With 2014 about to give way to 2015, it seems appropriate that we take a few moments to mull over some of the legislative changes in employment law that are to be ushered in, or will come into effect, over the months ahead.
2014 was a year of considerable change in employment law with the groundwork being set for a wide range of new legislation to be launched in 2015. Here are just a few of the more crucial adjustments that will be happening.
Changes to statutory adoption leave and pay
There are a few major changes that will come into effect with regards to employment and adoption, most of which are aimed at balancing out the inequalities which exist between the rights of biological parents and those who choose to adopt;
- Eligibility for adoption leave has, until now, been reliant upon a 26 week qualifying period. This qualifying period will be removed, bringing the rules into line with those in place for expectant mothers seeking maternity leave.
- Statutory adoption pay of 90% of salary for the first 6 weeks of leave will completely close the gap which unfairly short changed families adopting a child.
- Surrogate mothers will now also qualify for adoption leave.
- The right for prospective adopters to attend adoption appointments during work hours will be put in place.
These changes have all been agreed in the ‘Children and Families Act 2014’, which is helping to cement and improve the rights of adoptive parents. It has been a somewhat hazy area of employment law in the past, with employers failing to fully grasp the complex legislation and it is hoped that these redrawn lines will help to simplify matters considerably.
Overarching changes to how parents structure their parental leave will come into effect for babies expected, or children placed for adoption, from 5 April 2015 onward. This marks a continuation of the relaxation of the legislation which for years left families with very little say on how their parental leave was divided. The new rules mean that parents will have the ability to split the mother’s maternity leave including any maternity pay which is available.
Child’s age limit for parental leave will be raised
Not to be confused with shared parental leave, parental leave is a rule that already exists which allows a parent to take an additional period of unpaid absence during the first five years of a child’s life. The parameters of this legislation will be moved so that a parent can use this statutory right until their child turns 18, allowing for much greater flexibility when deciding whether to use this time. This new rule will come into effect on the 5th April 2015.
As happens every year, there will be increases to statutory maternity pay, statutory adoption pay, statutory sick pay and national minimum wage. Below are the dates upon which these will come into effect. The amounts by which these will increase is yet to be announced in some cases.
- Statutory maternity, ordinary statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay will all increase on 5th April 2015. The new figure will be £139.56.
- The increase to Statutory Sick Pay will become valid from the 6th April, rising to £88.45 per week
- National minimum wage rates are set to increase from the 1st October, although it is unclear how much they will increase by, as the government consultation has not yet reached a decision.
and finally (not technically to do with employment law, but certainly in the same realm);
Jury service upper age limit is increasing from 70 to 75 in England and Wales, so if you thought that having 7 decades at your back would spare you this particular delight, you were wrong!
No doubt there will be many more changes to employment law made as the year goes on, as usual we will endeavour to keep you up to date.