April 2015 Employment Law Changes

March 2015

Despite the coalition’s efforts to cut red tape, the government’s final months in office see the introduction of one of the most complex sets of regulations that employers have ever had to handle. The implementation of shared parental leave and pay, which provides greater flexibility for parents to care for a child throughout its first year is the most significant of the varied changes to employment law, which are being introduced in April.

The changes to employment law coming into effect as of April are as follows:

1. Shared Parental Leave and Pay

The new system of shared parental leave and pay is introduced, aiming to provide greater flexibility in how parents share the care of their child in its first year. It is available to couples with a baby due, or children placed for adoption, on or after 5 April 2015.

The entitlement of mothers to 52 weeks' maternity leave and 39 weeks' statutory maternity pay remains, as does fathers' entitlement to two weeks' ordinary paternity leave and pay, but additional paternity leave and additional statutory paternity pay are abolished.

Parents will be able to share the mother’s maternity leave and, if available, maternity pay. Shared parental leave will also be available to employees who are, or expect to be, the parents of a child under a parental order, where the child’s expected week of birth begins on or after 5 April 2015.

Under shared parental leave, mothers will be able to commit to ending their maternity leave and pay at a future date, and share the untaken balance of leave and pay as shared parental leave with their partner. The amount of shared parental leave to which an employee is entitled will depend on the amount of leave that the other parent has taken in respect of the child.

2. Changes to Adoption Leave and Pay

The Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2014 come into force on 5 April 2015 and will make significant changes to adoption leave:

• The requirement to have 26 weeks' employment with the same employer to qualify for adoption leave is removed, coming into line with the eligibility requirements for maternity leave.

• Statutory adoption pay comes into line with statutory maternity pay by setting it at 90% of average weekly earnings for the first six weeks.

• The Regulations introduce a new right to statutory adoption leave for local authority foster parents who are prospective adopters under the “Fostering for Adoption” scheme. They also provide for paternity leave for partners of these prospective adopters.

• The Regulations further provide that paternity leave cannot be taken in relation to a child where shared parental leave has already been taken; and ensure that if an employee has exercised the right to paid time off to attend an adoption appointment he or she cannot then take paternity leave rather than adoption leave.

• Protection is provided for employees who suffer detriment or dismissal in relation to time off for adoption appointments and the right to return to work following paternity or adoption leave is amended to take account of the introduction of shared parental leave.

• Parents who have a child through a surrogacy arrangement will also become eligible for adoption leave. The leave will be available to employees who are, or expect to be, the parents of a child under a parental order, where the child’s expected week of birth begins on or after 5 April 2015. They will also be eligible for ordinary paternity leave and pay and shared parental leave and pay, provided that they meet the eligibility criteria.

3. New Right to Attend Adoption Appointments

The Children and Families Act introduces a new right to attend adoption appointments as of 5 April 2015. The main adopter will be able to take time off to attend up to five appointments, while the secondary adopter will be entitled to take time off for up to two such appointments. The time off is “for the purpose of having contact with the child or for any other purpose connected with the adoption”.

4.The right to take unpaid parental leave is extended to all parents of children under the age of 18

The right to take unpaid parental leave currently applies to parents of children under five (or 18 if the child is disabled). As of 5 April 2015, this right is extended to the parents of any child under the age of 18. Please note that this form of unpaid parental leave is different to the shared parental leave mentioned in point 1 above.

5. New rate of statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay is introduced

As of 5 April 2015, the rate of statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay increases from £138.18 per week to £139.58 per week. Statutory shared parental pay is also set at £139.58 per week.

6. Employer national insurance contributions are abolished for workers aged under 21

In order to encourage youth employment, employer National Insurance contributions are abolished for employees aged under 21, who earn up to the upper earnings limit. This change applies from 6 April 2015.

7. New rate of statutory sick pay

With effect from 6 April 2015, the standard rate of statutory sick pay (SSP) increases from £87.55 per week to £88.45 per week.

8. Limits on tribunal awards and statutory payments increase

From 6 April 2015:

• The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal increases from £76,574 to £78,335

• The maximum amount of a week’s pay, used to calculate statutory redundancy pay and other awards, such as the basic and additional awards for unfair dismissal, rises from £464 to £475.

Simply-docs will update all documents in line with these changes.

Parliament will dissolve on 30 March 2015 and the purdah period will then begin. The outcome of the election will dictate the direction of employment law from the second half of the year onwards. Simply-docs will keep you up-to-date with all of the changes affecting you and your business.

The contents of this Newsletter are for reference purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Independent legal advice should be sought in relation to any specific legal matter.

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