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Employment Bill (NI) 2015

What you need to know

The long awaited Employment Bill (Northern Ireland) 2015 completed the NI Assembly’s legislative process on 01 March and was, at the time of going to print, awaiting Royal Assent before becoming law. When that occurs, which should not be long, it will be named the Employment Act (Northern Ireland) 2016.

In summary the Bill addresses the following:

  • Provides that, in most cases, a prospective claimant must first have submitted the details of their claim to the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) for an attempt at early conciliation before they can lodge the claim at an industrial tribunal or the Fair Employment Tribunal

  • Extends confidentiality provisions to ensure that the full range of LRA dispute resolution services is appropriately protected

  • Contains enabling provisions that allow for a neutral assessment service to be operated by the LRA

  • Converts the Department’s power to amend the qualifying period, for the right to claim unfair dismissal, from confirmatory to draft affirmative procedure

  • Provides for more accurate rounding when annual charges, in line with inflation, are applied to the maximum amount of an unfair dismissal award and other employment rights related payments. Empowers the Department to modify these sums if a draft order is approved by the Assembly

  • Alters the effect of the good faith test; the issue of good faith will now be considered by a tribunal in relation to remedy, rather then liability

  • Introduces a test to close the loophole in public interest disclosure legislation

  • Introduces a power to allow the Department to make regulations requiring regulators and other bodies prescribed for the purposes of Article 67F of ERO 1996 (as recipients of whistleblowing disclosures) to report annually on disclosures of information made by workers

  • Includes public interest disclosure protections for student nurses and student midwives

  • Introduces a power to amend, by subordinate legislation, the definition of worker in public interest disclosure legislation

  • Legislates for employers to be vicariously liable if an employee who makes a protected disclosure subsequently experiences detriment from colleagues
  • Amends enabling powers to allow for procedural changes to be made to regulations concerning ITs and FET

  • Permits the Department to deal with the provision of careers guidance by way of regulations

  • Empowers the Department, by regulations, to deal with the provision of apprenticeships

  • Empowers the Department to issue regulations to prevent abuses of zero hours contracts

  • Imposes a duty on the Department to issue regulations by no later than 30 June 2017 that will in turn oblige certain, as yet unspecified, employers to publish information about gender pay differences within their workforces and, where relevant, to publish action plans to eliminate those differences

  • Download our latest employment equality law update (April 2016, pdf, 2.46mb) - This newsletter is produced by the Equality Commission and the Labour Relations Agency and focuses on equality and employment law from a Northern Ireland perspective.

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