After the drama of the Scottish independence referendum and the party political fanfare of conference season, you’d be forgiven for missing a number of changes in employment law which came into force on 1 October 2014.
Both employers and employees should be aware of how these changes may affect them, so we have set out an overview of some of the main differences:
Equal Pay Audits
From 1 October 2014, Employment Tribunals have the power to order employers to carry out equal pay audits where the Tribunal has found that the employer breached equal pay law or discriminated because of sex in non-contractual pay. If an employer is ordered
to undertake an equal pay audit, that audit will have to be sent to the tribunal by a specified date and, if assessed by the tribunal as compliant, be published on the employer’s website (to be left there for three years). If an employer unreasonably fails
to conduct an audit, the tribunal can impose a penalty of up to £5,000.
The checklist that identifies the "prescribed persons" to whom an employee may in certain circumstances make a protected disclosure under the Employment Rights Act 1996 (as amended by the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998) has been updated. Very briefly,
a disclosure to someone external to the employee’s organisation will only be protected (subject to all of the other requirements of a protected disclosure) if the disclosure is made to one of these “prescribed persons” in certain circumstances. The list had
not been substantially updated since 1999, during which time various relevant bodies have been created, wound up or changed name.
More information about the law on whistleblowing can be found in our articles: “Blowing time on wrongdoing – does the whistleblowing legislation go far enough?” and “Important Changes to Whistleblowing Laws took effect on 25 June 2013”.
Employees who are dismissed on or after 1 October 2014 for a reason connected with their membership of a reserve force no longer need to have two years’ qualifying service to be entitled to bring an unfair dismissal claim. The dismissal of a reservist will
not automatically be unfair, but there is also protection under the Reserve Forces (Safeguard of Employment) Act 1985 under which, for example, criminal sanctions can be imposed on employers who dismiss a reservist because they are likely to be mobilised.
Pregnant women who are employees have long been able to take a reasonable amount of paid time off to attend antenatal appointments. As a result of new changes to the Employment Rights Act 1996, from 1 October 2014 employees (and some agency workers) who are
the husband, civil partner or partner of a pregnant woman, or the father or parent of the child (as well as intended surrogate parents) are entitled to take unpaid time off work in order to accompany the pregnant woman to a maximum of two antenatal appointments
(which can be up to six and a half hours each). Of course, employers can always agree to additional time off and/or paid time off if they wish.
For more information about this new right, see our article “Upping the ante” from 12 September 2014.
National Minimum Wage
The standard adult rate for workers aged 21 and over has increased from £6.31 to £6.50 per hour and the youth development rate for workers aged 18-20 has gone up from £5.03 to £5.13. All workers under 18, but above compulsory school age (who are not apprentices)
must now receive a minimum of £3.79 per hour, while recognised apprentices must be paid at least £2.73 per hour.
Changes taking effect in December 2014
From 1 December 2014, employers will not be allowed to require prospective employees to provide the results of police data access requests in order to check their criminal records for information which they would not otherwise have access to (e.g. for details
of spent convictions or mere cautions). The new provision will also apply to existing employees applying for a new position.
The government has also said that it intends to roll out the new independent Health and Work Service from December 2014 (which was previously intended to start in October 2014 but has been delayed). This is the independent occupational health report service
which will also provide support and advice for employers with employees who are absent through sickness, which has been “in the works” for some time.
For more information about any of the above or for practical commercial advice on this or
any other aspect of employment law, please contact
Kim Freeman-Smith of the Berg Employment Team on 0161 833 9211 or email her at
Follow us on Twitter: @Berg_HR
(The information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Berg or any of its partners or employees. Professional legal advice should
be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.)