1. Prepare for shared parental leave: Shared parental leave (ShPL) will be available to parents of children due to be born or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015. The 2 weeks’ compulsory maternity leave is retained but eligible parents will be able to share some or all of the remaining maternity (or adoption) leave and pay as ShPL and pay. ShPL replaces additional paternity leave. Read our briefing for more information.  

Action: Finalise new policies setting out the process for taking ShPL and pay. Also, make consequential changes to existing maternity, paternity and adoption policies. Ensure managers understand how to deal with requests for discontinuous leave and ShPL rights in a redundancy situation.

  1. Update adoption leave policies: From 5 April 2015 adopters will be entitled to time off work to attend pre-adoption meetings. In addition, adoption leave will become a ‘day one’ right, with no qualifying service, and adoption pay will be enhanced to 90% of pay for the first 6 weeks. Parents fostering a child under the ‘Fostering to Adopt’ scheme will be eligible for adoption leave (and ShPL), as will eligible surrogate parents.  

Action: Update adoption leave policies to reflect the changed entitlements.

  1. Another family leave change: The period within which ‘ordinary’ unpaid parental leave can be taken is to be extended. From 5 April 2015, parents will be able to take such leave at any time up to the child’s 18th birthday, rather than before the child’s 5th birthday. 

Action: Update parental leave policies to reflect the change.

  1. Review holiday pay calculations and assess liabilities: Recent rulings from the Court of Justice and the Employment Appeal Tribunal suggest that many employers have been underpaying holiday pay for the last 15 years. Read our briefing for the latest development. 

Action: Review holiday pay arrangements to assess potential liabilities, including the risk of claims for back pay. Consider whether to make changes now or wait for UK law to be further clarified. Watch out for future Eversheds’ e-briefings to keep track of developments as they happen.

  1. Prepare for new, pro-active sickness absence controls: The Government will start to roll out its new independent health assessment service, on a region by region basis, from the end of 2014. The ‘Fit for Work’ service will independently assess employees’ ability to work and recommend steps to help them stay in or return to work. The changes look set to place greater emphasis on the employer to facilitate a return to work for those on sick leave. 

Action: Review relevant procedures (sickness absence, capability, etc) and whether they reflect new practice. Agree with in-house Occupational Health how you will deal with FFW. Also consider whether any contractual changes are needed to require (lawful) sharing of information, such as sight of a return to work plan.

  1. Get ready for new pensions freedoms: From next April, changes will be made to pensions legislation aimed at giving individuals greater flexibility when accessing their pension savings. (For further information, read our briefing). Employers need to understand these changes and consider whether to update their plan’s design to enable their staff to make use of the new benefit options. Default funds under defined contribution plans should be reviewed to ensure they remain suitable and a communication strategy developed to make members aware of their new options and to signpost (and in many cases, supplement) the ‘guidance guarantee’.  

Action: Decide on benefit options that will be available under your plan from next April. Update rules and member comms. Speak with your pension provider/trustees about review of default fund.

  1. Keep an eye on election promises: The main political parties have started to reveal details of their likely manifesto commitments ahead of next year’s general election. Read our briefing to find out what the main parties have said so far. 

Action: Look out for Eversheds’ e-briefing in May when the result of the election is known. We will outline the key changes for employment law that are likely to lie ahead.

  1. Diary note: keep an eye out for future Eversheds’ e-briefings on public sector exit payments, zero-hours contracts and commentary on significant upcoming judgments involving collective consultation and redundancy, the lawfulness of Tribunal fees and other employment developments during 2015.