Legislation due into force in October 2013

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Directors’ remuneration in quoted companies
From 1 October 2013, the directors’ remuneration report in quoted companies (N.B. not ‘AIM’ listed companies) will need to contain information about the company’s directors’ remuneration policy and how it was implemented for that year. Once a remuneration policy has been approved, a company will only be able to make remuneration and loss of office payments which are permitted within the limits of the policy, unless the payment has been approved by a separate shareholder resolution. Moreover, from 1 October 2013, companies will need to publish a statement setting out what payments an exiting director has received or may receive in future.

Discrimination and 3rd party harassment
From 1 October 2013, the Equality Act 2010 will be amended so that employers are no longer potentially liable for their employees being harassed by third parties in the course of their employment.

So where are employees likely to turn if harassed by a third party during their employment? There are a number of avenues that might be pursued.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to provide a safe working environment including undertaking risk assessments which could encompass employees’ contact with third parties. Breach of this duty could form the basis of a negligence claim.

An employee may bring a constructive dismissal claim arguing that the employer’s failure to protect them from harassment amounted to a fundamental breach of contract. This would, however, be a high hurdle for the employee to clear.

The general harassment provisions under the Equality Act provide that:

“A person (A) harasses another (B) if A engages in unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of either (a) violating B’s dignity; or (b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for B”.

It would be possible for an employee to bring a claim under these existing provisions if the employee could show that the employer was aware, had sufficient control over the harassment carried out by the third party and was in a position to control whether or not that harassment occurred. It follows that this is only likely to apply to an ongoing course of harassment by the same third party.

Employment tribunal fee remission scheme
The Ministry of Justice has published its response to consultation on fee remission in courts and tribunals. In addition to an eligibility test based on receipt of certain benefits and a monthly income test, a new disposable capital test will be introduced. In short, those under 61 with a disposable household capital of between £3,000 and £8,000 will be required to spend up to one third of their disposable capital on fees. Those with £8,000 or more in savings will be required to spend up to half their disposable capital on fees. These changes are set to come into force on 7 October 2013 and, together with the new employment tribunal fee regime, are likely to factor in an anticipated drop in overall claims lodged.

On the subject of employment tribunal fees, the Judicial Review challenge to the fee regime brought by the trade union, Unison, is due to be heard by the High Court in October. We will report on the outcome as soon as it is known.