What a year we have had, with a national election and some massive changes to employment legislation and case law over the course of 2015! Arguably the biggest changes for employers this year were those to family friendly provisions.
Let’s have a look back at the top 5 changes of 2015:
Introduction of Shared Parental Leave (“SPL”) on 5 April 2015, enabling parents to share a portion of the mothers maternity leave and pay between them as either continuous or discontinuous (with the employers agreement) periods of leave.
The right to take Additional Paternity Leave (“APL”) was phased out on the same date and can no longer be taken. One of the reasons for phasing out APL and introducing SPL was the low take up of APL (about 2% of parents/year). It was hoped SPL would enable parents to have more control and flexibility over the maternity period and, with the right to take 20 SPLIT days on top of the 10 maternity KIT days, it would help ease the return to work process after maternity. Although there are no statistics yet published on the rate of uptake of SPL, our experience is that very few parents are choosing to take SPL.
SPL is currently available only to the mother of the child and either her partner or the father of the child (providing they are both eligible for SPL). It is intended that this right be extended to include grandparents who will have care of the child, although this change is not expected to come into force until 2018.
Extension of the right to take parental leave from 5 April 2015. Parental leave allows parents with at least one year’s continuous service to take up to 18 weeks unpaid leave per child. Before 5 April 2015, this right only continued until
the child’s fifth birthday (or 18th birthday for disabled children only). Parental leave has now been extended to parents of all children up until the age of 18.
Amendments to the right to take adoption leave from 5 April 2015. Previously, employees to have 26 weeks of qualifying employment before they became entitled to take adoption leave. This has now been amended to become a day one right, bringing it into line with the right to take maternity leave. Since 5 April 2015 employees also have the right not to suffer detriment for taking time off to attend adoption (or for pregnant parents Ante-natal) appointments.
Changes to calculating Holiday pay – There have been a flurry of cases on holiday pay this year such as Bear Scotland (that non-guaranteed overtime should be taken into account when calculating holiday pay) and Lock v British Gas (that commission which is “intrinsically linked to performance” should be taken into account when calculating holiday pay).
After an initial panic at the number of claims that might result from these cases, new regulations were introduced in July 2015 to limit retrospective unlawful deduction from wages claims (including holiday pay) to two years. Employers were also aided by the final judgement in Bear Scotland which held that employees must demonstrate “a series of deductions” in which no more than three months has elapsed between deductions.
British Gas appealed the decision against them in May 2015 and we expect judgement in early 2016 but we do not expect them to be successful.
Ban to exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts from 26 May 2015. Following various well publicised cases in the press, such as the treatment of 300 Sports Direct employees on zero hours contracts, regulations were enacted to make exclusivity clauses unenforceable. In October 2015, further draft regulations were published providing employees on zero hours contracts with the right not to suffer detriment or be unfairly dismissed as a result of working for other businesses. These have not yet been enacted but stay tuned!
Employment rights is an area of law that changes frequently and it is important for employers to keep updated on the current law and to review their contracts and handbooks regularly to ensure they are up to date and prevent potential claims.
If you are concerned about the state of your employment contracts or handbooks, Boyes Turner are happy to review and update them to future proof you. We also offer an annual handbook review service in which, for an annual fee, we keep your handbook updated against any changes.
To find out more, please contact the employment group on 0118 952 7284 or email [email protected].
To keep updated with changes to case law and legislation, watch out for our update webinars coming in 2016!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
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.