Yes it was Easter Sunday and whilst many of you will have been tucking into your Easter eggs and enjoying the extended weekend, a lot was also going on with the employment legislation.
Before we take you through the changes, cast your minds back to the Coalition’s Red Tape Challenge. Can you remember what this was? Essentially it was to cut the red tape and improve productivity and economic viability for businesses.
Has it been achieved?
When you consider the recent employment law changes and implementation of complex regulations, potentially not. The implementation of shared parental leave and pay will perhaps dominate this year, but what else is going on in 2015? We have set out below details of the changes impacting on employers this year:
Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and pay
This was introduced on 1 December 2014 and will be available to couples with babies due, or children placed for adoption, on or after 5 April 2015. It will effectively allow parents, who qualify for shared parental leave, greater flexibility in caring arrangements and an opportunity to consider the best arrangement to care for their child during the child’s first year.
The amount of leave available is calculated using the mother’s entitlement to maternity/adoption leave, which allows them to take up to 52 weeks’ leave (although the mother must take at least two weeks maternity leave following the birth of her child). If they reduce their maternity/adoption leave entitlement then they and/or their partner may opt-in to the SPL system and take any remaining weeks as SPL. A partner for the purposes of SPL is the child’s biological father or the partner of the mother/adopter. This can be a spouse, civil partner; or a partner living in an enduring relationship with the mother and the child.
Unlike maternity/adoption leave, eligible employees can stop and start their SPL and return to work between periods of leave with each eligible parent able to submit three notices booking periods of leave (although an employer may allow more).
Parents must be eligible in order to qualify for shared parental leave and briefly the criteria is:
To qualify for SPL a mother must:
- Have a partner
- Be entitled to either maternity/adoption leave or statutory maternity/adoption pay or maternity allowance
- Have curtailed, or given notice to reduce, their maternity/adoption leave, or their pay/allowance (if not eligible for maternity/adoption leave).
A parent intending to take SPL must:
- Be an employee
- Share the primary responsibility for the child with the other parent at the time of the birth or placement for adoption
- Have properly notified their employer of their entitlement and have provided the necessary declarations and evidence.
In addition, a parent wanting to take SPL is required to satisfy the “continuity of employment test” and their partner must meet the “employment and earnings test”.
It will be beneficial for employers to have early conversations with applicable employees regarding their intentions , enabling both the employer and the employee to be clear regarding the entitlement, what leave arrangements are being considered and how any leave will be accommodated.
To ensure consistency in making and responding to notifications regarding SPL it will be a good idea for employers to set out working arrangements and employees’ rights in a SPL policy. This can either be a standalone policy or be included within a wider maternity and paternity policy.
Changes to Statutory adoption Leave and pay
From 5 April 2015:
Adoption leave will become a “day one” right, so employees will no longer need to have 26 weeks’ continuous employment to be eligible.
The Statutory Adoption Pay will change – the first six weeks will be paid at 90% of the employee’s normal earnings, bringing it in-line with maternity pay.
Some surrogate parents will become eligible for adoption leave.
A new right to take time off to attend adoption appointments
The Children and Families Act 2013 introduces a new right to attend adoption appointments which applies from 5 April 2015. The main adopter will be able to take paid time off for up to five adoption appointments. The secondary adopter will be entitled to take unpaid time off for up to two appointments.
Child’s age limit for parental leave rises to 18
Parental leave is a distinct and separate to SPL. Parental leave is for employees to take time off work to look after a child’s welfare, this leave is normally unpaid. Previously this leave could be taken up to the child’s fifth birthday, however from 5th April 2015 the age limit for the child will increase from five to 18 years.
In order to qualify for parental leave employees must have completed one year’s service. 18 week’s unpaid parental leave can be taken.
Statutory maternity pay, ordinary paternity pay and adoption pay increases
The rates for the above payments increase as of 5th April 2015:
Statutory Maternity Pay increases from £138.18 to £139.58
Statutory Paternity Pay increases from £138.18 to £139.58
Statutory Adoption Pay increases from £138.18 to £139.58
Statutory Sick Pay
The standard rate of statutory sick pay increased on 6 April 2015 from £87.55 to £88.45
New Fit for Work Service
This is scheduled to be introduced in England and Wales over the next year, it basically offers employers access to free occupational assistance for employees who have been off sick for four weeks or more. The aim is for employers, employees, general practitioners and occupational health to all work together to assist the employee in returning to work.
We will keep you posted of any more developments on this.
National Minimum Wage rates
To increase from 1 October 2015:
- Workers aged 21 and over: £6.50 an hour to £6.70 an hour
- Development rate for workers aged 18-20: £5.13 an hour to £5.30 an hour
- Young Workers rate for workers aged 16-17: £3.79 an hour to £3.87 an hour
- Apprentices under 19, or over 19 and in the first year of the apprenticeship: £2.73 an hour to £3.30
Compensation Limits and minimum awards that apply to a range of employment claims increased on 6 April 2015.
Among other things, the limit on compensation for unfair dismissal increased from £76,574 to £78,335 and the limit on a week's pay (which is particularly relevant for statutory redundancy calculations) increased from £464 to £475.
The new rates take effect where the "appropriate date" for the cause of action (such as the date of termination in an unfair dismissal claim) falls on or after 6 April 2015.
What should you do next?
- Update any policies you have in place to coincide with the above changes
- Update payroll systems to ensure the new rate increases are accounted for
- Put in place a Shared Parental leave Policy if you haven’t already done so