing redundancy consultation scheme as a barrier to competitiveness, flexibility and growth.

As a result, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has published a consultation document suggesting some changes to the legislation. (This follows an earlier call for evidence on the operation of the rules, which closed in January this year.) The main proposals are:

  • reducing the 90-day minimum consultation period for large-scale redundancies; and
  • introducing a new Code of Practice to address a number of key issues affecting redundancy consultations.

Reducing the Consultation Period

Currently, employers must consult with trade unions or employee representatives for a minimum of 30 days before the first redundancy dismissal takes effect when proposing to dismiss between 20-99 employees, and for a minimum of 90 days when proposing to dismiss 100 or more. The EU Collective Redundancies Directive does not prescribe minimum consultation periods and the Government regards the time periods in the UK legislation as unacceptable "gold plating".

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Major Employment Tribunal Reforms on the Way

By Bethan Carney

LS Scales of JusticeII.jpgThe Government has confirmed its plans to introduce employment tribunal fees in 2013 and broadly approved the results of an independent, fundamental review of the Employment Tribunal Rules.

Charging Fees for ET Claims

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Justice conducted a public consultation on potential options for charging employment tribunal claimants fees in order to bring a claim. The response to the consultation has now been published, recommending that a regime of fees should be introduced from summer 2013.

Under the proposals, claimants would have to pay fees to in two stages - firstly to issue the claim and secondly to proceed to a tribunal hearing. The amount of the fees will depend upon the type of claim:

  • Level 1 (straightforward claims such as deduction from wages or redundancy pay) will cost £160 to issue and a further £230 for a hearing.
  • Level 2 (more complicated claims such as unfair dismissal, equal pay or discrimination) will have a £250 issue fee and then cost £950 to bring to a hearing.

Claims with multiple claimants will cost more: the fee for proceedings with two to 10 claimants would be twice the individual claim fee. This would increase to four times the individual fee for between 11 and 200 claimants, and six times the individual fee for over 200 claimants.

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Changes to Key UK Equality Provisions Expected Soon

By Carolyn Soakell

DiversityV.jpgThe Government is consulting on some significant revisions to the Equality Act 2010, including abolishing the discrimination questionnaire procedure and the rules on third-party harassment.

The Equality Act 2010, which brought together all UK discrimination laws in one place, was developed under the previous Labour Government and has been in force since October 2010. However, the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition Government which came to power that year decided not to implement certain parts of the Act, including the provisions allowing a claim for discrimination based on a combination of protected characteristics (e.g. sex and race). It also put on hold the requirement for larger companies to report on their gender pay gap.

Now it looks like the Government is planning some substantive changes to discrimination protection under the Act. The aim of the proposed reforms is said to be reducing "bureaucracy" in equality law. But while these changes will no doubt be welcomed by many employers, on a closer look they may not be as helpful as they first appear.

Third-Party Harassment

The first major change is a proposal to abolish the rules on third-party harassment. Employers are currently liable for harassment of their employees by third parties, such as clients and contractors, if they know an employee has already been harassed twice before and fail to take reasonable steps to prevent a third incident. This is known as the "three strikes" rule.

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The New Hungarian Labour Code Enters into Force

By Boglárka Kricskovics-Béli of CLV Partners (the Hungary member of Ius Laboris)

ChangesII.jpgThe new Hungarian Labour Code promises a fundamental overhaul of that country's labour law. Intended to improve competitiveness and increase employment in the face of the current economic crisis, the revised Labour Code introduces new forms of employment, and significantly changes employment rules from hiring to termination.

The new Code recognizes atypical or flexible forms of employment, and expressly allows employees to work for different employers in the same position simultaneously.

Different salaries may be paid to employees of the same employer who work in different regions.

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Legislative Update for the Week of July 23, 2012

Leg Roundup Image 132 by 140.jpgHouse Passes Bill Imposing Regulatory Moratorium Until Unemployment Drops
The House of Representatives voted 245-172 in favor of a bill that would prevent agencies from taking any significant regulatory action until the unemployment rate is 6% or lower. Read the full post here. (July 27)

OSHA Issues Final Rule Implementing Whistleblower Provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a final rule implementing the whistleblower provisions of the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. Read the full post here. (July 26)

Legislation to Amend the NLRA Examined at House Hearing
The House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing to discuss three legislative proposals to amend the National Labor Relations Act: the Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees (RAISE) Act, Secret Ballot Protection Act, and the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act. Read the full post here. (July 26)

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Update on Diversity Reporting Requirements

By Kate Jenkins and Lisa Croxford

The last two years have seen some significant changes in the diversity reporting requirements. These have largely, however, been limited to companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.

The Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Amendment Bill 2012, recently passed in the House of Representatives, will 'raise the bar' for all employers if it becomes law.

The Bill requires all employers of over 100 employees to report against 'gender equality indicators'. Debate on a number of aspects of the Bill is expected in the Senate.

Now is therefore an ideal time for employers to reassess their current reporting processes, and to consider how to measure their organisation's progress against the new gender equality indicators proposed in the Bill.

Read the full post here.

Legislative Update for the Week of July 16, 2012

Leg Roundup Image 132 by 140.jpgHouse Panel Approves Funding Bill with Significant Restrictions
A House Appropriations Subcommittee voted 8 to 6 in favor of advancing a bill that would provide fiscal year 2013 funding for numerous federal agencies; included is a restriction to curtail the implementation and enforcement of several labor, employment, and healthcare-related regulations and programs. Read the full post here. (July 19)

EEOC Holds Public Meeting to Gain Input on Proposed Strategic Enforcement Plan
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held a public meeting to solicit input as the agency finalizes its Strategic Enforcement Plan, which is a component of the EEOC's larger Strategic Plan for 2012-2016, approved on February 22, 2012. Read the full post here. (July 19)

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Legislative Update for the Week of July 9, 2012

Leg Roundup Image 132 by 140.jpgOSHA Issues Final Whistleblower Rule under CPSIA
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a final rule implementing the whistleblower provisions of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). The final regulations establish the procedures and time frames for handling retaliation complaints under the CPSIA, "including procedures and time frames for employee complaints to OSHA, investigations by OSHA, appeals of OSHA determinations to an administrative law judge (ALJ) for a hearing de novo, hearings by ALJs, review of ALJ decisions by the Administrative Review Board (ARB) . . . and judicial review of the [Labor] Secretary's final decision." Read the full post here. (July 12)

House Passes Bill Repealing Affordable Care Act
The House of Representatives approved by a vote of 244-185 the Repeal of Obamacare Act (H.R. 6079), legislation introduced by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) in response to the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. Read the full post here. (July 11)

U.S. Supreme Court Agrees to Resolve Circuit Split Over ERISA Plan Reimbursement Rights
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review a decision concerning the U.S. Airways ERISA welfare benefit plan's efforts to enforce the plan's reimbursement provisions, which require plan participants or beneficiaries to reimburse the plan for benefits the plan pays due to injuries caused by third parties out of any settlement fund recovered from a third party or other insurance. Read the full post here. (July 9)

Image credit: JuDesigns