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Emma O'Connor
Emma O'Connor,
2015 - The year that is...
07 January 2015

As we welcome in the New Year, below is a summary of key employment legislative changes and developments from January 2015...

April 2015

Shared Parental Leave

Perhaps the biggest change to legislation comes with the introduction from the 5 April 2015, of Shared Parental Leave (SPL). Mothers will continue to be able to take 52 weeks’ of maternity leave (39 weeks paid) and fathers/partners will continue to be able to take 2 weeks’ statutory paternity leave. However, SPL will allow eligible employees to share maternity or adoption leave. Rules apply equally to adopting couples.

The rules of eligibility are complex and essentially it is only where both parents are ‘employed’ where leave can be shared. Parents will have to meet a ‘continuity of employment’ test, whilst any partner will have to meet an ‘employment and earnings’ test. Where one parent is not employed but meets the tests of eligibility, leave may not be shared but the qualifying parent could choose to manage their leave flexibly under the SPL rules.

Parents can only use SPL once the mother has curtailed her maternity leave (or adoption leave) or has returned to work. Employees must give their employer at least 8 weeks’ notice as to when their Shared Parental Leave will start as well as complying with eligibility requirements.

Please see our Shared Parental Leave Guide as to what your organisation should be doing and when.

Changes to Adoption Leave

From the 5 April 2015, the government is changing rights to adoption leave and pay. Adoption leave will become a “day one” right, so employees will no longer need to have 26 weeks’ continuous employment to be eligible. The Statutory Adoption Pay will also change to bring it in line with maternity pay. The first six weeks will be paid at 90% of the employee’s normal earnings.

Under the Children and Families Act 2014 and the Paternity and Adoption Leave (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (‘PALA’), both single and joint adopters will be eligible for paid time off to attend adoption appointments. The main adopter will be able to take paid time off for up to five adoption appointments. The secondary adopter will be entitled to take unpaid time off for up to two appointments. This right applies only to employees and eligible agency workers and allows up to a maximum of 6.5 hours for each adoption appointment. Also, if an employee has exercised the right to paid time off to attend an adoption appointment they cannot then elect to take paternity leave rather than adoption leave. Employers and agency workers who are entitled to take time off to attend adoption appointments will be able to bring a tribunal claim if their employer has unreasonably refused to let them take paid or unpaid time off to attend adoption appointments or failed to pay all or part of any amount to which they were entitled when exercising the right to take paid time off.

Adoption leave rights will also be extended to couples fostering children as part of a Fostering for Adoption scheme as well as new rights for couples adopting a child born to a surrogate mother.

Parental Leave

The limitation regarding how employees take parental leave will also be removed. It used to be that parental leave was available in addition to maternity/paternity/adoptive leave, giving an employee the entitlement to take up to 18 weeks' of unpaid leave up to their child’s fifth birthday (or 18th in the case of a disabled child). This has now been amended and the leave can now be taken at any time before a child’s 18th birthday.

Health Advisory Service

From April 2015, the government is launching its new health and work assessment and advisory service. The service will offer free occupational health assistance for employees, employers and GPs either online or via the telephone. The service can provide an occupational health assessment after four weeks of sickness absence. 

Onshore Employment Intermediaries

From 6 April, expect legislation regulating the use of personal service companies in an attempt to tackle ‘false self-employment’. The new measures are aimed at preventing employment intermediaries being used to avoid employment taxes and obligations by disguising employment as self-employment. ‘False self-employment’ takes place where an employment agency avoids the obligation of having to deduct PAYE through a carefully constructed contract of self-employment, so the worker is paid gross without having the need to work via a Personal Service Company. The worker being self-employed can claim tax relief on their expenses and so the arrangement provides a positive outcome for all parties. 

May – General Election

Is it really this time again? For details of what employment changes are promised in the respective Parties’ manifestos please see our 2015 review HERE.

Later on in 2015…

Caste discrimination is expected to be made a specific protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. Although at the end of 2014 the Employment Appeal Tribunal rejected an appeal to strike out a claim for caste discrimination, finding that the definition of "race" in the Equality Act 2010, which includes "ethnic origin", is wide enough to encompass caste. The fact that the government is required to amend the Equality Act 2010 to provide expressly that caste is protected, but has not yet done so, did not prevent the claim proceeding on the basis of the current law. (Chandhok and another v Tirkey UK [2014].)

Also, new child tax credit rules will be introduced in the Autumn.

For details of up coming legislation changes, please keep reading our People in Focus updates. We also look forward to welcoming you at our in-person training events – details are on our events page.

For more information about the issues in this article or to find out more about how the Employment team can help you please contact the team on 0118 952 7284 or email [email protected].

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

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