With law updates expected next year, Carey Olsen employment lawyers have urged delegates to ensure they have the relevant legal documentation and policies in place in order to protect their business in the future.

More than 90 HR practitioners from a range of industries across Jersey registered for the recent breakfast briefing which addressed updates in the housing and discrimination laws expected in 2013.

The seminar, which was presented by Carey Olsen’s employment and pensions specialists, of counsel Huw Thomas and associates Sarah Townsend and Jon McKay, provided delegates with an overview of Channel Islands tribunal cases during 2012. It also looked ahead to new legislation expected to be introduced in 2013 and how HR professionals should be planning now for the changes ahead.

Mr Thomas said: “The most significant statutory employment law development in Jersey during 2012 was the completion of the statutory redundancy scheme of the Employment (Jersey) Law 2003. The final piece of the jigsaw was the collective consultation requirements which are triggered when an employer seeks to make 12 or more employees redundant, at a single establishment, within a 30 day period. Should employers fail to comply with the consultation they may have to pay remuneration to affected employees for a period of up to nine weeks. The costs of getting things wrong are, therefore, significant.

“UK case law is very influential in Channel Islands employment law. HR professionals must also have an understanding of the latest legal developments in the UK and the consequences for their own businesses.”

Delegates were also reminded that they should ensure that express contractual restrictions, such as restrictive covenants and confidentiality obligations, are in order.

Mr Thomas said: “When employees leave an organisation, confidential information and business knowledge often moves with them. Employers need to ensure they have appropriate restrictive covenants in place and that such covenants are understood and signed by employees.

“Employers need to take a practical approach should an employee resign. They must ensure that they have appropriately planned the exit process to identify risks and potential breaches in relation to commercially sensitive information and to remind the employee of his or her obligations,” said Mr Thomas.

The Control of Housing and Work (Jersey) Law 2012 will simplify the existing housing regime, reducing the current 15 categories of housing qualification to just four categories of residential and employment status. Residents will be required to obtain a registration card on certain ‘trigger’ events including when they move jobs. Employers will still have to comply with the terms of a licence prescribing a specific headcount for certain types of employee.

Ms Townsend said: “The new law is intended to reduce bureaucracy but much will depend on the terms of the licence granted to an employer. Employers will be particularly keen to understand the criteria for an employee to achieve ‘licenced’ status, which is similar to the current ‘j-category’ licence, as this may have an impact on their ability to attract and retain non-local staff.”

Jersey is likely to introduce discrimination law, in either late 2013 or 2014, to take into account both direct and indirect discrimination in relation to race and, subsequently, in relation to discrimination on the grounds of a person's sex or disability.

Mr Thomas said: “Employers are likely to be liable for discriminatory acts conducted by employees in the course of their employment. Employers can defend themselves on the basis that they took reasonable steps to prevent prohibited acts.

“Employers should now be considering how best they can protect themselves and their employees. Developing and implementing an equality policy and ensuring staff are trained and understand the policy are all practical steps employers should be looking at now before the new law takes effect.”

Mr McKay told the HR professionals about the key features of employee-defined contribution schemes as updated by the UK Pension Regulator in 2012.

Mr McKay said: “Although it is not legally binding in Jersey, it is good practice for HR professionals to use the updated core principles for defined contribution schemes as a checklist for their business.

“As 2013 approaches employers should ensure they have recently audited their pension schemes and reviewed the benefit entitlements in order to make sure the schemes are still an efficient employee recruitment and retention tool.”