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Employment law: what to expect in 2015

BY Gerry O'Hare
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

It’s that time of year again - everyone’s looking forward to getting away from work for a few days and indulging in mince pies and possibly a sherry or two.

But it's also the time when we reflect on the year gone by and look forward to what the New Year will bring. In the world of employment law we have a lot to reflect on from 2014. The year saw the Government continue to press ahead with its review of employment legislation bringing a number of changes including mandatory pre claim conciliation for Employment Tribunal claims and an overhaul of the flexible working rules.

The 2014 changes and those that are due to take place in 2015 generally fall within one of two Government agendas – (1) wide-ranging deregulation, with the aim of boosting economic recovery; and (2) the creation of more modern, flexible workplaces. We will certainly see more of both in 2015; here’s a brief overview of what to expect.

Time off for adopters to attend appointments regarding the adoption: from April 2015 primary adopters will be entitled to paid time off to attend five appointments, each lasting a maximum of 6.5 hours. Partners will be entitled to take unpaid time off to attend two of the appointments.

New system of shared parental leave (SPL): Parents of babies born on or after 5th April 2015 will be entitled to share up to 52 weeks’ leave and 39 weeks’ statutory pay. Employer must allow employee to take SPL in a single block. Employee can request to take leave in non-continuous blocks, however, employer not obliged to agree. SPL can be taken consecutively or concurrently (i.e. both parents can be on SPL at same time).

Introduction of new childcare costs scheme:  from Autumn 2015 qualifying working families will be entitled to claim 20% of qualifying childcare costs for children under 5, up to a maximum of £2,000 per child per year. This scheme replaces the current salary-sacrifice childcare voucher scheme and does not rely on the employer’s participation.

Health and Work assessment and advisory service: to include (a) state-funded assessment by occupational health professionals for employees who are off sick for four weeks or more; and (b) case management for employees with complex needs to facilitate their return to work. The scheme is due to go live in April 2015.

National minimum wage penalties: In March 2014, the penalty for failing to pay NMW was increased from 50% of total underpayment to 100%, with the cap on the penalty being increased from £5,000 to £20,000. It is proposed that the penalty will be increased further from £20,000 per employer to £20,000 per underpaid worker. However, the proposals are still working their way through Parliament with no firm implementation date.

Caste HR: a consultation is expected to be launched in Autumn 2015 regarding the proposal to expressly include “caste” in the definition of “race”. One Employment Tribunal has already interpreted the definition of “race” as including “caste”.

Penalties for Respondents who don’t pay Tribunal awards on time: it is proposed that the penalty will be 50% of the original award, subject to a minimum of £100 and a maximum of £5,000 (with a 50% discount on the penalty if outstanding award and penalty paid within 14 days). Currently only around half of all Claimants who are successful at Tribunal are actually paid their Tribunal awards. However, the proposals are still working their way through Parliament with no firm implementation date.

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