October Employment Law Changes

Compared to recent years, this October is relatively quiet in terms of Employment Law changes; with only 3 substantive changes coming into force:

  1. New rights for partners to take unpaid time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments;
  2. National Minimum Wage increases;
  3. Requirement for employers to undertake equal pay audits.

Below we outline the relevant changes and the implications on Employers which take effect today:

Unpaid Time Off to Attend Up to Two Antenatal Appointments

An expectant father or the partner of a pregnant woman will be entitled to take unpaid time off work to accompany the woman to up to two of her antenatal appointments. “Partner” means the spouse or civil partner, or person (of either sex) in a long-term relationship with the pregnant woman.  In some circumstances, the right also extends to those who will become parents through a surrogacy arrangement.

Employees are eligible for this right from day one of their employment.  They are allowed to take 6.5 hours per appointment, but their employer may allow more time off if they choose.

Employers aren’t entitled to see evidence of the ante-natal appointments, such as an appointment card.  However, they can ask the employee for a signed 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 antenatal appointment with the expectant mother that has been made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, nurse or midwife.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has produced an Employer’s Guide to the new rights which can be found here.

National Minimum Wage Increase

Also from today, the National minimum wage rates will increase as follows:

  • £6.50 for workers over the age of 21. This is an increase of 3%.
  • £5.13 for workers aged between 18 and 20. This is an increase of 2%.
  • £3.79 for workers under 18 but above compulsory school age who are not apprentices. This is an increase of 2%.
  • £2.73 for apprentices. This is an increase of 2%

All employers are obliged to pay the new rates of National Minimum Wage, as of 1st October, irrespective of their size. Failure to do so could result in claims for unlawful deduction from wages or breach of contract, from employees, and/or a range of enforcement measures by HMRC, including criminal sanctions.

Equal Pay Audits

From today, the Equality Act 2010 (Equal Pay Audits) Regulations 2014 come into force.  As a result, employers who lose equal pay claims at the Employment Tribunal may be ordered to carry out an equal pay audit of their workforce.

An equal pay audit must:

  • Include a report of an employer’s relevant gender pay information;
  • Identify any differences in pay between men and women and the reasons for those differences;
  • Include the reasons for any potential equal pay breach identified by the audit;
  • Set out the employer's plan to avoid breaches occurring or continuing.

Once the audit has been completed, the employer must then:

  • Submit the audit to the Tribunal within the Tribunal’s specified time limit;
  • Publish the audit on the employer’s website for a 3 year period – thereby making it visible to customers, clients, competitors and job applicants
  • Inform all persons, about whom relevant gender pay information was included in the audit, where they can obtain a copy.

Employers that fail to carry out an audit when ordered to do so may have to pay a fine of up to £5,000.

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The most significant of the Employment Law changes this October is that which allows partners of pregnant women to take unpaid time off to attend ante-natal appointments. This new legislation reflects the trend towards encouraging more flexible working conditions for both men and women, as introduced in June this year. 

For any advice or guidance on employment matters, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.