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Employment law forecast for 2015

With a new year comes a whole lot of employment law changes for employers in the UK to get their heads around. We’ve put together a quick guide to help you understand the key changes you need to know about.

Preparing for auto-enrolment

Pensions auto-enrolment has been looming on the horizon for the last few years, but 2015 will see it become a practical reality for many smaller firms. From 1st January, businesses with 58 employees on their PAYE scheme will be affected and by the end of the year some businesses with 30 employees on a PAYE scheme will be legally obliged to automatically enrol those employees into a suitable pension.

Your first step should be to work out your staging date, if you don’t already know it. Members of the Forum can also take advantage of a free consultation and a tailored report detailing the next steps you need to take, ideas of costs and the options available to you. Call 0845 130 1722 for more information.

Shared parental leave

Employees who are the parents of children born on or after 5th April 2015, will have the right to request shared parental leave and pay. The new rules work by a couple being allowed to share some of the mother’s entitlement to maternity leave by opting into shared parental leave (SPL).

As the law changed back in December, you could receive and have to respond to requests now.

You can read a brief summary of the changes here, but the regulations are incredibly complex so we advise all Forum members to contact us as soon as they receive a request.

Fit for Work Service

Last year, government scrapped the Percentage Threshold Scheme, meaning employers can no longer claim back Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from HM Revenue & Customs (though you do have until 1st April 2016 to make a claim for the 2013/14 financial year).

Though financial support is no longer available for employers, they will be able to use the Fit for Work Service to try to prevent long periods of absence. The service will provide advice and support to help employers who have staff members with sickness absence over 4 weeks get them back into work. Following an assessment, employees will be given a return to work plan, which will provide evidence of fitness to work.

The Fit for Work Service is currently being rolled out and should be fully operational by Spring 2015. Again, Forum members should contact the helpline on 0845 130 1722 when dealing with absence.

Age limit for parental leave raises to 18

Parental leave, the statutory right to a period of unpaid leave that may be taken by a parent during the first five years of the child’s life will be extended to cover parents up to a child's 18th birthday from 5th April 2015.

Rates of pay increase

From 5th April, maternity pay, paternity pay and adoption pay increase to £139.58 per week and statutory sick pay will increase to £88.45 per week.

More rights for adoptive and surrogate parents

From 5th April, parents taking adoption leave will have the same eligibility requirements and statutory pay as those taking maternity leave. Surrogate parents will also become eligible for adoption leave.

Holiday pay ruling

From July 2015 employers will need to take into account overtime and commission when calculating holiday pay, so that it is calculated on their actual earnings, not basic pay. Where hours and earnings vary, holiday pay should be based on an average of their actual earnings calculated over a 12 week reference period.

In addition to this, employees will also be able to back date claims for up to two years.

Obesity ruling

At the very end of last year came a ruling from the European Court that could have serious repercussions for UK employers.

Following a case brought by a childminder in Denmark who claimed that he had been dismissed for being morbidly obese, the Court ruled that whilst obesity itself was not a protected characteristic under the Equality Act, health issues that are a direct consequence of obesity could be classed as a disability and therefore be covered under the Act.

The ruling is automatically binding under UK law, which could leave businesses open to potential claims or being required to make reasonable adjustments. As with any potentially discriminatory issues, you should always seek legal advice before taking action.

Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill

And finally, rumbling on in the distance are a number of potential legal changes all wrapped up in the ‘Small Business Bill’. These include potential employment law changes such as tougher penalties for non-payment of the National Minimum Wage, as well as changes to tribunals, zero hours contracts and whistleblowing legislation.

Also contained are measures for regulatory reform that would create a legal definition of small and micro businesses for use where it is necessary to exempt smaller businesses from laws that affect them disproportionately. We are watching this eagerly to see how this will be implemented.

To find out how the Forum can help you to protect your business and stay on top of legislation changes, call us now on 0845 130 1722.

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