Employment Law Changes: 1st October 2014

Employment Law Changes: 1st October 2014

Annually any changes to Employment Law are introduced on 1 April and 1 October. As 1 October approaches I thought it may be beneficial to detail the new changes and how these may affect employees and employers. I shall deal with the changes themselves first and then move on to discuss the implications.

National Minimum Wage Increase

These figures are due to alter on 1 October and the rates relative for the different applicable levels of the national minimum wage are as follows:

£6.50 for workers 21 and over
£5.13 for workers 18-20 years
£3.79 for 16-17 years olds
£2.73 for apprentices under 19 or 19 and over who are in the first year of apprenticeship

Right to Time Off for Ante-natal Appointments

Under the new shared parental leave provisions it is proposed to allow the husband civil partner or partner of a pregnant woman the right to unpaid time off to attend up to 2 ante-natal appointments.

Shared Parental Leave

Under this new scheme parents will now be able to choose how they share the care of their new child during the first year after birth. Mothers will still take at least the first two weeks after the birth but following that the mother can choose to end her maternity leave and the father can then elect to share the remaining period of “maternity leave” as flexible parental leave. Please note that this right is only available to parents of children born (or matched for adoption) on or after the 5 April 2015 and it comes into force on the 1 December 2014.

Implications for Employees

In terms of the amendments to the national minimum wage these will happen automatically so employees simply need to check their first payslip after the 1 October and the changes to their wage. If they are currently paid the minimum wage their hourly rate should increase to one of the above detailed amounts. If this does not happen I would suggest they approach their employer and raise this with them. The employer will be in breach of the National Minimum Wage Act if they fail to pay the employee the new rate. The other changes are very specific and only apply to parents due to have children on or after the 1 April 2015. I would suggest people looking at making use of the new shared parental leave provisions seek specialist legal advice on how to approach this with their employer. They would also need to check their employer’s relevant maternity paternity adoption or shared parental leave policy.

Implications for Employers

The new changes will have a greater impact on employers. Firstly all employers paying the NMW will need to adjust the rates of pay to employees in line with the above figures. Failure to do so could result in claims against them by employees and also fines for breaching the National Minimum Wage Act. The maximum fine is £20000.

In relation to the new shared parental leave scheme this will have a more subtle impact. Employers will need to amend their current maternity paternity and adoption policies to ensure they remain compliant with the new provisions. They may also need to implement a Shared Parental Leave Policy to deal with the new changes.

Under the old scheme a business could adequately plan for a female staff member’s pregnancy and look to get cover in once the staff had completed her request for maternity. Under the new scheme businesses may find that unexpectedly male staff use the provisions to share the responsibility of caring for the new child and therefore they cannot make contingency plans as easily as families may not yet have decided who will be the primary carer for the newborn child.

The amended policies should therefore ask for sufficient notice from male employees if they intend to use the shared parental leave scheme to allow the business to make the necessary contingency plans. I would therefore suggest businesses should speak with their legal representatives to ensure their policies and procedures remain compliant in the light of the changes.

Article by Ian Abel our head of employment law

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