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10 March 2014
On 10 March 2014 changes were made to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. The changes:
- reduce the rehabilitation period before convictions are ‘spent’ and do not have to be disclosed by the offender. For example, the rehabilitation period for adults given a prison sentence of up to 6 months has reduced from 7 years to 2 years and for young offenders (aged under 18) from 3 and half years to 18 months.
- increase the period of prison sentence to four years (from two and half years) which will never be considered spent and must always be declared.
- in cases where the sentence is a prison sentence, the rehabilitation period will run from the date of completion of the sentence (and not the date of conviction as before).
If you need to know more, the Government has issued guidance in relation to the changes, which you can read or download here. The reduced rehabilitation periods are on page 4 of the guide.
6 April 2014
A number of changes will come into effect from 6 April 2014
- Early conciliation via Acas is introduced – read our more detailed article to find out what this means for employers.
- The statutory discrimination questionnaire procedure, which allowed employment tribunals to draw adverse inferences from an employer’s failure to respond to questions within an eight week period, or the detail contained within the employer’s responses will be abolished. It will be replaced by an ‘informal approach’ contained within Acas guidance. The ‘informal approach’ broadly follows the soon to be abolished statutory scheme, but permits an employment tribunal to ‘look at whether [an employer] has answered questions and how they have answered them as a contributory factor in making their overall decision on the [employee’s] discrimination claim’. If and how an employer chooses to respond will therefore still be relevant. Employers should continue to carefully consider their responses to any questions about alleged discrimination and bear in mind that the responses could well discourage a future claim if the responses are robust enough.
- Employment tribunals will have the power to order payment of a financial penalty (to the Secretary of State not the claimant) by losing employers. This will only apply to cases issued on or after 6 April 2014. Employers will not, therefore, have to worry about this just yet as it will take time for these cases to filter through. The penalty will be 50% of any financial compensation awarded to the claimant (subject to a minimum of £100 and maximum of £5,000). Penalties are not automatic and can only be ordered where a case has ‘aggravating features’ (undefined in the legislation and no doubt its meaning will be argued about). One important thing for employers to note is, if 50% of the penalty is paid within 21 days, the balance does not need to be paid!
- The maximum compensatory award will increase to £76,574 (from £74,200) and the cap on a week’s pay to £464 (from £450) with effect from 6 April 2014. Also see our earlier article for other rate changes.
- The record keeping requirements under the Statutory Sick Pay scheme are abolished, allowing employers to keep records that are suitable to their organisation. Monitoring and recording sickness absences, as well as the pay received, however is always very sensible.
Draft regulations have been published implementing shared parental leave and pay. This is expected to come in on 1 October 2014 and we will be providing guidance when the regulations are finalised.