Changes to Employment Law from 1st October 2014

Coinciding with the start of the new month, there are a host of changes to employment law that take effect from today. Employers should ensure that they are aware of these changes, which include:

The annual increase in the minimum wage
The key new rates applicable from today are as follows:

Workers aged over 21:                £6.50

Workers aged 18 to 20:              £5.13

Workers aged under 18:              £3.79

Apprentices:                              £2.73

The introduction of Equal Pay Audits

From today, in instances where a claim is presented to the Employment Tribunal and the employer is found to be in breach of equal pay legislation, the Employment Tribunal will be obliged in certain circumstances to order the employer to produce an Equal Pay Audit. This audit must identify any instances of differences in pay between men and women, explain why this is occurring and propose measures for dealing with the occurrence. Failure to comply with the order could lead to a £5,000 fine.

Time off for employees to accompany partner to antenatal classes

From today employees who are in a “qualifying relationship” will be able to take unpaid leave from work to accompany their pregnant partner to up to two antenatal classes. Time off for each appointment can be up to a maximum of six and a half hours.

Whistleblowing: an updated list of persons prescribed to receive qualifying disclosures

There is now an updated list of people to whom a whistleblower can make a qualifying disclosure. This includes the introduction of certain persons (e.g. the NSPCC), removal of certain persons and the change in description of certain persons (e.g. the Financial Conduct Authority). The list applies to a qualifying disclosure made from today.

The Reserve Forces

The first of two changes affecting employers is the removal of the qualifying period of service (currently 2 years) for employees in civilian employment who wish to make an unfair dismissal claim where the primary reason for their dismissal is, or is connected with, their membership of the Reserve Forces. The change is effective for employees whose employment is terminated from today onwards.

The second change is the introduction of increased financial assistance for employers of, and those carrying on a business as a partnership, members of the Reserve Forces who have been called away on service. For reservists who work 35 hours a week or more, an allowance of £500 will be paid for each calendar month that they are away on service. For periods of absence shorter than a month, or for those working less than 35 hours a week, the £500 payment will be pro-rated. However, this payment is only for small and medium sized employers and excludes public authorities.

If you wish to discuss any of the above changes and how they may impact upon your business, or if you require assistance amending any of your employee policy and procedures documentation, please contact a member of our employment team.