In 2015, employers will have to adjust to a number of changes in employment legislation. In particular, April 2015 is set to be a busy month (and who knows what will happen after the general election, which will take place on 7 May). Below you will find some key dates and changes to watch out for. Employers can prepare by updating their policies and training managers in their application.
The new Health and Work Service aimed at employees on sickness absence for more than four weeks will be rolled out across the UK from the start of 2015, following the launch of an advisory website in December 2014. The Government published Fit for Work guidance on the new scheme aimed at employers, employees and GPs on 2 January 2015.
5 April 2015
An important date affecting working parents.
- Parents of children due to be born or placed for adoption on or after this date will benefit from the new system of ‘shared parental leave’. This effectively enables both parents to share a period of leave of nearly a year and replaces additional paternity leave. The new system is complex though – so tackle it early to get ahead.
- The right of parents to take up to 4 weeks’ unpaid parental leave each year will be extended beyond the child’s 5th birthday up to their 18th birthday (subject to the existing limit of 18 weeks in total).
- The rights of adopters will be brought closer to those of birth parents. For example: they will be entitled to take a limited amount of time off to attend pre-placement contact appointments; they will be entitled to more statutory adoption pay (an equivalent to the 6 weeks’ higher rate statutory maternity pay); and they will also no longer have to be employed for a continuous period of 26 weeks before being entitled to take adoption leave.
- Adoption rights will also be extended to local authority foster parents who are fostering a child under the ‘Fostering for Adoption’ scheme.
These changes follow on the heels of the late 2014 changes benefiting the parents of children born to surrogate mothers.
6 April 2015
The start of the new tax year and a key date for financial changes affecting employers.
- The annual increase to statutory maternity/adoption/paternity/redundancy pay (amongst others) will take effect.
- New provisions under the Finance Bill 2014 intended to combat false self-employment through personal service companies will become law. See here for HMRC’s view on the interaction between these provisions and the current ‘IR35’ rules: “http://bit.ly/1vT7Zvg
1 July 2015
A new 2 year limit on claims for back-pay in all claims for unpaid wages, including claims for unpaid holiday pay, will apply to claims commenced on or after 1 July 2015. See “https://www.withersworldwide.com/news-publications/new-2-year-limit-on-claims-for-backdated-pay
Legislation in progress
Other reforms have been proposed but may not be fully in place before the general election. These include:
- the proposed restriction on the use of zero hours contracts set out in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill 2014-15;
- the proposed introduction of a whistleblowing reporting duty in the same Bill;
- proposals to replace the current employer supported childcare scheme later in the year with a new tax free childcare scheme operated independently of employers.
Cases in the courts
Employers will continue to be affected by the ongoing litigation about holiday pay and what should be included in calculating it. A hearing about the inclusion of commission will be taking place in the employment tribunal this month.
Also of particular interest is the ‘Woolworths case’, which is of real significance to any employer operating across multiple locations. The case concerns the law on collective consultation where there is a proposal to dismiss as redundant 20 or more employees ‘at one establishment’. After employees at numerous Woolworths branches were made redundant at the height of the recession, their union convinced the Employment Appeal Tribunal that the words ‘at one establishment’ should be disregarded, thereby entitling employees at smaller branches to the benefit of collective consultation alongside their colleagues elsewhere.
The Government was allowed to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal, who then referred it to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). The Advocate General is due to deliver an opinion on 5 February 2015 and the ECJ will then consider the matter and give their judgment. Whilst the Advocate General’s opinion does not bind the ECJ it is often followed in practice.
For more information on the changes, or if you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.