Employment Law Update

October 2014

As is often the case, the 1st October brings a number of reforms to employment law. There are some key changes taking effect from the 1st October 2014, of which your business should be aware.

Power to order Equal Pay Audits

Tribunals now have a new remedy available to them in relation to equal pay claims. From the 1st October, Tribunals are able to order an Employer to conduct an Equal Pay Audit.

However, this remedy is only available if the Employer has been found to be in breach of equal pay law, under the Equality Act 2010. This means that employers who have lost an equal pay claim brought on or after 1 October 201, may be ordered to carry out an Equal Pay Audit.

The audit will have to identify any differences in pay between men and women, and the reasons for these; as well as the reasons for any equal pay breach and how the employer plans to avoid further breaches in the future.

The employer will be required to publish the relevant information and make it available on its website for at least three years. Because of this, the information is available to competitors, customers and potential job applicants.

Therefore, having such an order made against an Employer, is potentially far more damaging than any single financial award that an Employer may be ordered to pay to a successful employee.  The publication of the Audit could damage your businesses reputation and goodwill.

Businesses and employers need to be aware of this new power. Its existence may well make settlement and conciliation much more attractive to employers, simply to negate the risk of having an Audit ordered.

National Minimum Wage Increase

The annual increase to national minimum wage rates for all workers will take effect, such that from 1 October 2014:

  • Workers aged 21 and over will be entitled to £6.50 per hour
  • 18-20 year olds will be entitled to £5.13 per hour
  • 16-17 year olds will be entitled to £3.79 per hour
  • Apprentices will be entitled to £2.73 per hour

Time off for ante-natal appointments

New provisions set out in Part 8 of the Childrens and Families Act 2014 come into force from the 1st October 2014.

Under the new provisions, an employee who has a ‘qualifying relationship’ with the expectant mother or expected child, is now entitled to take time off during working hours to attend ( by accompanying the woman), up to a maximum of 2 (two) antenatal appointments.

A person has a qualifying relationship if they are the husband or civil partner of the mother; they live with the mother in an enduring family relationship or if they are the father of the child.

The right to time off is capped at 6.5 hours for each appointment.

An employer is not entitled to ask for any evidence of the ante-natal appointments, such as an appointment card, as this is the property of the expectant mother attending the appointment.

However, an employer is entitled to ask the employee for a declaration stating the date and time of the appointment; that the employee qualifies for the unpaid time off through his or her relationship with the mother or child; and that the time off is for the purpose of attending an ante-natal appointment with the expectant mother that has been made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, nurse or midwife.

Employers must be aware of this new entitlement for fathers. It is another stage for implementing the government’s plans for a culture of family friendly employment practices. Business must be flexible to ensure no complaints are made against them to the Tribunal for unreasonably refusing the time off, and to ensure that their male staff feel able to be involved in the months leading up to the birth of their child.

Please contact our employment expert Albert Bargery for further information.