January 2014 brought Transfer of Undertaking (TUPE) changes to the rules allowing for ‘fair’ dismissals in genuine location/place of work redundancies situations following appropriate consultation, it also addressed the ability to make changes to terms and conditions, and extended the period to provide employee liability information.
April 2014 saw early conciliation by ACAS in employment tribunal claims introduced from 6 April 2014 with these becoming compulsory from 6 May 2014.
Also the cap on the compensatory award was increased to £76,574 and that of a week’s pay to £464.
Discrimination questionnaires were scrapped in April 2014 although potential claimants are still able to make requests for information and statistics from their employers, and it is still possible for a Tribunal to take answers into account when determining claims.
April 2014 additionally had the normal SSP/SMP/SPP/SAP (Sick pay/maternity pay/paternity pay/Statutory Adoption pay) increases to £87.55 per week (up from £86.70) and £138.18 per week (up from £136.78).
June 2014 allowed all staff with 26 weeks employment to be able to request to work flexibly. It was no longer the sole bastion of parents and carers. And Employers only had to consider such requests in a “reasonable” manner rather than follow the complicated previous statutory procedure.
October 2014 saw five key changes
- Expectant fathers, or the partner of a pregnant woman, became entitled to take unpaid time off work to attend antenatal appointments with their partner on up to two occasions.
- Employment tribunals gained power to order employers to carry out equal pay audits where they have been found to have breached equal pay law, or to have discriminated because of sex in non-contractual pay.
- The National Minimum Wage hourly rates increased
- The Adult hourly rate to £6.50
- For 18 – 20 year olds the hourly rate to £5.13
- For apprentices the hourly rate to £2.73
- For the under 18 year olds the hourly rate to £3.79
- The Defence Reform Act 2014, amended S.108 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 to add another so called ‘protected’ characteristic that does not require the minimum qualifying period of employment to be able to bring a claim of unfair dismissal; this being if the reason is the employee’s membership of a reserve force.
- A new Health and Work Service was introduced, offering free occupational health assistance to employees, employers and GPs, including an independent assessment of employees who have been off sick for four weeks.
So what does 2015 have in store?
In April there are planned changes to family leave as follows:
- Parental leave:the age limit of the child will increase from 5 years to 18 years.
- Maternity/adoption leave:other than the compulsory maternity leave, may in future be shared and taken as “Shared Parental Leave”.
- Adoption appointments:a new right for sole/primary adopters to take paid leave to attend up to five adoption appointments and for secondary adopters to take unpaid leave to attend two such appointments.
- Additional statutory paternity leave: will be abolished.
Also during 2015 The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill will be introduced which will bring together and update a number of small but important employment law changes such as introducing a ban on exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts, increasing the fines for NMW breaches per employee, limiting the number of applications allowed to postpone employment tribunal hearings and extra penalties for employers who don’t pay tribunal awards. It will also require certain ‘prescribed’ persons to report annually on the whistleblowing disclosures they receive whilst separately increase funding to achieve a target of 2 million apprentices in 2015 and finally requiring redundant public sector employees who then return to work in the public sector soon after leaving their original jobs to repay all or some of their termination payment.
So do you feel you have kept up with the changes so far or did they mostly pass you by? I don’t expect this rate of change to let up and expect 2015 to continue to bring more changes, that we haven’t even had signed posted yet, to come to fruition. I would have to say (excitedly) it looks likely to be an interesting year for all HR and employment law practitioners.
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