Beware of significant employment law changes

Changes to employment law, including increased parental rights, greater scrutiny concerning equal pay in the workplace and a rise in the national minimum wage came into force today, 1st October, advise specialists at Linder Myers Solicitors.

As part of wider legal changes to support families, from the 1st October husbands, civil partners or partners of pregnant women will be entitled to unpaid leave to attend up to two ante-natal appointments.

Significantly, further rights will be afforded to parents from 1st December when both parties will be able to choose how they want to share the care and parental leave during their child’s first year (this only applies to children whose expected week of birth begins on, or after, 5th April 2015 or those placed for adoption on, or after, this date).

Under the new rules, mothers will still take a minimum of the initial two weeks off, but will have the option to end their maternity absence after this period in order to share the remaining leave as flexible working parental leave.

Another crucial change for employers to be aware of is that Tribunals have been given greater powers and can now order businesses identified as being in breach of their equal pay obligations to carry out internal audits. The results of these, which have to identify any differences in pay between male and female employees, and significantly, the reasons for the disparity, will have to be published on the employer’s website and remain there for a minimum of three years.

David Southern, employment specialist at Linder Myers Solicitors in Preston commented: “Employment law is constantly changing and it is critical for business owners to remain diligent to ensure legal compliance. I would draw business owners’ attention particularly to new equal pay rules. If they are found to be in breach of these, the penalty of publishing the results of an audit on their company website will at the very least prove detrimental to their reputation amongst competitors, clients, existing and future employees.

“We recommend an annual health check of employment contracts and internal policies not only as a box ticking exercise but more importantly, to arm business owners with the tools to protect their commercial interests both today and in the future.” A further change for employers to be aware of is the increase in the national minimum wage. The standard adult wage has risen from £6.31 to £6.50 per hour; 18 – 20 year olds should now be paid at least £5.13 per hour (an increase of 10 pence); pay for 16 – 17 year olds has risen by seven pence per hour to £3.79 while apprentices are now entitled to £2.73 per hour, a rise from £2.68.