Gill Taylor: Changes in employment law expected this year

Notwithstanding a possible change of government in May, charity managers would do well to familiarise themselves with some recent and impending developments, writes the sector HR consultant

Gill Taylor
Gill Taylor

Any change of government after the general election in May is likely to alter the direction of employment law, but there are some recent changes – and some impending ones – of which charity managers should be aware.

- After an Employment Appeal Tribunal ruling last year on the calculation of holiday pay, the government brought in regulations that say backdated holiday pay claims will be able to stretch back only two years. This restriction will come into force in July, so workers still have six months to make claims under the existing rules. The implication of the regulations is that the right to paid holiday is not incorporated as a term in employment contracts.

- HM Revenue & Customs has confirmed that from 6 April employers with staff under 21 will no longer have to pay class 1 secondary national insurance contributions on earnings up to the upper secondary threshold for those employees. If your charity employs someone aged over 16 but under 21, you'll have to choose one of the seven new NI categories when assessing their secondary NI contributions. See the HMRC website for further details.

- The Children and Families Act 2014 introduces a new shared parental leave system, statutory shared parental pay and changes to adoption leave and pay. The changes apply to those whose babies are due – or who adopt a child – on or after 5 April. Employees who are now pregnant or considering adoption might be starting to tell you their plans and requesting details of their future entitlements. If you offer enhanced organisational benefits in this area, the issue will be whether to extend these to all staff on shared parental leave, both men and women, given the additional cost this might bring. For those adopting, the 26-week qualifying period for adoption leave will be removed and statutory adoption pay will be brought into line with statutory maternity pay. Adopters will also be able to take paid time off for some adoption appointments from 5 April.

- The new Health and Work Service will offer all employees who have been off work for four weeks or more occupational health advice to help them return to work. After referral (usually by the GP), the service will produce a return-to-work plan for the employee, their employer and the GP. If the employee has such a plan, the service – not the GP – will be responsible for issuing further fitness-for-work certificates for the purpose of claiming statutory sick pay.

- The statutory rates for redundancy, unfair dismissal, sick pay, maternity pay, paternity pay and adoption pay might all increase in April if the normal annual revision takes place.

- The Childcare Payments Act, passed last year, will remove the present employer-supported childcare system and create a new scheme to help eligible parents with their childcare costs.

- The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill contains provisions to define a zero-hours contract and prevent the use of exclusivity clauses, to set a maximum penalty for underpaying the national minimum wage on a per-worker rather than per-notice basis, to penalise employers who do not pay employment tribunal awards, to limit tribunal postponements and to introduce annual reporting on whistleblowing disclosures.

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