Unless you’ve been living under a rock in outer space then you’ll have heard about the smoking ban, but do you know about the legal updates on maternity leave, holiday entitlement and corporate management? Workers, employers and directors need to be aware of these developments. In case you’re not up to speed, here is an overview of what you need to know.
Maternity Leave and Maternity Rights
The Work and Families Act 2006 enforced changes to employment and maternity leave regulations, employee’s maternity leave rights and certain key notice periods. For mothers of children born after 1st April 2007, these changes are now in force.
All female employees are now entitled to a total of 52 weeks’ maternity leave. This is divided up into Ordinary Maternity Leave and Additional Maternity Leave, each of 26 weeks. The employer must also carry out a pregnancy risk assessment.
Statutory Maternity Pay and Maternity Allowance:
For 39 weeks of their leave, it’s an employee’s maternity leave right to receive either Statutory Maternity Pay or Maternity Allowance, depending on how long she has worked for the employer.
Working During Maternity Leave & KIT Days:
Employees on maternity leave are entitled, subject to employer’s approval, to return to work during maternity leave for a maximum of 10 days. This may be for a day of work or to attend training or other events. Such days are normally known as Keeping In Touch (KIT) Days.
Returning to Work:
It’s an employee’s maternity leave right to return to work at the end of their maternity leave. To facilitate a smooth transition from maternity leave to work and to assist new mothers in balancing priorities, flexible working may be applied for.
Since 1 July 2007 it has been an offence to smoke in a public place or place of work. A company has a duty to provide a safe, smoke free working environment and uphold the new ban imposed on smoking in public places, as set out in the Health Act 2006.
No Smoking signs must be placed in all smoke free workplaces and vehicles. This assists in compliance with the overall obligation on a company to ensure that employees, visitors and customers are all aware that such areas and vehicles must, under the law, be smoke free.
Smoke Free Policy:
Fines may be levied upon employers that fail to respond to the changes in the law on smoking. If an area is enclosed or substantially enclosed, it should have been smoke free since 1 July 2007.
Smoke Free Vehicles:
If a vehicle is to be used to transport members of the public, or in the course of paid or voluntary work by more than one person, it must be kept smoke free.
Increased Holiday Entitlement
Under the new Working Time Regulations 2007, from the 1st October 2007 the minimum holiday entitlement increased from 4 weeks per year to 4.8 weeks per year. This represents the first stage of a two-stage increase to 5.6 weeks to be completed on 1st April 2009.
What Does this Mean for Employers?
Providing employees receive 20 days holiday entitlement per year and do not work on public holidays there is no change, as the new minimum holiday entitlement is inclusive of public holidays.
Any employer whose staff have less than 24 days holiday entitlement including bank holidays are obliged to increase this. Employers also have a duty to inform staff of any increase in holiday entitlement through either a letter or a short statement, for example on a pay slip.
Companies Act 2006 – Oct 2007 Implementation
The Companies Act 2006 was enacted following a review of company law in the UK.
One of the major changes under the Companies Act is that four of the seven directors’ duties are now codified for the first time (the other three are still awaiting commencement and remain under common law). Other changes involve shareholder written resolutions, AGMs and statutory company registers.
Shareholder Written Resolutions:
Whilst private companies have been able to make use of written resolutions for some time, they could only be passed with unanimity. With the new Companies Act it is now only necessary to secure the agreement of members representing 50% (for ordinary resolutions) or 75% (for special resolutions) of the total voting rights of eligible members..
With effect from 1st October 2007, private companies are no longer required by law to hold an AGM. Previously private companies were able to pass an elective resolution to dispense with an AGM, but with the new Companies Act there is no statutory requirement to hold AGMs although a company may decide to hold them.
Statutory Company Registers:
The Companies Act 2006 removed the obligation to maintain a Register of Directors Interests as of 1st April 2007. The register must now show a service address rather than a residential address. Companies must now also keep a Register of Directors’ Residential Addresses.
Iain Mackintosh is the managing director of Simply-Docs. The firm provides over 1100 legal document templates covering all aspects of business from the new holiday entitlement requirements to workplace health and safety laws. By providing these legal documents (with content provided by leading commercial lawyers, HR and health & safety consultants) at an affordable price, the company intends to help small business