Employment law changes taking effect in October 2014

Employment law changes taking effect in October 2014office seating

The following changes to employment law come into effect on 1 October 2014:

1.    The National Minimum Wage (Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2014 will increase the various national minimum wage (NMW) rates as follows:

  • The adult rate for workers who are aged 21 and over will increase from £6.31 to £6.50 per hour.
  • The youth development rate for 18 to 20 year olds will increase from £5.03 to £5.13 per hour.
  • The young workers rate for 16 and 17 year olds who are above compulsory school age will increase from £3.72 to £3.79 per hour.
  • The apprentice rate will increase from £2.68 to £2.73 per hour.
  • The accommodation offset will increase from £4.91 to £5.08 per day.
  1. Under provisions in the Children and Families Act 2014, an employee who has a qualifying relationship with a pregnant woman or her expected child will be entitled to take unpaid time off during working hours in order that they may accompany the woman when she attends an ante-natal care appointment which is made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, registered midwife or registered nurse. This will be limited to no more than two appointments, with the maximum time off during working hours for each appointment being no more than 6.5 hours. A ‘qualifying relationship’ includes being the husband or civil partner of the pregnant woman, a person of a different or the same sex living with the woman in an enduring family relationship (but not a relative), the father or parent of the expected child, or a potential applicant for a parental order under section 54 of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008. This latter category means that an intended parent in a surrogacy arrangement will be able to legally take time off to support the surrogate mother prior to childbirth. Employers can ask employees to sign a declaration stating: (a) they have a qualifying relationship with the pregnant woman or her expected child, (b) they are taking the time off to accompany the pregnant woman to an ante-natal appointment, (c) the appointment is made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, midwife or nurse, and (d) the date and time of the appointment. However, no evidence of the pregnancy or the ante-natal appointment needs to be provided. There will also be new protections in place for employees who suffer a detriment or who are unfairly dismissed in relation to exercising their statutory right to time off to accompany to ante-natal appointments. If an employee is dismissed as a result of exercising or seeking to exercise this right, then the dismissal will be automatically unfair.
  2. The Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 2014 will revoke the current list of prescribed persons under the Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 1999 and will replace it with a new consolidated list. The broad effect of the Order is that a worker will be protected by the whistleblowing provisions in the Employment Rights Act 1996 if they make a qualifying disclosure to a person prescribed in the Order, reasonably believing that the failure disclosed is in the public interest and falls within the matters in respect of which that person is prescribed and that the information disclosed, and any allegation contained in it, are substantially true. Significant changes to the list include: the addition of HM Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), the National Crime Agency, the NSPCC, and the Office for Nuclear Regulation, and changes to the remit of the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority
  3. The Defence Reform Act 2014 (Commencement No. 2 Order) 2014 will bring into force some of the provisions of the Defence Reform Act 2014. From an employment law perspective, section 108 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 will be amended to disapply the statutory two-year qualifying period for the purposes of claiming for unfair dismissal from a reservist’s civilian employment where the reason for dismissal is connected with the employee’s membership of the reserve forces. This means such employees will be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal from the first day of their employment.
  4. The Reserve Forces (Payments to Employers and Partners) Regulations 2014 set out a new scheme for making payments to the employers of, and those carrying on business in partnership with, members of the reserve forces who are called out for service in the armed forces. At present, when called up, reservists are paid directly by the MOD – and employers can claim expenses in respect of additional costs incurred whilst replacing the reservist. From 1 October 2014, small and medium-sized employers can additionally receive up to £500 per month for each whole calendar month a full-time reservist is absent from work (reduced proportionately in relation to part calendar months or where the reservist is contracted to work less than 35 hours a week).
  5. The Equality Act 2010 (Equal Pay Audits) Regulations 2014 will require an employment tribunal to order a respondent employer who is found to have committed an equal pay breach to conduct an equal pay audit unless one of the exceptions in regulation 3 or 4 applies. The audit will have to identify the differences in pay between men and women doing equal work and explain why there are such differences. The audit must also contain an action plan for eroding the pay differences. Regulation 3 sets out four exceptions to the requirement to order the respondent to carry out an audit:
  • An audit was carried out in the last three years.
  • It is clear without an audit whether any action is required to avoid equal pay breaches occurring or continuing.
  • The breach gives no reason to think there may be other breaches.
  • The disadvantages of an audit outweigh the benefits.

Regulation 4 exempts new businesses and micro-businesses from the requirement to carry out an audit during the exemption period. The schedule to the regulations defines those kinds of businesses and the exemption period (a period of ten years from the commencement date of the regulations). The regulations also:

  • Set out the essential information which an audit must include.
  • Give power to the tribunal to determine whether an audit carried out is compliant with that part of its order relating to the content of the audit.
  • Require a respondent to publish an audit in a format accessible to all affected staff and provide the tribunal with evidence that it has done so.
  • Give power to the tribunal to impose a financial penalty of up to £5,000 on a respondent who fails to comply with an order to undertake an equal pay audit.

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