Clauses 35-38: Changes to written statements of terms and conditions
86. Currently, an employer is obliged to provide a new employee with details of their main terms and conditions not later than two months after the employee starts work with the employer. The details, which are set out in sections 1 to 7 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, must cover a number of specified areas such as the name of the employer, the date the employment began and details of disciplinary and grievance procedures applicable to the employee. A further statement must be served if the details change. On the question of disciplinary and grievance procedures, employers with fewer than twenty employees need currently only say to whom the employee can apply for redress of any grievance relating to his employment and the manner in which such an application should be made. Where employees are not issued with a statement of initial employment particulars, or a subsequent change, they can apply to an employment tribunal to determine which particulars ought to have been included or referred to. There is currently no other sanction for failure to provide the required statement.
87. The Government explained in the 'Routes to Resolution' consultation document that it considers the written particulars of the terms and conditions of employment ("the written statement") to be the basis of the employment relationship, and the first point of reference when disputes arise. As such, it has a key role to play in better dispute resolution. A number of changes are therefore to be made to the legislation relating to the written statement, with the object of:
- ensuring that all employers recognise the value of the statement to both themselves and their employees;
- making the content of the statement consistent across employers of all sizes;
- ensuring the statement reflects the Bill's requirements for minimum statutory internal discipline and grievance procedures;
- creating a more effective penalty for failing to supply a statement; and
- providing more flexibility to employers in how they go about providing the required statement.
88. To achieve these objectives, clauses 35 to 38 make the following changes:
- Clause 35 provides for the part of the written statement dealing with disciplinary and grievance matters to cover the procedure which applies when an employee is dismissed or disciplined, whereas at present it must only describe what he must do if he is dissatisfied with disciplinary action taken against him. This ensures that all stages of the new minimum disciplinary and dismissal procedures must be set out in the written statement.
- Clause 36 removes the current exemption, relating to the need for details of disciplinary rules and procedures, for employers with less than 20 employees. This means that all employers of whatever size will have to mention their disciplinary rules and the new minimum procedures in the written statement.
- Clause 37 provides flexibility for employers by allowing particulars included in a copy of the contract of employment or letter of engagement given to the employee to form, or to form part of the written statement; this reduces the need for employers to duplicate existing documents. It also enables such documents to be given to the employee before his employment begins.
- Clause 38 provides for employment tribunals to award compensation to an employee where the lack, incompleteness or inaccuracy of the written statement becomes evident upon a claim being made under specified tribunal jurisdictions (which cover the main areas such as unfair dismissal, and all types of discrimination - see Schedule 4). This is done by requiring the tribunal to increase any award made against the employer in respect of the complaint under the other jurisdiction by between the greater of 5% or 1 or 2 weeks pay and 25%, according to whether the statement is merely incomplete or inaccurate or has never been issued at all. 1 or 2 weeks pay is also the award where compensation is not a remedy available for the particular complaint or where it is not the remedy that the tribunal chooses.
89. For the most part these changes are brought about by means of amendments to the current provisions relating to written statements.
Clause 39: Compromise agreements
90. In its response to the consultation on 'Routes to Resolution', the Government said that it would make the necessary arrangements to change the legal status of compromise agreements. The Government's objective in making this change is to ensure that compromise agreements are as effective and as wide in extent as ACAS conciliated settlements.
91. This clause will achieve this by taking out the requirement in section 203(b) of Employment Rights Act 1996 (and other legislation that makes similar provision), that such agreements must relate to 'the particular complaint'. This requirement has led to uncertainty about the extent to which all claims and potential claims to the employment tribunal can be contracted out via a compromise agreement. This change will ensure that a compromise agreement does not have to be limited to agreement about the particular complaint, and is thus consistent with the current extent of ACAS-conciliated agreements.
PART 4: MISCELLANEOUS AND GENERAL
Clause 42: Equal pay questionnaire
92. A 'questionnaire' procedure is currently available in individuals' disputes over matters of sex, race and disability discrimination, but not in the area of equal pay disputes. The procedure has proved useful in discrimination claims, since it assists applicants to set out their cases with the key facts. The question and answer format can help to identify whether the case is weak or strong. The process is familiar to tribunals, as the procedure has been in place for some time under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.
93. The proposal to introduce a questionnaire procedure into the Equal Pay Act 1970 (EqPA) was included in the consultation document "Towards Equal Pay for Women" (December 2000) which set out proposals to speed up and simplify equal pay employment tribunal cases. On 8 May Tessa Jowell, then Minister for Women, announced that the Government planned to legislate in this area.
94. Equal pay claims are dealt with under the EqPA, which effectively implements the Equal Pay Directive. The introduction of an equal pay questionnaire to provide a procedure in equal pay disputes will include: prescribed forms, questions and answers as case evidence, a time period for serving questions, and the manner in which these questions and answers can be served.
95. The objective is to bring the questionnaire procedure currently available in disputes over matters of sex, race and disability discrimination, into the area of equal pay disputes. The questionnaire enables the key facts to be settled early, and can encourage not only the establishment of evidence, but also the settlement of cases before they proceed to tribunal.
96. This clause inserts a new section 7B in the EqPA, which brings about the following:
- The Secretary of State is given the power to prescribe forms that may be used both by the claimant or potential claimant and by the respondent or potential respondent.
- The questions and replies can be admitted as evidence in subsequent tribunal proceedings, subject to any other rules relating to evidence before the tribunal. The questions and replies may be admitted in evidence whether or not they are in the form prescribed by the Secretary of State. This is the same as in sex and race discrimination questionnaires, as opposed to disability discrimination questions and replies, which can only be admitted in evidence if they are made in the prescribed form.
- The Secretary of State is provided with the power to prescribe, by order, a time period within which questions must be served in order to be admissible as evidence in tribunal proceedings. This is intended to encourage the applicant to pursue a case swiftly.
- If the tribunal considers that the respondent deliberately, and without reasonable excuse, failed to reply within a period prescribed by order, it can draw any inference it considers just or equitable. The tribunal can also draw such an inference if it considers that the respondent's reply was evasive or equivocal. The existing questionnaire procedures under the other discrimination Acts refer to a response within a 'reasonable time'. By contrast, this clause allows the Secretary of State to prescribe a time within which a response should be given, which is intended to provide greater certainty for parties and tribunals. At present the intention is to make this eight weeks, but by providing a power to prescribe the period, it can be changed in the future as appropriate. Where the respondent has failed to reply within the prescribed period, the tribunal is only allowed to draw inferences if that failure was deliberate and without reasonable excuse. The respondent therefore has the opportunity to explain if, in the circumstances, he had a reasonable excuse for failing to reply. This is designed to ensure that the provision does not operate unfairly for respondents.
- The Secretary of State is given the power to prescribe the manner in which any question and reply may be duly served. Consideration may well be given to the option of providing that service electronically.
97. An order under this clause is subject to the negative procedure.
Clause 43: Union Learning Representatives
98. Union learning representatives (ULRs) are a new type of lay union representative, whose main function is to advise union members about their training, educational and developmental needs. There are currently around 3,000 ULRs in existence. Their advice is usually provided direct to union members at their place of work, sometimes through face-to-face meetings with individuals.
99. Under s168 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (the "1992 Act"), officials of an independent trade union which is recognised by their employer for collective bargaining purposes are permitted reasonable time off during working hours to carry out certain trade union duties or to undergo training relevant to carrying out their trade union duties. An employer who permits officials to take such time off must pay them for the time off taken in accordance with s169 of the 1992 Act. The definition of an "independent union" is provided in s5 of the 1992 Act.
100. S170 of the 1992 Act provides for employees to take reasonable time off during working hours to take part in the activities of their union. This right applies only where the employees belong to an independent union which is recognised by their employer and they form part of the bargaining unit for which the union is recognised. Employers are not required to pay their employees when they permit them to take this time off.
101. Employees may present a claim to an employment tribunal where their employer has failed to provide time off in accordance with sections 168, 169 or 170. Under s172 of the 1992 Act, the employment tribunal may award compensation to employees where it finds that their complaints are well-founded. Under s199(2)(a) and (2)(b) of the 1992 Act, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) has a duty to provide practical guidance on the time off for trade union duties and activities to be permitted by an employer. In consequence, ACAS has produced a Code of Practice entitled "Time Off for Trade Union Duties and Activities: ACAS code of practice 3". Where relevant, this Code must be taken into account by employment tribunals when determining complaints.
102. There is no current legislation, which specifically governs the activities of ULRs. ULRs do not fall within the definition of the term "official" used in s 168. It is also unclear whether accessing the services of a ULR falls within the definition of "trade union activities" used in s170. This means that trade union members have no clear statutory entitlement for time off to undertake the duties of a ULR, to be trained as a ULR or to access the services of a ULR. In effect, it is entirely or largely a voluntary matter whether employers permit ULRs to function at their workplaces and, where they do permit them to function, it is a matter for the employer to decide what time off, if any, is allowed.
103. The clause amends the 1992 Act and provides paid time off rights to ULRs to carry out their functions and undergo training which are broadly equivalent to the current rights enjoyed by trade union officials under s168. The clause amends s170 to make it clear that the right to unpaid time off under that section applies to union members accessing the services of a ULR. The clause also give powers to ACAS and the Secretary of State to issue a Code of Practice providing practical guidance on the application of these entitlements to reasonable time off.
104. Subsection (2) and Paragraphs 18, 19 and 20 of Schedule 6
- Subsection (2) inserts a new section 168A into the 1992 Act which specifies the rights to time off for ULRs. This new section has a similar structure to the existing s168 and, in some places, common wording is used.
105. New Section 168A
- Subsection (1) of new section 168A sets out the general requirement for an employer to allow time off to a ULR. It limits the requirement to ULRs who are members of an independent union recognised by that employer for collective bargaining purposes.
- Subsection (2) defines the activities of a ULR for which time off must be allowed. Together with subsection (10), it limits the time off requirement to activities undertaken on behalf of fellow employees who are members of the ULR's union and for whom the ULR has the function of acting as a ULR. These employees are categorised as "qualifying members of the trade union". ULRs are therefore not entitled to time off to provide similar services on behalf of non-union members or members of other unions.
- Subsection (3) states that in order for an employee to be entitled to time off, the union must have first notified the employer in writing that the employee is a ULR and has met the training condition.
- Subsection (4) defines the training condition. It requires the employee to be sufficiently trained to carry out his duties either at the time he begins functioning as a ULR or within 6 months of that date. In the latter case, the union must notify the employer in writing or by other means when the employee has received the required training within the six month period. This arrangement allows an insufficiently trained person to function as a ULR for what amounts in effect to a maximum six month probationary period until he receives the required training. If, however, the person does not receive the required training within the six month period, his entitlement to time off ends.
- Subsection (5) prevents the union avoiding this consequence by the device of issuing further notices to the employer, which would in effect establish a new six month probationary period.
- Subsection (6) provides for any relevant Code of Practice issued by ACAS or the Secretary of State to be taken into account in determining what constitutes sufficient training.
- Subsection (7) provides ULRs with a right to time off for training relevant to their functions.
- Subsection (8) restricts a ULR's time off to that which is reasonable in the circumstances, having regard to any relevant Code of Practice issued by ACAS or the Secretary of State. This therefore enables employers to deny a ULR's request for time off where they have good grounds for doing so, provided they act in accordance with any relevant Code.
- Subsection (9) defines that complaints about alleged breaches of a ULR's time off rights are to be determined by employment tribunals. Paragraph 18 of Schedule 6 has the effect (by amendment of section 171 of the 1992 Act) that such complaints must be made within three months of the failure occurring or at an appropriate later date where the employment tribunal is satisfied that a complaint could not have been made within 3 months. Paragraph 19 of Schedule 6 has the effect (by amendment of section 172 of the 1992 Act) that an employment tribunal may make a declaration and award compensation where the employer failed to permit paid time off in accordance with the new section 168A. Paragraph 21 of Schedule 6 has the effect (by amendment of section 18(1)(b) of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996) of providing for ACAS conciliation in any complaints to employment tribunals under this new jurisdiction.
- Subsection (11) provides that a person is a ULR of a trade union for the purposes of the new section if he is appointed or elected as such in accordance with its rules.
- Subsection (3) of Clause 43 has the effect (by amendment of section 169 of the 1992 Act) of providing for ULRs to be paid for time off taken in accordance with the new section 168A.
- Subsections (4) and (5) provide for certain union members to have reasonable time off without pay to access the services of any ULR whose function is to carry out ULR activities in relation to them. This right only applies where the ULR is himself entitled to time off under new section 168A to provide services to such members. It achieves this by amending section 170 of the 1992 Act. This right is enforceable via the employment tribunals.
- Subsection (6) and Paragraph 20 of Schedule 6 - Section 173 of the 1992 Act currently contains interpretative and supplementary provisions relating to the rights to time off for trade union duties and activities. Paragraph 20 of Schedule 6 applies the same provisions to new section 168A. Subsection (6) inserts new subsections into s173 which make provision for the Secretary of State to amend Section 168A by a statutory instrument under the negative resolution procedure changing the purposes for which ULRs are entitled to take time off.
- Subsection (7) enables ACAS and the Secretary of State to issue Codes of Practice containing practical guidance on the application of the new statutory entitlements relating to ULRs. ACAS could provide such guidance by amending its current Code of Practice on time off for trade union duties and activities.
- Paragraph 30 of Schedule 6 amends Section 104 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 to make the dismissal of an employee unfair if the reason for it was that he brought proceedings to enforce a right to time off under the new section 168A or alleged that his employer had infringed such a right.
Clause 44: Dismissal Procedures Agreement
106. Section 110 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 allows the Secretary of State to designate certain agreements as Dismissal Procedures Agreements (DPAs). This has the effect of replacing the statutory right to claim unfair dismissal before an employment tribunal under Part 10 of the Employment Rights Act with access to the procedures of the DPA for employees who are covered by the agreement.
107. Such an agreement must meet a number of specific criteria. Among these are:
- a joint application is made to the Secretary of State by all parties to the agreement, and
- the scheme offers remedies that are on the whole as beneficial (but not necessarily identical with) those provided in respect of unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal.
108. This clause gives the Secretary of State the power to add to these criteria. This is intended to give scope to bring in requirements aimed at ensuring that DPAs comply with the Human Rights Act 1998.
109. This is brought about by giving the Secretary of State power by order to add to the requirements in section 110(3) Employment Rights Act 1996.
Clause 45 Fixed term work
110. Currently, fixed term employees are protected by statutory employment rights in the same way as permanent employees, with a few exceptions. However, whereas part-time workers are now protected by legislation preventing them from being less favourably treated than comparable full-time workers, no such provision currently exists in respect of fixed term employees. There are also no restrictions on the use of successive fixed term employment contracts in UK law at the present time.
111. Directive 1999/70/EC concerning the framework agreement on fixed term work was agreed on 28 June 1999 and is due to be implemented in the UK by 10 July 2002. The purpose of the framework agreement is to apply the principle of non-discrimination to those in fixed term employment and to establish a framework to prevent abuse arising from the use of successive fixed term employment contracts or relationships. The Government takes the view that, on account of its legal base, this directive does not apply to pay and pensions. However, a public consultation on Fixed Term Work (May 2001) revealed that significant pay disparities exist between fixed term and permanent employees and the Government intends to prevent pay and pensions discrimination against fixed term employees, in addition to implementing directive 1999/70/EC.
112. This clause introduces a power enabling the Secretary of State to make regulations preventing less favourable treatment of fixed term employees and preventing abuse arising from the use of successive periods of fixed term employment.
113. The clause gives the Secretary of State the power to make regulations in respect of fixed term employees. These regulations will implement directive 1999/70/EC and prevent pay and pensions discrimination against those in fixed term employment. In particular, these regulations may:
- Prevent less favourable treatment of fixed term employees as compared to permanent employees
- Specify circumstances in which fixed term employment is to have effect as permanent employment
- Specify circumstances in which fixed term contracts are to be taken to be successive
- Specify classes of person taken to be fixed term and permanent employees
- Specify circumstances in which fixed term employees are taken to be, or not to be, treated less favourably than permanent employees
- Amend provisions in specified enactments of primary legislation that allow for some or all fixed term employees to be treated less favourably than permanent employees.
Clause 46: Rate of Maternity Allowance
114. This clause amends section 35A of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992, which sets out the weekly rate of MA by replacing subsections (1) to (3) of section 35(A):
- Subsection (1)(a) inserts a new subsection (1) so that women eligible for MA will be paid the lesser of 90% of their average weekly earnings or the prescribed standard rate, for the duration of the payment period.
- Subsection (1)(b) amends the current subsection (5)(c)(i) to ensure that women who have paid a Class 2 contribution are deemed to have earnings at a level 90% of which will equal the flat rate of SMP, for any week within the specified period. As a result, they will be entitled to £100 per week. This, together with subsection (1)(c) ensures that (as now) a self-employed woman who has paid a Class 2 contribution throughout the specified period will receive standard rate MA.
- Subsection (2) is a transitional provision ensuring that reference may be made to current rates where appropriate after the coming into force of the maternity pay provisions contained in this Bill.
Clause 47: Partner work-focused interviews
115. Partners of working age benefit claimants who are themselves of working age will be required to take part in a work-focused interview, in default of which, benefit sanctions will apply. This will provide partners with the opportunity to discuss their skills and experience, the barriers they face in moving closer to the labour market and the help and support that is available to overcome those barriers. The measure will not place any requirement on partners beyond taking part in interviews. (For example, they will not be required to attend training courses or seek work).
Section 2AA: Full entitlement to certain benefits conditional on work-focused interview for partner
116. This section builds on section 2A of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 ("the Administration Act"), which was inserted by section 57 of the Welfare Reform and Pensions Act 1999 and which introduced the requirement for certain benefit claimants (including lone parents) to attend work-focused interviews. The new section 2AA prescribes both the circumstances in which the partner of a benefit claimant may be required to take part a work-focused interview, and the consequences for the benefit claim if the partner does not take part in the interview.
117. The work-focused interview will concentrate on job potential and provide the partner with access to a wide range of help and information on work, benefits and services such as childcare. It is intended to encourage partners to take further steps towards labour market participation. However, any action they may choose to take beyond taking part in the interviews will be entirely voluntary.
118. This clause inserts new section 2AA into the Administration Act and allows the Secretary of State to prescribe in regulations that where a higher rate of a specified benefit is payable to a person by reference to his partner, then that amount of benefit paid in respect of the partner can be reduced by way of a sanction if the partner fails to take part in a work-focused interview, when required to do so.
119. The intention is for the actual proposals to be prescribed in secondary legislation to allow adjustments to be made to the detailed aspects of the scheme in the light of experience of work-focused interviews.
120. The power itself:
- Subsection (1) allows the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring partners of claimants for certain benefits to take part in a work-focused interview, in prescribed circumstances. Once the claimant's entitlement to benefit has been established their partner may be required to take part in a work-focused interview. If partners do not take part in these interviews without good cause when required to do so, a benefit sanction will apply (see subsection (4)(f)). As the majority of jobseekers find work within the first six months of a claim it is initially intended that partners will be required to attend an interview at the 6 month stage of a claim, thus focusing resources on those partners who need more help in finding work. The timing of interviews will be considered further in the light of experience of work-focused interviews for benefit claimants.
- Subsection (2) lists the benefits to which the partner work-focused interview requirements will apply. Subsection (3) lists the circumstances in which a higher rate of such a benefit is deemed to be payable to a person by reference to his partner and therefore, the partner is subject to the requirement to take part in an interview.
121. How the power is intended to be used:
- Subsections (4) to (6) identify the main ways in which the regulation-making powers provided under subsection (1) might be used. Where a person is entitled to a number of specified benefits at the same time, it is not intended to ask their partner to take part in separate work-focused interviews for each benefit. They would only be required to take part in one interview. Subsection (4)(a) allows for regulations to achieve this.
- Subsection (4)(b) allows for regulations to prescribe that where a claimant is entitled to benefit for more than one partner (i.e. in the case of a polygamous marriage) each of those partners will be required to take part in a work-focused interview.
- Subsection (4)(c) enables the Secretary of State to prescribe in regulations who will conduct the interviews with partners. This means that work-focused interviews may be conducted by a person acting on behalf of the Secretary of State, by a local authority employee, or by a private/voluntary sector organisation contracted to provide services.
- Regulations under subsection (4)(d) will confer power on those who conduct the interviews with partners to determine where and when an interview will take place. This mirrors section 8 of the Jobseekers Act 1995 and section 2A of the Administration Act. It is intended that the interview will usually be conducted at a range of easily accessible premises. However, where partners cannot reasonably be expected to visit an office, a more suitable location including a home visit may be arranged.
- Subsection (4)(e) enables regulations to prescribe the circumstances in which partners are to be treated as either taking part or not taking part in the interview. Since the regulations under this section will impose a general requirement on partners to take part in a work- focused interview, both the partners and those who conduct the interviews need to be clear about the criteria to be used in judging whether a person has actually taken part in the interview. It is intended that the test of whether partners have taken part will be: (a) whether they attend at the time and place specified; and (b) whether they provide information in areas relevant to their employment prospects, such as their level of educational qualifications, their previous work history, and any barriers to work they may face.
- Subsection (4)(f) enables regulations to provide that if a partner is requested to take part in an interview but does not do so then, unless he (or the benefit claimant) can show good cause for that failure within a prescribed period, the claimant's benefit will be reduced.
- Subsection (4)(g) enables regulations to specify what constitutes good cause for not taking part in an interview. Good cause is a familiar concept in social security. For example, it is used in relation to work-focused interviews for claimants under section 2A of the Administration Act and in deciding whether people's entitlement to Jobseeker's Allowance should stop where they have not attended as required as a specified time and place (section 8(1)(d) of the Jobseekers Act 1995 and regulations 28 to 30 of the Jobseeker's Allowance Regulations 1996). Examples of good cause might be when the partner had an accident on the day set for the interview or where their child fell ill or where they misunderstood the requirements placed upon them because of any language or literacy difficulties.
- Subsection (5) deals with how any reduction in benefit should be calculated and applied.
- Subsection (5)(a) gives the power to specify how the reduction will normally be calculated and subsection (5)(b) provides for regulations to allow the reduction to be restricted in prescribed circumstances. This power under subsection (5)(b) will be used where the amount of the reduction would otherwise be greater than the amount of benefit. In addition, it is the intention to ensure that the claimant retains entitlement to a nominal amount, to prevent the claim from lapsing and, where appropriate, to ensure that entitlement to any "passported" benefits (such as free NHS Prescriptions, free school meals) is retained.
- Subsection (5)(c) allows regulations to specify that if a person is claiming more than one benefit, the sanction may be applied to more than one of the benefits; but the total sanction must not exceed the amount calculated in regulations under subsection (5)(a). The regulations will also prioritise the benefits against which the sanction is to be applied. No sanctions will be applied against any benefit not specified in new section 2AA(2).
- Subsection (6) enables regulations to prescribe the circumstances in which the requirement for a partner to take part in a work-focused interview is not to be applied. This is so that the interview can be waived or deferred until a later date if that is necessary or appropriate in any case. There will be certain people for whom a work-focused interview will not be appropriate. There is no intention to set out in regulations the categories of people for whom this would be appropriate. Such decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, depending on the circumstances of the individual.
- Subsection (6)(a) enables regulations to specify circumstances in which the requirement to take part in a work-focused interview will not apply to a partner: either permanently or until a specified time. It is intended that this power will be used to exempt partners of people who are claiming the benefits listed in subsection (2) but who are required to attend work-focused interviews in their own right.
- Subsection (6)(b) enables the 'designated authority' to decide that the requirement to take part in a work-focused interview is not to apply where it would not be of assistance or appropriate in the particular circumstances of that person. Regulations will not specify which groups should have the requirement waived although one example might be where a terminally ill person is the partner of a benefit claimant.
- Subsection (6)(c) enables the 'designated authority' to decide that the requirement to take part in a work-focused interview should be deferred if it is determined that an interview would not be of assistance, or appropriate, at that particular time. Examples might include a person in the early stages of recovery from a major operation, or a partner who had just given birth. Regulations provided for under subsection (6) may also set out that, where a partner has their interview waived or deferred, they will be treated, as having met the requirement - until such time as it is appropriate for them to attend an interview. Where an interview is either waived or deferred (see subsection (6)(c)), despite the fact that there has been no interview, no change will be made to the amount of benefit payable or in payment.
- Subsection (7) defines terms used throughout the section. A "work-focused interview" is the interview that almost all partners of claimants of the benefits listed in subsection (2) will be asked to take part in. The purpose of such an interview is to assist or encourage partners to improve their employment prospects over time, and to identify and take steps to overcome the barriers to work they face through training or specialist support so that, where appropriate, they can move towards education or taking up employment (whether paid or unpaid). To this end, an interview may cover such areas as previous employment record, capacity to undertake work, the in-work financial support which is available and help in areas such as childcare, housing and training.
122. Schedule 6 (Paragraphs 8 to 10, 14 and 42): makes minor and consequential amendments to the Administration Act and Social Security Act 1998.
- Paragraph 9 amends section 2B of the Administration Act, which makes further provision as to how the power in section 2A may be used. It ensures that the decisions and appeals procedures in Chapter II of Part I of the Social Security Act 1998 apply in relation to any "relevant decisions" under the new section 2AA. It also provides that any decision that a partner has, without good cause, failed to take part in an interview as required by the new section 2AA may be revised or appealed against. It also sets out in that section what are to be "relevant decisions" under the new section 2AA - namely, decisions that someone has failed, without good cause, to take part in an interview required under that section, and makes a consequential amendment in relation to decisions under section 2A. It ensures that all "relevant decisions" under the new section 2AA are treated as having been made by the Secretary of State - even if the decision maker is not a civil servant, and that such a decision may be revised or superseded by someone other than the original decision maker. The powers in the Social Security Act 1998 to revise or supersede a decision would then apply. It would also allow for information gathered about a person's employability to be passed on to the relevant decision maker.
- Paragraph 10 amends section 2C of the Administration Act so as to ensure that the powers, which are intended to enable closer working between central and local government in order to make the delivery of social security benefits more customer-focused and better co-ordinated, also apply to the new section 2AA.
- Paragraph 14 amends section 190(1) of the Administration Act so as to require the first set of regulations to be made under the new section 2AA to be passed by the affirmative resolution procedure.
- Paragraph 42 amends the Social Security Act 1998 so as to provide that the right of appeal is against the decision that the partner had failed to take part in an interview, rather than the decision to stop or reduce benefit. It focuses on the one decision that causes a penalty to be imposed (which may potentially be across a number of benefits) and is intended to avoid confusion.