The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012

The House of Commons logo.

The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 was passed in March 2012 and comes into force in January 2013.

The Act ‘require[s] public authorities to have regard to economic, social and environmental well-being in connection with public services contracts; and for connected purposes’.

Click here for link to the Act and Explanatory Notes

 

Government response to consultation on repeal of two enforcement provisions

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) logo.

In October 2012, the Government published its response to the consultation on proposals to repeal the following two measures from the Equality Act 2010:

  • employment tribunals’ power to make wider recommendations in discrimination cases
  • the procedure for obtaining information

The response confirms the Government’s intentions to repeal these measures.

The Executive summary states (page 4):

We received a total of 157 responses to this joint consultation. Of those, 18 (12%) were in favour of repealing the wider recommendations provisions and 125 (79%) were opposed.24 (15%) were in favour of repealing the obtaining information provisions and 130 (83%) were opposed. All business representative organisations supported repeal.

Responses which agreed to the proposed repeals came mostly from private and not-for profit sector employers and business representative organisations. Responses which disagreed with our proposals were mainly on behalf of unions, equality lobby groups, staff associations, the judiciary and members of the public.

Very few of the responses, both those opposed to and those in favour of repeal have offered significant quantifiable evidence or specific evidence based on actual situations and outcomes, to support their views.

The changes will be made through amendments to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill.

Click here for details on the Home Office website

Click here for Impact Assessment of removing the provisions in the Equality Act 2010 on the obtaining information procedure

Click here for ‘Equality Act 2010: employment tribunals’ power to make wider recommendations in discrimination cases and obtaining information procedure. Government response to the consultation’ (pdf)

Click here for TUC press release on 10 October 2012

Click here for EDF response to the consultation (submitted in July 2012)

Please also see EDF briefing on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill.

Government response to consultation on employer liability for harassment

The Government Equalities Office (GEO) logo.

In October 2012, the Government published its response to the consultation on employer liability for harassment of employees by third parties.

The response confirms the Government’s intention to repeal the measure.

The Executive summary states (p4):

Of the 80 responses to this consultation, 16 (20%) agreed our proposal for repeal and 57 (71%) opposed it. Responses which agreed with the proposals came mostly from individual public, private and not-for profit sector employers and business organisations, although two individuals responded on their own behalf.

All business representative organisations supported repeal. Responses which disagreed with our proposal were mainly on behalf of public sector employers, unions and equality lobby groups. The small number of responses from legal organisations and bodies with legal expertise discussed legal arguments about the compatibility of our proposal with compliance with the relevant European Directives, and the extent to which the possible alternative avenues of legal redress might apply. Some legal respondents had represented either employees or employers in situations where accusations of harassment by a third party had been made. Invariably however, these were either settled without reaching an employment tribunal, or withdrawn.

Very few of the responses, whether from those opposed to or those in favour of repeal, offered quantifiable evidence or specific evidence based on actual situations and outcomes to support their views. It is clear that the legislation in its existing form is widely considered unsatisfactory, both by those favouring repeal (who want it to be scrapped) and those opposing repeal (who would like it to be strengthened and clarified). Several responses misunderstood the concept of third party harassment, and a larger number misunderstood its intention, which is to make the employer liable in specific situations, and not as a general way of encouraging employers to treat their employees better.

Taken as a whole, this response has not persuaded the Government that there is a need to re-think the proposals on which it consulted in May.

The changes will be made through amendments to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill.

Click here for ‘Equality Act 2010: Employer liability for harassment of employees by third parties Government response to the consultation’ (pdf)

Click here for TUC press release on 10 October 2012

Click here for EDF response to the consultation (submitted in August 2012)

Please also see EDF briefing on the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill.

Age discrimination ban comes into force

The House of Commons logo.

The ban on age discrimination in the provision of services came into force on 1 October 2012.

The ban affects public and private organisations and means that treating people differently because of their age when providing goods, facilities or services will be unlawful unless it is covered by an exception or can be justified.

Click here for Government Equalities Office overview on how the ban will work

Click here for guidance from the Government Equalities Office

Click here for link to the House of Commons debate in which Lynne Featherstone MP, the former Minister for Equalities, set out the exceptions and how they work

Click here for ‘Beginner’s guide to the ban on age discrimination in goods and services’ in the Law Society Gazette (11 September 2012)

Cabinet updates Procurement Pledge to support the role of the VCS

Compact Voice

Cabinet Office updated its Procurement Pledge to support the role of the voluntary and community sector.

The Procurement Pledge established a set of principles about how government will procure services with a range of providers. The Pledge, which is for central government and public sector bodies to sign up to, outlines five key commitments that public sector signatories must meet.

When initially published in May, the pledge was met with concerns about the lack of reference to the role of the voluntary sector as potential provider of services on behalf of government. Concerns were also raised about it not mentioning the Compact – the partnership agreement between government and the voluntary sector, which commits both to a series of undertakings (including procurement), and which all government departments are committed to following.

Subsequent efforts from Compact Voice to amend the text accompanying the pledge and ensure it clearly relates to the voluntary and community sector have resulted in government adding a section, which provides clarification.

Click here for announcement and further details

Government proposals to ‘streamline employment law’

BIS

On 14 September 2012, Business Secretary Vince Cable announced ‘new steps to give firms more flexibility and confidence in managing their workforce and to reduce employment law red tape’.

The Government has given details of:

  • its support for settlement agreements to help end employment relationships in a fair and consensual way – a consultation on how best to make this work in practice starts today and Acas has agreed to provide a new code of practice;
  • how it might reduce the cap on compensation for unfair dismissal claims;
  • proposals to streamline employment tribunals by making it easier for judges to dismiss weak cases
  • responses to its call for evidence on the TUPE rules, when staff transfer to a new employer; Government has heard that businesses want this to be more efficient, and will consult on specific proposals before the end of the year; and
  • recommendations on how to improve guidance for small businesses on the Acas code of practice on discipline and grievance.

 

European parliamentary vote to protect victims of crime

The European Commission emblem.

In September 2012, the European Parliament voted to protect victims of crime – including rape, harassment, hate crime and trafficking – across the EU.

All crime victims will have the same basic rights across the EU, including an assessment of their specific needs, under a directive endorsed by Parliament on Wednesday. Free support services, such as psychological help, will be provided for victims, who will have the right to be questioned by police and heard in court in a language they understand. Some 75 million people suffer from crimes in the EU each year.

Victims of crimes committed abroad may face serious problems due to differences between cultures, languages and laws. The agreed text, adopted by 611 votes to 9, with 13 abstentions, aims to ensure that whatever the crime – mugging, robbery, assault, rape, harassment, hate crime, terrorist attack, or human trafficking – and wherever it is committed in the EU, all victims enjoy the same basic rights in criminal proceedings, are treated with respect and dignity and have access to victim-support services, justice and compensation.

Click here for details on the European Parliament website

Click here for text of directive

Click here for report on the BBC website

 

British Humanist Association complaint to the European Commission about faith schools

The British Humanist Association logo.

The European Commission has written to the British Humanist Association to say it will investigate whether UK legislation around state funded ‘faith’ schools breaches European employment laws in relation to discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief.

Their investigation comes in response to a complaint made by the BHA to the Commission in April 2010, in which the BHA argued that UK law allows much wider discrimination in who ‘faith’ schools can and cannot employ than the relevant European Directive.

Click here for details on BHA website

Government response to consultation on fees for employment tribunals

Ministry of Justice

In July 2012, the Government published a response to its consultation on Charging Fees in Employment Tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal:

From next summer, fees will be introduced into employment tribunals and the Employment Appeals Tribunal to encourage businesses and workers to mediate or settle a dispute rather than go to a full hearing.

By introducing fees, people using employment tribunals will start to contribute a significant proportion of the £84m cost of running the system. The aim is to reduce the taxpayer subsidy of these tribunals by transferring some of the cost to those who use the service, while protecting access to justice for all.

Two main fees will be introduced, the first payable at the issue of the claim and the second, the hearing fee, payable around four weeks prior to the hearing taking place. From summer 2013, mediation by a judge will cost £600 rather than the £750 proposed in the consultation document. This offers a considerable saving on the £1,200 it would cost to take a “level 2” claim all the way to full hearing. The lower fee to take the administratively simpler “level 1” claims to a full hearing will be £390 – which drops to just £160 if settled before the hearing fee is payable.

Fees to use the employment tribunal will be payable in advance, and most types of fee will only apply to the person bringing the claim. However the tribunal will have the power to order the unsuccessful party to reimburse the fee to the successful party. In practice, cases are often settled rather than there being a clear ‘winner’ or ‘loser’ and the issue of reimbursement would form part of the settlement.

Many people on low incomes may not be required to pay the full fees – under the same remission system which already exists for court users who pay fees to use the civil courts’ services. Following this extension of this exemption system, the Government will review its use across both courts and tribunals and publish a consultation later this year as part of a wider review required by the introduction of Universal Credit in late 2013. We would welcome your further input into this consultation. The aim will be to produce a single remissions system for courts and tribunals which is simpler to use, more cost effective and better targeted to ensure that those who can afford to pay fees do so, while continuing to provide access to the courts and tribunal system to those who cannot.

The Government received 140 responses to the consultation.

On 14 December 2011, the Ministry of Justice launched a public consultation on proposals for two alternative fee structures for employment tribunals and the fees structure to be introduced in the Employment Appeal Tribunal. The consultation closed on 6 March 2012.

Click here for details on the Ministry of Justice webste

Click here for Ministry of Justice press release (13 July 2012)

Click here for EDF response to the consultation

For further items about the introduction of employment tribunal fees and research on its impact, search for ‘tribunal fees’ in the search box in the left-hand menu.

 

European Union: Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy

The European Commission emblem.

On 25 June 2012, the  Council of the European Union adopted a Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy with an Action Plan for putting it into practice.

This is the first time that the European Union has had a unified Strategic Framework for this vital policy area, with such a wide-ranging plan of action for its implementation.

The key messages of the Strategic Framework are:

  • Human rights throughout EU policy
  • Promoting universality of human rights
  • Pursuing coherent objectives
  • Human rights in all EU external policies
  • Implementing EU priorities on human rights
  • Working with bilateral partners
  • Working through multilateral institutions
  • The EU working together

The Strategic Framework builds on the joint Communication entitled ‘Human rights and democracy at the heart of EU external action – towards a more effective approach’. This was adopted by the European Commission on 12 December 2011 following a proposal by Catherine Ashton. It was in turn the result of a lengthy process of consultations, dating back to the informal meeting of the EU foreign ministers (Gymnich) at Cordoba in March 2010.

Click here for details