In my role as Managing Partner and an Employment Law Specialist, I am invited to a wide variety of events. From time to time I am even asked to speak. When talking about employment law, a familiar complaint I hear from all businesses is about the complexity of the law and the amount of red tape. You can only sympathise. But I always respond by saying “I don’t make the law, I just explain it.”
On 15 February 2011 our friends at Service Network organised an employment law update and I gave a talk at the Assembly Rooms. It was a good venue and a good scoff. Service Network organised it well and were more than happy to allow me to go “off piste” and deviate from the prepared script.
But here it is. I was telling the audience about various new changes in the law due to be implemented on 6 April 2011. One was the right for an employee to request training from their employer. Currently it applies to all businesses employing 250 staff or more. The intention was to extend it to all businesses from 6 April 2011. The very next day, the Government announced it was not going to implement this right.
In January the Government announced it was abolishing the default retirement age as from 6 April 2011. However, it didn’t publish the actual regulations until 17 February 2011 with barely 6 weeks to do. We still have confusion over the transitional rules.
However, my current favourite is the Bribery Act. It became law in April 2010 with much trumpeting of the new corporate offence of bribery. A Company only had a defence if it could show it had in place “adequate procedures” to prevent bribery. Trouble was no guidance was given as to what amounted to adequate procedures. So the Government decided after the event to consult. By 1 February 2011 the results of the consultation had still not been published. There was no guidance in force. So the Government announced a delay in implementing the law. We do not know when it will be implemented.
So, we have an Act but it’s not in force. It contains a defence to a criminal offence, but no one knows what it is. When we are told, we will get perhaps 3 months to do something about it. In business, what would you make of the employer who brings a rule into force with serious consequences, but who does not explain to the staff what they are expected to do or when it will apply or how they can defend themselves.
I often hear the all too familiar complaint about fat cat lawyers, usually from Politicians. Here is a gentle hint minister. If you keep handing out large bowls of cream, don’t be surprised if the cat puts on weight.
Oh, and if you want a copy of my presentation then send me a tweet @samplaw_hr. It probably needs to carry a Government health warning. firstname.lastname@example.org