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Employment Law Changes in October 2008

October 2008

October usually sees changes being made to employment law and regulations, and this year is no different. Alongside the annual national minimum wage increase, the October 2008 employment law changes sees an extension to the rights of expectant mothers, adoptive parents and agency workers.

All employers should ensure that their employment policies and employment contracts are updated in line with this latest raft of changes.

Maternity and Adoption Leave

October 2008 sees an extension in the rights of those employees eligible for maternity leave and adoption leave.

Following the Maternity and Parental Leave etc. and the Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2008, those employees with an expected week of childbirth commencing on or after 5th October 2008, or those employees who expect to have a child placed with them on or after that date, will be entitled to receive their contractual benefits during their "additional" periods of leave, as well as their "ordinary" periods.

Up until now employers have only been obliged to continue to provide any contractual benefits such as company cars, gym membership or staff discounts during Ordinary Maternity Leave (in the case of mothers) and Ordinary Adoption Leave (in the case of adoptive parents), and have been able to scale back the employment relationship during Additional Maternity Leave (AML) and Additional Adoption Leave (AAL) to provide only statutory benefits, such as the right to notice and access to grievance procedures. The new Regulations mean that not only can expectant mothers and adoptive parents take a full year of leave, but they can also continue to enjoy their contractual benefits throughout their period of leave.

Crucially, the new regulations specify that the contractual benefits that employers are now obliged to continue to provide do not include the right to remuneration, and Statutory Maternity Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay are unaffected.

Simply-docs has updated the Maternity Policy and Adoption Policy in order to ensure continued compliance with the legal requirements of employers.

National Minimum Wage

1st October 2008 will see the annual increase in the National Minimum Wage take effect. The new rates are:
• For workers 22 years old and over, £5.73 per hour (up from £5.52)
• For workers aged 18 - 21 years old, £4.77 per hour (up from £4.60)
• For young workers aged 16 - 17, £3.53 per hour (up from £3.40)

The Young Worker, Night Worker and Zero Hours employment contracts have all been amended to reflect the changes in the minimum wage. All other employment contract templates remain consistent with the change in the law.

Agency Workers

Following a 2007 Court of Appeal ruling stating that agency workers on contracts of less than three months were excluded from Statutory Sick Pay (SSP), new regulations are being brought in which will reverse the position. From 27th October 2008, all such agency workers on contracts of less than three months will be able to claim SSP, providing they meet the other usual eligibility requirements.

Simply-docs has updated the Zero Hours Employment Contract to reflect this change in SSP eligibility for agency workers.

We have also introduced a new version of the Zero Hours Contract, the Zero Hours Agency Worker Contract, which provides a framework of terms and conditions for agency workers rather than an "umbrella" employment contract.

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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