Square Circle: Alison Welsh looks at what’s coming up in 2015

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What’s coming up in 2015…?

A key change in employment law in 2015 is the right to take shared parental leave for children born or adopted on or after 5th April 2015. After the compulsory 2 weeks for the mother, parents can take up to 50 weeks of shared parental leave and 37 weeks of shared parental pay within 52 weeks of birth or placement.  Adoption leave is updated in line with statutory maternity leave plus the first six weeks of statutory adoption paid at 90% of average weekly wages. Also extended from 5th April will be the right to take 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave up to the child’s eighteenth rather than fifth birthday.

Zero hours contracts continue to be a hot topic in 2015, with the government’s response on its consultation period due, examining the potential loopholes employers may use to avoid the government’s plans to prohibit them stopping their employees from working for other employers.

Questions over holiday pay calculation are set to rumble on in 2015. Several areas require clarification, particularly around what other types of payments should be included in the calculation and what reference period should be used. The Lock v British Gas case is due to be heard in February which may provide further clarification. Current guidance is that when calculating holiday pay this should be based on an average of ‘normal’ earnings over a 12 week period.

Various reforms for the tribunal system have been proposed under the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill 2014-15 which would introduce penalties for employers who refuse to pay awards on time. This follows research which showed that only half of successful claimants are paid their awards. The number of times a party can apply to postpone or adjourn may also be limited.

Since 1st October 2013 employment tribunals have had the power to order an employer who has lost an equal pay claim to carry out an equal pay audit and publish relevant gender pay information. It will be interesting to see to what extent tribunals use this new power in the coming months, particularly with the current publicity surrounding Asda and the multi-claimant claims being pursued against the company.

The Government has published guidance on the new Fit for Work service providing advice on returning to work for employees who have been off sick for four weeks or more. It provides a state funded assessment by occupational health professionals and a case management service for more complex cases all with the aim of helping employees to return to work and reduce the cost of absence. GPs will normally refer employees but employers can also refer staff with the individual’s consent. Guidance for employers is now available and the service should be operational by May 2015.

The May general election could result in changes, with Labour promising a new tribunal system and laws to protect workers on zero hours contracts.

Various reforms for the tribunal system have been proposed under the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill 2014-15 which would introduce penalties for employers who refuse to pay awards on time

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