There are numerous recent changes to employment law which might affect you and your business, so here is the first of a two-part guide outlining the most significant ones, with the second piece to follow next week.
Employment legislation is constantly changing and it is a full-time job for us professionals to keep up. It must be virtually impossible for micro and small businesses to do so, as each have so many other issues to deal with. So to help, here are what I feel are the changes you should know about so far in 2015.
It is important to note legislation changes not only due to new laws being introduced, but also current legislation being amended by statute, or in fact, by the case law decisions of higher courts.
Family-friendly legislation 2015
The most comprehensive changes I have seen this year have been the “family friendly” legislation which came into effect from April this year. All elements are designed to work together to give working parents more flexibility and to expand rights on adoption. The biggest change seen was the new right to Shared Parental Leave (replacing Additional Parental Leave).
From 5 April 2015, parents, adoptive parents, those who are deemed to have parental responsibility for a child, and who have one year’s service, now have the right to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave up to the child’s 18th birthday. Previously this was capped at a maximum of five years. Some feel this may cause a problem, particularly for small employers, if too many employees wish to use this right at the same time to, for instance, cover school holidays. We will just have to wait and see, but if this is potential risk for your business, you should ensure your procedures manage this effectively and fairly.
Previously adoption rights and rules differed from maternity leave, and the changes have simply redressed these differences. Parents who want to take adoption leave can now do so from day one of employment – they now need the same 26-week service requirement and the calculation of statutory adoption pay now mirrors those on maternity leave. Rights have also been extended to surrogate parents (who have applied for a parental order) who will now also be entitled to adoption leave. Finally, eligible adoptive parents are now entitled to take paid time off prior to any adoption to attend up to five adoption appointments. Each appointment is capped at 6.5 hours.
Shared Parental Leave
This is by far the biggest change within the “family friendly” legislation, which became available to parents of children born or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015. The partner not taking maternity/adoption leave is still able to take two weeks ordinary paternity leave, but Shared Parental Leave has now replaced Additional Paternity Leave (which has been revoked). It is important to note that this is an entirely voluntary regime and maternity/adoption leave and maternity/adoption pay remains the default system.
Despite the government’s pledge to simplify employment legislation for employers, most agree this is a complicated legislation for all to manage and understand. For this reason I have written a guide focused just on this new legislation for my clients which you are welcome to access. For now, here is a brief overview:
- Both parents must be eligible (essentially economically active to a defined level)
- Parents can share 50 weeks leave and 37 weeks statutory pay during the first year of their child’s life or post placement for adoption. The first two weeks are compulsory maternity/adoption leave period and cannot be shared
- Parents can take leave at the same time as each other, or take leave in shorter blocks interspersed with periods of work (known as discontinuous leave)
- Eligibility rules and notification requirements are not simple and I would recommend if not already done so, you ensure you have a Shared Parental Leave procedure within your handbook as a guide for managers and employees alike. If you do not already have access to HR support then I would be happy to help you
- Mirroring the maternity “Keeping in touch days”, where a person can attend work/training without ending their statutory leave period, this legislation gives 20 “SPLIT” days
Discrimination – Changes to the Equality Act
The Equality Act is to be amended so caste will be an aspect of race. This has been brought about by the case law Chandhok v Tirkey. The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) needed to decide whether the existing scope of the statutory definition of race covered caste discrimination. They found “ethnic origins” posed wide questions in relation to descent and less favourable treatment due to ethnic origins and could therefore amount to race discrimination.
Again there has now been a first tribunal case dealing with e-cigarettes at work. The case was Insley v Accent Catering. In brief, a school catering assistant resigned prior to a disciplinary hearing for allegedly bringing the company into disrepute by smoking an e-cigarette on school premises in front of students. They resigned and claimed constructive dismissal – which they lost.
Whilst the case in itself is not of great interest, the follow up comment from the judge is of interest to employers. They mentioned that if the employee had not resigned but had been fired, the dismissal may well have been judged unfair. One of the key reasons considered was that there was not a policy directing the use of use of e-cigarettes at work. Whilst the decision was made in a lower court therefore not binding on other courts or Tribunals, it is a timely reminder to employers that it would be wise to extend your existing smoking policy to include e-cigarettes, or include such a policy in your employee handbook.
Image credit: www.Vaping360.com
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