Employment Law Update 2014-15

Keeping up to date with employment law changes is preoccupying for HR personnel – let alone business owners with dozens of other responsibilities.  However it is a responsibility that cannot be ignored and the consequences can be severe in reputational and financial terms for employers. Not paying the minimum wage (which changed from 1st October 2014) being just one example, and one that some leading retailers have recently fallen foul of.

The main issues outlined in the latest employment law update below include shared parental leave and changes affecting pay. Here at Triangle HR we ensure our client’s employment policies and procedures are up-to-date and continue to remain in line with new developments. If you require assistance with this important task please call the Triangle HR team on 01743 444007 or email us at info@trianglehr.co.uk

 

Shared Parental Leave and Statutory Shared Parental Pay

Leave and pay entitlements are to change for parents of children born or adopted on or after 5th April 2015.  Additional paternity leave will be abolished and employees will have the option of more flexible working arrangements, including sharing their entitlements between the two parents. The new rules took effect from 1st December 2014.

pregnant businesswoman at deskMothers will still be required to take a minimum of 2 weeks maternity leave following the birth (4 weeks for factory workers). However, under the new rules, parents who qualify can opt to take Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) instead of continuing with maternity leave/pay, maternity allowance or adoption leave.

This will allow them to take:

  • The remainder of their 52 weeks of leave as SPL (up to 50 weeks)
  • The remainder of their 39 weeks of pay or maternity allowance as ShPP  (up to 37 weeks)

They must give 8 weeks notice to their employer (in writing) to end their maternity/paternity/adoption leave and confirm their eligibility in order to start SLP (unless the child is born more than 8 weeks prematurely).

Employees who are eligible are those who can show:

  • They have been continuously employed for at least 26 weeks before the end of the 15th week prior to the date the child is due (or before the date they are matched with their child) and they will continue to be employed by the same employer for the duration of the period of SPL
  • They are to share the care of the child with their spouse, civil partner, joint adopter, live-in partner or the other parent
  • They, or their partner, is entitled to maternity pay/leave, adoption pay/leave or maternity allowance

For their partner to be eligible, they can be employed, self-employed or an agency worker but they must have:

  • Worked for at 26 weeks during the 66 weeks prior to the baby’s due date
  • Earned at least £30 per week

Employees will be entitled by law to request to take their SPL in up to three separate blocks. Employees can request that each block of leave is split into several shorter periods of work and leave, however employers can agree to more at their discretion. This discontinuous working element is likely to be an aspect of the new legislation that employers may find challenging in that some will need to make other adjustments to accommodate the more flexible working arrangements.

In addition to the current provision for KIT (Keeping in Touch) days, each parent can also opt to work up to 20 days during their SPL as SPLIT (Shared Parental Leave In Touch) days.

 

Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP)

ShPP will be available to employees who are eligible for:

  • Statutory Maternity Pay or Statutory Adoption Pay
  • Statutory Paternity Pay, Maternity Allowance or Statutory Adoption Pay

ShPP has been set at £138.18 per week (or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings, whichever is lower). Be aware that this differs slightly from Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) in the first 6 weeks where the rate of SMP is 90% of the employee’s pay regardless of how much.

From April 2015, employees who are parents will see their right to take unpaid parental leave extended to cover children up to 18 years old.

 

National Minimum Wage Increase

1st October 2014 saw an increase in the national minimum wage. Hourly rates have now been set at:

  • Age 16-17 yrs. – £3.79
  • Age 18-20 yrs. – £5.13
  • Age 21 yrs. and over –  £6.50

Apprentices for those aged 19 and over who are in their first year of their apprenticeship are to be paid a minimum of £2.73 an hour.

 

Equal Pay Audits

With effect from 1st October 2014, employers who are found to have breached the equal pay requirements outlined in the Equality Act 2010 may well be ordered by an Employment Tribunal to carry out an Equal Pay Audit. This process will need to show details of the employer’s plan to avoid breaches occurring or continuing to occur in the future. This requirement will apply to businesses that have been in existence for over 1 year who have 10 or more full-time employees (or part-time equivalent).

Not something to ignore as your business could face a costly fine. The tribunal will also be able to issue a penalty of up to £5,000 to employers who fail to comply with the order with a further £5,000 fine if they continue not to do so.

 

Time off for ante-natal and adoption appointments

Pregnant employees and eligible agency workers are entitled to paid time off work for ante-natal and adoption appointments.  As well as medical appointments, this can include relaxation and parentcraft classes if a medical practitioner, midwife or nurse has recommended them.  Do note however, this is government guidance rather than a statutory right.

From 1st October 2014, fathers (or partners in same-sex relationships) are now entitled to unpaid time off to accompany a pregnant woman to up to 2 ante-natal appointments lasting up to 61/2 hours.

Refusing to allow a pregnant employee time off, withholding payment or penalising them if they take the time off without permission could be classed as ‘unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination’ under the Equality Act 2010 and considered ‘a detriment’ under the Employment Rights Act 2008.

Please be aware also that the basic level of compensation for pregnant employees who are judged to have been unreasonably denied permission (or payment) to attend ante-natal appointments has been increased from a payment reflecting their usual pay amount to double that amount. Another change you may not have been aware of.

 

YOU MAY ALSO BE INTERESTED IN

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill 2014-2105 is currently going through Parliament. As announced in June earlier last year in the Queen’s Speech, legislative reform is being debated covering areas that affect the ability of small businesses to compete including:

  • Amendments to the Companies Act
  • Penalties for employers not paying at least the National Minimum Wage
  • Tribunal awards, settlements and postponement of hearings
  • Disclosure of information from whistleblowers whilst protecting their anonymity
  • Zero hours contacts

We will keep you updated on developments and progress of the Bill and its impact on smaller businesses, with a particular focus on changes in legislation and best working practices.

 

For more information on how the new regulations will affect your business and advice on making sure your HR policies and procedures are up to date, please call Justine and the team on 01743 444007 or email info@trianglehr.co.uk