Workplace Trends 2011 v 2012

Posted in : HR Updates on 20 February 2012
Helen O'Brien
Personnel and Training Services
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Helen O'Brien writes:

This article focuses on changes that we are likely to see in the fields of HR and Health and Safety over the next 12 months.

2011 was the year that the government declared war on red tape with the announcement of a raft of employment law and health and safety measures. Coming to terms with the changes, and keeping their company afloat caused concern for many businesses, Croner customers being no exception. The Croner Annual Report looks back at 2011 and identifies the issues most likely to impact business during 2012 based on data from its 24/7 advisory service and the experience of its HR and H&S consultants.

A. 2011 in review

1. HR

The year was notable for the Coalition’s declared approach to employment law and the application of its central principles of freedom, fairness and responsibility. This led to further reviews of key legislation, an end to EU law ‘gold plating’, a phasing out of the default retirement age and less red tape.

Employment Tribunal figures show an increase in claims year-on-year on the grounds of age discrimination and the removal of the Default Retirement Age in October 2011 will see that number increase further still as employers fail to understand fully their legal obligations.

On a more positive note employment tribunal outcomes in 2011 remained constant with no major fluctuations in case outcomes.

In the world of pay and benefits the overriding theme for 2011 was the continued evolution in job restructuring and assessment as a result of recession-generated redundancies and cut backs. 

Pay awards only averaged 2.2% despite increased pressure from higher inflation and the number of private sector organisations implementing a pay freeze dipped to 13.5% by the end of the year.

2. Health and safety

2011 was not a year for significant changes in terms of health and safety legislation, despite government pronouncements implying that business could look forward to a reduced regulatory burden and less enforcement activity.

The scope of enquiries to the Croner safety helpline during 2011 reflected the diverse nature of health & safety concerns facing organisations including fire and safety orders, accident reporting and training policies and tools.

B. 2012: what to expect

1. HR

The development of UK employment legislation during 2012 is likely to be influenced by tensions within the Coalition Government. More employment legislation is on the horizon, heralding a period of continual change. This includes:

  • Consultations on the reform of the employment tribunal and dispute resolution system
  • Wide-ranging proposals on ‘family-friendly’ policies, including the extension of flexible working to all employees
  • A proposal to limit the amount of awards in discrimination cases
  • Consultations on changes to annual leave entitlements (the Working Time Regulations) to comply with judgements of the European Court.

Note: employment law is a devolved matter in NI and we must undergo our own consultation process for most of these.

In terms of pay and benefits, greater transparency concerning remuneration structures – in terms of equal pay and executive salaries – is likely to remain on the year’s agenda. And 2012’s winners will be those organisations which boost staff motivation through competitive pay and bonuses.

2. Health and safety

It seems highly unlikely that there will be less legislation, but there may well be consolidation in some areas. Legislation due in April will allow the HSENI to recover costs in cases where duty holders are in breach of health and safety law. Thus employers who transgress will also be liable for the HSE’s costs, which could be quite significant and potentially very damaging, especially to smaller businesses.

This article is correct at 10/11/2015

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Helen O'Brien
Personnel and Training Services

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