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1 October 2014 – what’s new?

It has, once again, been a busy year for employment law. In particular, HR teams have had to familiarise themselves with the new laws on flexible working and early ACAS conciliation. They will also be starting to review their policies in anticipation of the introduction of shared parental leave from April 2015.

In the meantime, there are four other changes taking effect from next week:

Time off to accompany a pregnant woman to ante-natal appointments

From 1 October 2014 expectant fathers, or the partner of a pregnant woman, will be entitled to take unpaid time off work to attend ante-natal appointments with their partner.

The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has produced a guide for employers which sets out a series of FAQs including who is entitled, how much time an employee can take off, and an employee’s rights if their request for time off is refused.

A similar right for adopters will come into force in April 2015.

Tribunals to have power to order equal pay audits

Employment tribunals will be obliged, in certain circumstances, to order employers to conduct equal pay audits where they have lost an equal pay claim. The results must be published on their website (unless they can show that doing so would breach a legal obligation) for a period of at least three years.

The audit must include gender pay information (as specified by the employment tribunal); identify any differences in pay between men and women, the reasons for these differences and the potential equal pay breach; and set out the employer’s plan to avoid breaches from occurring or continuing in the future.

The tribunal must not order an audit if: the employer has carried an audit within the last three years; it is clear without an audit what action is required; the tribunal has no reason to think that there will be other breaches; or the disadvantages of ordering the audit outweigh its likely benefits. There is also an exception for businesses under twelve months old, and those with fewer than ten employees.

Employers that fail to carry out an audit when required to do so could face a fine of up to £5,000. The power to order audits will only apply in relation to equal pay claims presented on or after 1 October 2014.

National minimum wage

The National Minimum Wage rates applying from 1 October 2014 are as follows:

  • The adult rate for workers aged 21 and over will increase by 19p from £6.31 to £6.50 per hour;
  • The hourly rate for workers aged 18-20 will increase by 10p from £5.03 to £5.13 per hour;
  • The rate for workers aged 16-17 will increase by 7p from £3.72 to £3.79 per hour;
  • The hourly rate for apprentices will increase by 5p from £2.68 to £2.73.

Military reservists

At present, when called up, military reservists are paid directly by the Ministry of Defence and employers can claim expenses in respect of additional costs incurred whilst replacing the reservist (to a maximum of £110 per day). From 1st October, small and medium employers will also be able to receive up to £500 per month for each full month a reservist is absent from work (reduced pro rata for parts of a month, or part-time workers).

Also, there will be no minimum qualifying period of employment to bring a claim of unfair dismissal if the reason for the dismissal is, or is connected with, the employee’s membership of a reserve force.

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