1 October 2014 - employment law changes

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Today sees the implementation of a number of employment law developments - including the new statutory right giving fathers and partners the right to take time off work to attend ante-natal appointments and new employment rights for military reservists and their employers.

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

Pregnant employees and agency worker have for many years been entitled to take time off work to attend ante-natal appointments. This right has now been extended to other expectant parents. The new right is the right to time off to accompany a pregnant woman when she attends an ante-natal appointment which has been made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered nurse.

Who is entitled to time off under the new right?

The right to time off will apply to an employee (or agency worker) who is in a ‘qualifying relationship’ with a pregnant woman, which includes:

  • their spouse or civil partner
  • the father of the expected chid
  • a person (of either sex) in an enduring relationship with the pregnant woman, but not a relative (i.e. not a parent, grandparent, sibling or uncle/aunt)
  • the intended parent of a child in a surrogacy arrangement (if they expect to be entitled and intend to apply for a parental order in respect of that child).

For employees, the entitlement is a day one right. Agency workers, (who are not employees of their agency), will enjoy the right once they have been doing the same kind of job for the same hirer for at least 12 weeks.

How much time off?

The statutory entitlement is to take time off on two occasions, with each absence lasting no more than six and a half hours.

Time off is unpaid

In contrast to the right of a pregnant woman, who is entitled to be paid during any time off to attend an antenatal appointment, the statutory right is to time off, not to be paid for it.

Evidence that can be requested

Whilst an employer cannot ask for written evidence of an appointment, as this will be the property of the expectant mother, it can request details of the date and time of the appointment and a declaration from the employee or agency worker, stating that:

  • They are in a ‘qualifying relationship’ with the pregnant woman
  • The time off is required to accompany the woman to an antenatal appointment
  • The appointment has been made on the advice of a doctor, nurse or midwife

Legal protection

Employees are protected from victimisation or disadvantage as a result of seeking to exercise their statutory right to time off to attend an antenatal appointment with a pregnant woman. It will be automatically unfair to dismiss an employee for seeking to exercise this right.

The Government has published guidance on operation of the new right, which can be downloaded here.

Increases in National Minimum Wage rates

As from 1 October 2014 the National Minimum Wage rates are as follows:

The standard adult rate (workers aged 21 and over) is now £6.50 an hour (up from £6.31)

The youth development rate (for workers aged between18 and 20) is £5.13 an hour (up from £5.03)

The young workers rate (16-17 year olds, who are not apprentices) is £3.79 an hour (up from £3.72)

The apprenticeship rate is £2.73 an hour (up from £2.68)

These increases are in line with the Low Paid Commission’s recommendations to the government earlier this year.

Military Reservists – new employer and employee rights

When military reservists are called up they are paid directly by the Ministry of Defence. To date, employers have been able to claim expenses in respect of any additional costs incurred in covering/replacing the reservist of up to a maximum of £110 per day.

In addition to these expenses, from 1 October, small and medium employers will also be able to apply to the Secretary of State for a payment of up to £500 per month for each complete month a reservist is absent from work.

In addition, the statutory two-year service requirement will no longer apply in cases of unfair dismissal where the dismissal is connected with the employee’s membership of the reserve forces. The ability to present such a claim is now a day one right.

Employment tribunals given power to order equal pay audits

Employment tribunals now have the power, (subject to certain exceptions), to order employers found to be in breach of equal pay law under the Equality Act 2010 (i.e. have lost an equal pay claim brought on or after 1 October 2014) to carry out an equal pay audit.

Such an audit will be required to identify any differences in pay between men and women and the reason for any disparity, as well as the reasons for the established breach. In addition employers will have to confirm their plans to avoid further breaches in the future and will be obliged to publish the relevant gender pay information – including making it available on their corporate web-sites - for a period of at least three years.

If you think that you are at risk of facing an equal pay claim, contact your EEF adviser for advice.

Looking ahead

Further family rights reforms - April 2015

From next April, adoption leave and pay will reflect entitlements available to birth parents. There will be no qualifying period for adoption leave; enhanced pay to 90% of salary for the first 6 weeks, and time off to attend introductory adoption appointments. Intended parents in surrogacy and ‘foster to adopt’ arrangements will also qualify for adoption leave and pay.

April 2015 will also the first periods of shared parental leave. The new statutory right will be available to parents of children who are expected to be born or placed for adoption after 5 April 2015.

How can EEF assist?

EEF is running a series of half day seminars in January 2015 – Who’s holding the baby? - The new right to shared parental leave. The course is designed to assist employers in managing the technical and operational requirements of the new statutory right to shared parental leave, whilst ensuring that they continue to comply with their other HR and legal obligations.

For more details and to book your place, click here.

Author

Principal Legal Adviser

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