firm news

Emma O'Connor
Emma O'Connor,
October changes
24 September 2014

New rights for fathers and partners to attend antenatal appointments

A right for eligible employees and agency workers to accompany their wives, partners or expectant mothers to antenatal appointments is to be introduced from 1 October 2014. Qualifying individuals will be allowed to take unpaid leave to accompany a pregnant woman to two antenatal appointments, for up to a maximum of six and a half hours for each appointment.

Employers will not be entitled to ask to see the actual appointment card or letter, but can ask the employee for a signed declaration stating the details of the appointment, how the employee is eligible to attend and confirming the time off is for the purpose of attending the ante-natal appointment which has been made following medical advice.

The following employees and agency workers are eligible to attend:

  • the baby’s father
  • the expectant mother’s spouse, her civil partner, or partner (of either sex) in an enduring relationship
  • intended parents of a child in a surrogacy arrangement if they expect to be entitled to and intend to apply for a parental order in respect of that child

Any employees or agency workers who seek to exercise this new statutory right are protected in law from any detriment arising from the exercise of that right. If an employee is dismissed as a result of exercising or seeking to exercise this right then the dismissal is automatically unfair.

Employers will need to ensure that their maternity policies are updated to take into account these new changes and also that their managers are aware of the new right and the information they can ask the employee for.

National Minimum Wage increase

The National Minimum Wage will change from 1 October 2014. The new rates will be as follows:

  • The standard adult rate (for workers aged 21 and over) will rise by 3% to £6.50 an hour (up 19p from £6.31).
  • The youth development rate (for workers aged between 18 and 20) will rise by 2% to £5.13 an hour (up 10p from £5.03).
  • The young workers rate (for workers aged under 18 but above the compulsory school age who are not apprentices) will rise by 2% to £3.79 an hour (up 7p from £3.72).
  • The rate for apprentices will rise by 2% to £2.73 an hour (up 5p from £2.68).
  • The accommodation offset will rise by 3.5% to £5.08 a day (up 17p from £4.91).

The increases follow recommendations from the Low Pay Commission which were accepted by the government earlier this year. The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, has accepted the plan for bigger increases in the National Minimum Wage in future, provided that economic conditions continue to improve.

Changes to Employment Tribunal powers

From 1 October 2014 Employment Tribunals will have the power to order equal pay audits where an employer is found guilty of gender discrimination in relation to contractual or non-contractual pay matters. These will only apply in relation to equal pay claims presented on or after that date.

An equal pay audit involves an employer comparing the pay of protected employee groups who are doing equal work within the organisation, in this case investigating the causes of any pay gaps by gender and planning to close any gaps that cannot be justified. The equal pay audit entails a commitment to put right any unjustified pay inequalities and this means that the audit must have the involvement and support of managers with the authority to deliver the necessary changes.

Military Reservists

Currently when military reservists are called up they are paid directly by the Ministry of Defence - employers can then claim expenses in respect of additional costs incurred whilst replacing the reservist (at a maximum of £110 per day).

From 1 October 2014, small and medium employers will also be able to receive up to £500 per month for each full month a reservist is absent from work (reduced pro rata for parts of a month, or part-time workers).

Additionally, if an employee’s employment is terminated after 1 October 2014 they will not need to have two years employment in order to qualify for an unfair dismissal claim, so long as the dismissal is connected with the employee's membership of the Reserve Forces. This is not to say that the claim will be deemed to be automatically unfair, but it will be possible for such employees to claim for unfair dismissal from the first day of their employment.

For details of these changes or for information about how these changes could affect your business, please contact our Employment Team on 0118 952 7284 or submit an enquiry.

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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