Employment law changes April 2015

Posted by Ruth Christy on
Many employers will be aware of changes which have been well-publicised for a long time, such as the introduction of Shared Parental Leave. However there are a number of changes that have been less well publicised. Of the large number of family friendly changes, most took effect on 5 April. Other employment law changes, such as the limit on a week's pay for redundancy payments, took effect from 6 April.

Our 2015-16 Employment law Handy Fact Card contains the new redundancy and compensation limits, family friendly rights and other useful employment law facts and figures.

Family friendly changes from 5 April 2015

  • Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) is available to eligible parents of babies who are expected, or children who are placed for adoption, on or after 5 April. We have produced a handy flowchart of the SPL process here. For our previous articles on Shared Parental Leave and Pay please see 'Ten myths about Shared Parental Leave and Pay'. Employers should ensure that they now have an SPL policy as well as relevant forms and letters in place – please contact us if you need help with these or training for your staff. 
  • Additional Paternity Leave and Pay is abolished for babies expected or children placed for adoption on or after this date, BUT remember that it continues to be available to parents if the child was expected or placed for adoption on or before 4 April. This means that policies referring to APL will continue to be relevant for up to a year. Employers are advised to keep the information and forms available even they decide to remove it from certain policies.
  • As of 5 April, unpaid Parental Leave (ie the EU-derived right which has been available for parents with at least one year's service for a number of years – not to be confused with Shared Parental Leave) may now be taken any time up to a child's 18th birthday. Previously it had been restricted to parents with children under 5, unless the child was disabled or adopted. There are no transitional provisions, so this less well-known change could take some employers by surprise, and again policies will need to be updated.
  • Adoption leave is extended to primary adopters regardless of length of service as of 5 April. Previously, unlike maternity leave, adopters had to have 26 weeks' qualifying service to be eligible. Now there is no service requirement for adoption leave, but note that the requirement for 26 weeks' service for Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) remains, just as it does for Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP), Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP) and Shared Parental Pay (ShPP).
  • Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) is brought into line with SMP for adoption pay periods (APP) which begin on or after 5 April. This means that adopters will receive 90% of their pay for the first six weeks of adoption leave, followed by the prescribed rate for up to 33 weeks. Previously adopters had only been entitled to the prescribed rate for up to 39 weeks. The eight weeks' average earnings are calculated from the last pay day on or before the end of the week in which the adopter is notified of being matched with the child. Note that this change does not affect adopters whose APP began before 5 April. Adoption policies will need to reflect the abolition of the service requirement and revised rate of SAP.
  • The new prescribed rate of SMP, SAP, ShPP and SPP (for ordinary or additional paternity leave) rose from £138.18 to £139.58 per week from 5 April.
  • Adoption appointments are available for prospective adoptive parents as of 5 April. An adoption appointment is an appointment arranged by the adoption agency for a prospective adopter to have contact with the child or for any other purpose connected with the adoption. For a single or primary adopter, the entitlement is to paid time off during working hours for up to 5 appointments. For a secondary adopter, the entitlement is to unpaid time off during working hours for up to 2 appointments. Employers need to build this new right and the evidential requirements into adoption policies. Other considerations include, for example, whether paid (rather than unpaid) time off will be allowed for the secondary adopter.
  • Adoption leave is also extended to:
    - prospective parents in a surrogacy arrangement who intend to apply for a Parental Order within 6 months of the child's birth, if the child was due to be born on or after 5 April. There are a number of other eligibility requirements.
    - local authority foster parents involved in the 'Fostering for adoption' scheme, if the child is placed on or after 5 April.

Other employment law changes from 6 April 2015

  • The limit on a week's pay for the purposes of statutory redundancy pay and the basic award for unfair dismissal rose from £464 to £475 on 6 April. In addition, the maximum compensatory award for most unfair dismissal claims rose from £76,574 to £78,335, or 52 weeks' pay, whichever is the lower. The new limits will apply to dismissals which take effect on or after 6 April 2015. If the dismissal occurred before 6 April 2015, the old limit still applies even if compensation is awarded after that date.
  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) rose from £87.55 to £88.45 from 6 April.
  • The Lower Earnings Limit, which is relevant to eligibility for SMP etc, rose from £111 to £112 per week on 6 April.
  • Student nurses and student midwives are brought within the definition of 'worker' for the purposes of whistleblowing legislation from 6 April.
  • The National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015 come into force from 6 April, consolidating a number of NMW regulations and amending legislation (but making no actual changes to the law).

Other recent changes employers need to be aware of is the coming into force of a new offence of 'drug driving' on 2 March, the criminal offence of requiring individuals to make subject access requests to the police for criminal records on 10 March, and a revised 2015 version of the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures on 11 March (please see our previous article on this topic for further information.)

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Ruth provides guidance for clients and keeps them up to date with the fast pace of change in employment law.

Ruth Christy
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