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Sunday, 12 April 2015 21:20

Important employment law changes

Written by  Innes Clark
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The beginning of April is one of two key dates each year when employment legislation is introduced in the UK (the other being 1 October). Various legislative changes took place on 5 and 6 April, including the introduction of shared parental leave. I have set out a summary of the changes below.

From 5 April
Shared Parental Leave (SPL)

SPL became available to parents of children due to be born or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015. Maternity leave will apply in the usual way but parents will now have the option for the mother to curtail some of her maternity leave, in order to share this with the child's father, or her partner. The leave can be taken by both parents at the same time, provided it does not exceed the 50 weeks that the mother is entitled to, following on from her 2 weeks compulsory maternity leave. Additional Paternity Leave, the precursor to SPL has been abolished where the child was born or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015. Although the concept is beautifully simple, the Regulations are complex. 

Shared Parental Pay (ShPP)

ShPP came into force alongside the SPL provisions. The parents of the child need to be eligible to receive this, and a ShPP calculator can be found here. The same rules apply in that this can be split between the parents, provided that they do not exceed the 37 weeks' pay limit (39 weeks minus the 2 weeks compulsory maternity leave& pay). ShPP is paid at the statutory rate (see below).

Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay increased to £139.58 per week. This is an increase from the previous rate of £138.18 per week.

Parental Leave (PL)

Not to be confused with Shared Parental Leave, PL, which is unpaid, has been available for several years now. As of 5 April, the right to take PL has been extended. This was previously only available to parents of children up to the age of 5 (or 18 if the child was disabled). This has now been extended to allow all parents with the relevant qualifying service the right to take a total of 18 weeks unpaid parental leave, per child, up until the child's 18th birthday. An employee requires to be employed for at least a year to qualify for PL.

Adoption

The Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2014 came into force. These Regulations remove the previous 26 weeks' service requirement before employees are entitled to adoption leave. Employees are now entitled to adoption leave from day one. This brings adoption leave on to an equal footing with maternity and paternity leave. The rate of adoption pay will also be enhanced to 90% of the employee's normal weekly earnings for the first 6 weeks, bringing it into line with statutory maternity pay.

The Shared Parental Leave and Paternity and Adoption Leave (Adoption from Overseas) Regulations 2014 came into force on 5 April. These Regulations entitle couples who are adopting a child from outside of the UK the right to Shared Parental Leave and Pay.

A new right for single and joint adopters to take time off work to attend adoption appointments came into force. The primary adopter will be entitled to take time off to attend up to five appointments for a particular adoption, whilst the secondary adopter is entitled to take time off to attend up to two adoption appointments. The time off is up to 6.5 hours per appointment.

New adoption rights under the Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations 2014 extended the current rights to adoption leave to individuals fostering a child under the "Fostering for Adoption" Scheme.

Surrogacy

The Children and Families Act 2014 permits parents who have a child through a surrogacy arrangement to take adoption leave and pay, paternity leave and pay and shared parental leave and pay, provided that they meet the eligibility criteria.

From 6 April
The maximum Employment Tribunal compensatory award cap increased from £76,574 to £78,335. As such, the cap on the compensatory award is the lower of £78,335 or 52 weeks' pay (based on the claimant's gross salary prior to their dismissal but excluding pension contributions, benefits in kind and discretionary bonuses). Dismissals for whistleblowing or related to certain health and safety reasons remain uncapped as do dismissals where there has been unlawful discrimination.

A "week's pay" also increased from £464 to £475. This is used for calculating statutory redundancy payments and Employment Tribunal basic awards.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) increased to £88.45 per week. This is an increase from £87.55 previously.

Student nurses and midwives are now included within the definition of a "worker" for whistleblowing purposes.

So, a lot happening with a particular emphasis on family friendly rights. It will be very interesting to see how the shared parental leave regime will operate in practice

Last modified on Sunday, 12 April 2015 21:24
Innes Clark

Innes Clark

Employment Lawyer
Morton Fraser Solicitors 

Website: www.morton-fraser.com/blog/employment E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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