Get set for a new barrowload of workplace legislation kicking in this year including a tranche of family-friendly employment rights says Steve Crabb, editor of People Management
Last year saw a number of significant additions to the mountain of red tape that governs what employers can ­ or more usually can't ­ do in the privacy of their own workplaces.
This year looks set to be just as busy, so here's a brief run through of some of the highlights. Wise employers will ensure they are prepared for the new regulations and have put their houses in order well in advance.
Put a big circle around April on your workplace calendars ­ that's when a whole series of new family-friendly employment rights kick in.
For example, new rules governing maternity and paternity leave apply to parents whose due date is on or after April 6, although they'll still qualify for them if the baby is premature.
New fathers will now be eligible for two weeks' paternity leave, paid at the same rate as statutory maternity pay. SMP will increase from £75 to £100 a week, and there'll be new rights to paid adoption leave.
Parents of children under six will also have the right to request flexible working hours from April 6 onwards, so it's worth thinking now about your policies and procedures for handling such requests.
The first half of 2003 will see a tightening up of the rules governing employment agencies, so if you employ large numbers of temporary workers, it's worth checking out how the rule changes are likely to affect you.
And the next six months should also see the arrival of long-awaited revisions to the Transfer of Undertakings regulations.
The latest set of changes, which include a new definition of who is covered by Tupe' rights, should have been in place by July 2001, so don't be surprised if there are further delays.
Given the continuing enthusiasm for mergers, acquisitions and outsourcing, the more clarity employers can get about their rights and responsibilities in transferring employees, the better.
In the summer, there'll be a second round of consultation on age discrimination legislation. Make a note of this: the government is currently adopting a carrot-and-stick approach to ageism, promoting best practice through its Age Positive campaign while preparing legislation to outlaw age discrimination in 2006.

Anti-ageist vanguard
Grocery firms have caught on to the benefits of being anti-ageist faster than most, but there's still a lot to be gained by being in the vanguard of the movement, particularly now that the pensions crisis threatens to increase the pool of older workers even further. Meanwhile, in July, the Race Relations Act will be amended, extending the definition of race discrimination. And discrimination against employees on the grounds of sexual orientation, religion or belief will be outlawed from December 1.
That means you may well want to think about doing some awareness raising within your organisations, as well as reviewing your policies.
Finally, the whole question of data protection was a mess during 2002. At one point, it looked as though employers would be liable if their employees bombarded each other with offensive e-mails, but wouldn't actually have the right to check those e-mails in the first place.
New codes of practice on workplace monitoring and medical records are expected from the newly appointed information commissioner.
n There's a checklist of forthcoming legislation on People Management's web site www.people