2015 has seen many critically important changes to employment law. Are you aware of them all and how they may affect your business? We’ve compiled this re-cap so you can double check you have all bases covered.

April 2015 – Shared Parental Leave

As always, with the start of a new tax year, April kicked off the many changes that we were set to see throughout the year.

We begin with perhaps the biggest change of the year too; the introduction of Shared Parental Leave (or SPL), although as yet there has not been much take up by employees. This new law came in for babies born on or after April 5th, and means that parents now have the opportunity to share Parental Leave entitlements between them. Up to 50 of the 52 weeks of Maternity or Adoption Leave can be designated as SPL, either to be taken at the same or at different times.

However, this isn’t necessarily available to all staff. Both parents will only be eligible if:

  • They’ve been continuously employed for 26 weeks by the end of the qualifying week (15th week before the child is due), and are still employed when leave is taken.
  • The other parent has worked at least 26 of the 66 weeks before the due date, or qualifying week for adoption, and for 13 weeks of those have earned at least £30/week on average.
  • They provide relevant notice

Parents on SPL are entitled to Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) for up to 39 weeks, and at the same rate as Statutory Maternity Pay

These rates changed in April also, for all Parental pay, to the following:

  • 90% of average weekly earnings for the first six weeks
  • Whichever is lower of 90% of weekly earnings, or £139.58 per week – for the next 33 weeks.

If you want to find out more about Maternity Leave, or Paternity Leave, take a look on our site here.

 

May 26th 2015 – Update to Zero Hours contract laws

If you have staff working under Zero Hours contracts, but weren’t aware there were changes to the law this year, you should read this.

After months of bad press, the government’s been making moves to ensure Zero Hours contracts are that bit fairer for staff working across the UK. With this in mind, exclusivity clauses that meant employees were unable to work for any other employer — no matter whether an employer has offered a high number of hours or not — were outlawed by the government in May.

If you want to read more about this, and what it means for small employers like yourself, take a look at our blog here.

 

July 2015 – National Living Wage introduced

The first budget by the (then) new Tory government brought in a few big changes for businesses, but none so contentious as the new National Living Wage.

Set to come into force in April 2016, this new wage rate gives employees who are 25 and over a new minimum pay rate of £7.20 an hour. And this is set to rise steeply to £9 per hour by 2020.

It might seem like a small change, but it could have a massive impact on small businesses across the country, especially with the proposed rate rise over 4 years. Read more about it here.

 

September 2015 – Fit for Work

The launch of the government’s Fit for Work service was finally completed in September of this year, but had been undergoing a steady rollout across the UK since the end of last year.

This big change to occupational health means that employers who have staff on long term sick can now use a new government scheme to help them.

What Fit for Work does, in essence, is provide staff who have a long term illness with access to an occupational health assessment. To assess whether, when and how they can get back into the workplace.

It’s ideal for those employers worrying about how to manage staff with a long term illness too, as it allows them to take direct action to move things forward. However, the service pays for the assessment only, so any potential treatment costs will need to be taken into account when deciding to go down this route.

Should the treatment be too costly for you and your employee, instigating a capability procedure is likely how you should proceed. This procedure will allow you to assess how the staff member is able to conduct their job, and ensures you can sensibly manage the employee or dismiss if necessary.

Find out more about it on the Fit for Work site here – http://fitforwork.org/

 

October 2015 – The Minimum Wage Update

If you pay your staff Minimum Wage, then you are likely keeping an eye on when the wage rates change each year.

As of October 1st 2015, and until April 2016 when the National Living Wage is introduced for employees who are 25 and over, the Minimum Wage rates are as follows:

Year 21 and over 18 to 20 Under 18 Apprentice*
2015 (current rate) £6.70 £5.30 £3.87 £3.30

*for apprentices aged 16 to 18 and those aged 19 or over who are in their first year.

Ongoing in 2015

Auto Enrolment

You may have heard the dreaded words ‘Auto Enrolment’ around, and thought that it’s some massive change that’s still yet to come. But the truth is there are loads of businesses that have been signing up over the past year, and some have been for a while now.

As it’s not until well, about now, that businesses with under 30 staff have had to begin the Auto Enrolment process, you may not have even thought about it yet. But you should certainly start to as soon as possible.

If you don’t know your staging date, or don’t even know what that is, we’d suggest you take a look at our Auto Enrolment checklist and find out the basics of workplace pensions now.

Holiday Pay

This year we also saw the European Court and the English courts agree that Holiday Pay was to be calculated including overtime and commission, although the details of how exactly to calculate this remain unclear. Whilst the impact on businesses in the UK would appear to have been limited by new government regulation limiting backdated Holiday Pay claims to a maximum of two years, it will be sure to impact on them in future.

If this affects you now, you have two choices:

  1. You could decide to do nothing, and to wait for more detailed decisions, or the outcome of any appeal. Or to wait and see if there is any further intervention by government. You may, however, be exposed to costly and time consuming legal claims from employees.
  2. You could decide to try to mitigate any potential downside to your business now and, where practical, start including an average level of commission in calculations of holiday pay for the four weeks of leave covered by Working Time Regulations. Even if that then means negotiating a different commission structure for your employees.

If you need help deciding what would be right for your small business, do please get in touch with us.

Working Time Regulations

In the first of two cases on Working Time this year, an English court case decided that attendance by employees to Health & Safety or even Trade Union meetings can in fact count as ‘working time’ under the EU’s Working Time Regulations – the laws which set the amount of time employees can be asked to work.

A second European case about some Spanish workers also showed that travel to and from work by those with no fixed workplace is also counted as ‘working time’.

These new updates are most important for those with staff on or close to the National Minimum Wage (NMW). At the moment travel to and from work is not covered by the law on NMW but employees should be paid to at least NMW on average. So, if you plan to pay them less for the travelling time you will have to be careful this does not take their overall average below NMW. For employees 25 and over, this will then mean not taking them below the higher National Living Wage from April next year.

If you need more advice on any of the above legal cases, then do please get in touch on 0333 444 0165.

 

So, as you can see, there are quite a few changes to the law that were introduced in 2015, as well as various employment tribunal cases that have delivered subtle new interpretations of the law as it stands.

If you look at this list and feel out of your depth, or want to get more information on what this means for your business, feel free to get in touch with our team of HR experts today. Our phone number is 0333 444 0165, or you can get in touch with us right here.

 

 

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