A Chance to Take Stock of Employment Law Changes; New Rules on Maternity and Harassment

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Byline: BY VICKY ANDERSON Daily Post Staff

EMPLOYMENT specialists are warning about key changes to the law governing sex discrimination and maternity rights.

Martin Edwards, head of employment law at Mace and Jones, said the Government had issued new regulations from April 6, and estimated the maternity leave changes, bringing in the same conditions for ordinary maternity leave as well as any additional time taken, will cost employers pounds 156m.

Changes to what constitutes harassment have also been broadened. "It is vital employers are up to speed with these significant changes, which will require them to review their policies and practices," he said.

"The difference in the treatment of Ordinary Maternity Leave and Additional Maternity Leave for terms and conditions will be removed."

The changes apply to those whose expected week of childbirth is on or after October 5.

The Government estimated this would cost employers pounds 156m, said Mr Edwards, so it could be significant, particularly when coupled with the extension of maternity pay to 39 weeks and ultimately 52.

He said the other key difference was for employers who provided benefits based upon service, but excluded time spent on additional leave. This would need to change.

"This will apply to NHS Trusts and most public sector organisations," he said.

"All maternity leave will now need to count for these benefits and rights, not just the period on ordinary leave."

Further important changes included broadening the definition of harassment. …