Winds of change in October
Author: Antonia Blackwell
The first day of October 2014 is a day of change for employers because it is one of the government's two annual 'common commencement dates.'
We take a look at the key changes in employment law introduced from this October.
Time off to attend ante-natal appointments
Employees and agency workers with a minimum of 12 weeks service (with the same hirer) will be entitled to take unpaid time off work to accompany the expectant mother to an ante-natal appointment (on up to two occasions) where the appointment is made on the advice of a health professional. The right to time off is capped at 6.5 hours for each appointment.
An employer is not entitled to ask for evidence of the ante-natal appointment, such as an appointment card, as this is the property of the expectant mother attending the appointment. However, an employer is entitled to ask for a declaration stating the date and time of the appointment and confirming that the employee or agency worker is either the child's father or the mother's spouse, partner or civil partner and that the time off is for the purpose of attending an ante-natal appointment.
Equal pay audits
From 1 October, employment tribunals will have the power to order employers who are found to be in breach of equal pay law under the Equality Act 2010 (those who have lost an equal pay claim brought on or after 1 October 2014) to carry out equal pay audits.
An employment tribunal will not order an audit where it considers that:
- an equal pay audit carried out by the employer in the preceding 3 years meets certain requirements
- it is clear what action is required to avoid equal pay breaches continuing or occurring without the need for an audit
- the breach does not indicate there may be other breaches
- the disadvantages of an audit outweigh its benefits
The audit must identify any differences in pay between men and women and the reasons for these as well as the reasons for any equal pay breach and the employer's plans for avoiding further breaches in the future. As well as carrying out the audit, the employer will be required to publish the relevant gender pay information.
Publication includes putting the information on the employer's website for at least 3 years and telling employees where they can get a copy. This means the information will be available to potential job applicants and competitors and could have far reaching consequences for employers.
National minimum wage
Following tradition, the national minimum wage rates for all workers will increase from 1 October 2014. Those aged 21 and over will be entitled to a minimum wage of £6.50 per hour, 18-20 year olds £5.13 per hour, 16-17 year olds £3.79 per hour and apprentices £2.73 per hour.
From 1 October 2014 if an employee is dismissed exclusively (or mainly) because he or she is a member of the reserve forces, the normal two-year service requirement for bringing an unfair dismissal claim will not apply. A power will also be introduced for the Secretary of State to make payments to small and medium-sized employers of reservists who are called out for service.
This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.