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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Guest Blog: Into Autumn - Are you ready for the latest legislation changes?

By Peter Mooney - Employment Law Advisory Service (ELAS)

As the leaves – and the temperatures – start to fall, it’s the perfect time of year for a good spruce-up to make sure your business is up-to-date and in good shape.

So here’s a timely reminder for you of the key changes to areas such as Employment Law and Health and Safety legislation, for the rest of the year and into 2015.

From 1st October, 2014 the Children and Families Act 2014 gives employees and agency workers who are in a “qualifying relationship” with a pregnant woman the statutory right to take time off to attend antenatal appointments. This new right applies from the very first day of employment (i.e. no continuous period of employment is required).

Those in a “qualifying relationship” include:
A pregnant woman’s husband, partner or civil partner (if she is in a same-sex relationship)
The father of the child
The parent of the child; and
Intended parents in a surrogacy situation who meet specified conditions.

It is possible that a woman’s partner may qualify for time off even if he is not the child’s natural father.
Those who qualify for time off only have the right to attend TWO antenatal appointments (not all of them) and they can’t take more than 6 ½ hours for each one.

The appointment must have been made on the advice of the registered medical practitioner, midwife or nurse.

Pregnant employees have a statutory right to reasonable time off work with pay to attend their antenatal appointments.  However, those in a qualifying relationship do not have a right to be paid.

Employers have the right to request the employee (or agency worker) to make a written declaration stating that they are in qualifying relationship with a pregnant woman or her expected child, that they are taking some off specifically to attend the antenatal appointment with her and that the appointment has been made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, midwife or nurse giving the date and time of the appointment.

The Children and Families Act also increases the amount of the award for an unreasonable refusal of time off for antenatal care.

Also from 1st October, Employment Tribunals will be given the power to order equal pay audits, where the employer has breached the equal pay provisions under the Equality Act 2010, except in prescribed circumstances.

On the same date (it’s a busy time!) the National Minimum Wage increases:
£6.50 for workers 21 and over
£5.13 for workers 18-20 yrs
£3.79 for 16-17 yrs olds
£2.73 for apprentices under 19 or 19 and over who are in the first year of apprenticeship

On 1st December 2014, the Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2014 come into force.
These rule that an employee cannot take paternity leave in relation to a child where he or she has already taken shared parental leave in relation to that child or has taken paid time off to attend an adoption appointment in respect of that child.

From the 10th December, the right to take unpaid parental leave will be extended to include children up to the age of 18. Currently this right applies to parents of children under five (or 18 if the child is disabled).
From 6th April, 2015 provisions for Shared Parental Leave take effect, for parents of children born or matched for adoption on or after 5 April 2015.

Under this new system, parents will be able to choose how they share the care of their child during the first year after birth. Mothers will still take at least the initial two weeks following the birth; but following that they can choose to end the maternity leave – and the parents can OPT to share the remaining leave as flexible parental leave.

And on the same date, the Children and Families Act 2014 brings statutory adoption pay into line with statutory maternity pay by setting it at 90% of normal earnings for the first six weeks of the adoption pay period.

Also in April, employer national insurance contributions for workers aged under 21 are to be abolished. In his autumn statement last year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that employer national insurance contributions for workers aged under 21 who earn up to £42,285 are abolished.

It is expected that April will also see the introduction of new rights for employees who are reservists. If the proposals are confirmed, they will be exempted from the two year qualifying period for bring an unfair dismissal claim where the reason for dismissal is the employee’s reservist’s service.

A proposed change that reflects our increased life expectancy (and longer working lives) is that the upper age limit for jury service should increase from 70 to 75, in England and Wales. This is expected to be ratified in the early part of next year.

Be assured, ELAS will be on hand to warn you of any forthcoming changes and their implications – and will also be here to offer guidance on all aspects of the laws that affect your business.

ELAS is a leading provider of a full range of business support services such as HR, employment law advice, occupational health and safety, food safety, payroll services and training to businesses both in the North West and nationally.

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