On 1 October 2007 four main changes to employment law come into force. The most important is the increase in the statuary minimum holiday entitlement which takes place in two stages. There are also changes to the annual increase to the national minimum wage, the right to request flexible working is extended to private adopters and foster carers and the Commission for Equality and Human Rights is launched.
Regulation 13A is inserted into the Working Time Regulations SI 1998/1833 and this means that from 1 October 2007 workers are entitled to 4.8 weeks of paid annual leave each year. This equates to 24 days for a worker who works five days per week. On 1 April 2009, the entitlement will rise again to 5.6 weeks. Increases are pro rata for those working part time.The changes are designed to ensure that all workers are paid for bank holidays in addition to the four weeks’ minimum leave granted by the Working Time Regulations 1998. The new regulations do not entitle an employee to take the extra holiday on the actual public holidays. As was recently confirmed in Sumsion v British Broadcasting Corporation (Scotland)  IRLR 678, EAT, the Working Time Regulations 1998 do not restrict which days of an employee’s annual entitlement an employer can nominate as leave days.The proposals relate to England, Wales and Scotland. The Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland is bringing forward proposals for Northern Ireland. The Regulation states that leave may not be replaced by a payment in lieu except where the employment is terminated or for an initial transitional phase. It provides for the possibility of limited carry over of the additional annual leave in that a relevant agreement may provide for leave to be carried forward into the leave year immediately following the leave year in respect of which the entitlement is due.
From 1 October 2007 the national minimum wage for workers aged 22 or over rises from £5.35 to £5.52; for workers aged 18 to 21 the rate rises from £4.45 to £4.60 and for workers aged under 18 who are no longer of compulsory school age the rate rises from £3.30 to £3.40.
The definition of “adopter” is changed by these regulations for the purposes of the statutory right to request flexible working. Those amendments redefine “adopter”, to extend the definition to those who are adopting a child, whether domestically or intercountry, where the child has not been placed with those adopters by a UK adoption agency. They also add definitions of “adoption agency”, “private foster carer” and “residence order”. The amendment also adds a private foster carer, and the spouse, partner and civil partner of a private foster carer, to the list of those people who are entitled to request flexible working to care for a child, to encompass a category of people who foster children privately rather than those with whom children are placed by fostering services. It also adds a person in whose favour a residence order is in force in respect of a child, and the spouse, partner or civil partner of such a person, to that list.
This Order brings into force on 1st October 2007 those sections of the Equality Act 2006 which are not already in force. The new Commission for Equality and Human Rights assumes the powers of the Commission for Racial Equality, the Disability Rights Commission and the Equal Opportunities Commission which are dissolved by this Order.