The year kicked off with a technical change to the National Minimum Wage Regulations, writes Peter Done, managing director of Peninsula. From 1st January 2011, payment schemes in relation to travelling to and from temporary workplaces schemes are no longer able to count towards minimum wage pay.

The National Minimum Wage rates will, pending confirmation, increase as usual in October 2011.

From April 2011, parents of children under the age of 18 will be entitled to request flexible working. The right currently applies to parents of children under the age of 17, or 18 if the child is disabled. Many thousands more employees will now be able to use the statutory procedure to request a change to their working patterns, which the employer will have a duty to consider.

The default retirement age will be phased out from 6th April 2011. The draft regulations, as they currently stand, means that employers will not be able to retire an employee using the statutory procedure after 4th April 2012. This essentially closes off a fairly safe route for employers to dismiss employees aged 65 or over.

In a further move to improve the work/life balance, additional paternity leave will also be introduced in April 2011.Where babies are due on or after 3rd April 2011, mothers will be able to forfeit up to 6 months of their maternity leave and transfer it to the father of the baby, or the mother’s partner in same sex relationships. This will also apply in the case of adoption.

With effect from 1st October 2011, agency workers will be entitled to the same treatment as permanent workers in relation to pay and working time after 12 weeks in a given assignment. Some rights will be available to agency workers from day 1 of the assignment, such as the right to be informed of vacancies in the hirer’s business, and access to collective facilities e.g. canteen and childcare facilities.

It is also expected that the Bribery Act 2010 will come into force this year. The Government had intended to implement the Act in April 2011, however, this date has now been pushed back. There is currently no known specific date set for implementation, but it has been indicated that the implementation date will be three months after guidance on the Act has been published. At the time of writing, this was yet to happen. The Act creates a corporate offence for failure to prevent bribery by individuals working on behalf of a business. Both a company and its directors could be found liable if they are found to have failed to prevent persons performing services on the company’s behalf from committing bribery.