Now that we have eased into 2015, it’s time to think about the key employment law issues we’ll be facing in the year ahead.

The general election in May will, of course, hold most of our attention, but there are other important developments to watch out for.

Time Off

Two key developments will make it easier, and more attractive, for employees to take time off in 2015.

Holiday Pay

We now know that holiday pay needs to include sums normally received by a worker over and above their basic pay, such as overtime payments and shift allowances.

On 4 February 2015, the Employment Tribunal is due to hear Lock v British Gas, which will address the issue of how commission should be reflected in holiday pay. We will, of course, keep you posted on the outcome. 

In order to limit costs for businesses, and increase certainty for employees, the government has announced that any unlawful deduction from wages claims brought after 1 July 2015, including for overtime and other sums to be included in holiday pay, will not be permitted to look back further than two years. Claims brought before 1 July 2015 will not be covered by the new regulation but will instead be governed by the principles set down by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) in Bear Scotland, explained here

Shared Parental Leave

From 5 April 2015 parents of babies that are due to be born or adopted after 5 April 2015 will be eligible to take shared parental leave (SPL), in addition to and/or in place of existing maternity, paternity and adoption leave.

Parents will be able to share up to 50 weeks of leave between them in order to care for their child, up to 37 weeks of which is paid at a statutory rate. More detail on the new regime is available here. We will be holding a seminar on SPL in March 2015. Look out for your invitation.

In other family friendly changes also taking effect on 5 April 2015, employees will no longer need to have six months’ service before taking adoption leave, whilst the right to take unpaid parental leave will be extended to cover parents of children aged between five and 18 years old.

Employers should update their existing policies to reflect all these changes.

Collective Redundancy Consultation

The Court of Justice of the European Union’s (CJEU) input on the unsatisfactory situation in relation to the obligation to consult on Collective Redundancies is also of great importance this year.

You will recall that the EAT decided that the requirement for consultation in a collective redundancy situation begins where 20 or more dismissals are proposed within a 90 day period across an employer’s whole business, rather than at just one establishment within it. The Court of Appeal has asked the CJEU to decide whether or not that is the correct approach and the Advocate General is due to deliver his opinion on 5February 2015. Whilst the CJEU is not bound to follow the Advocate General’s opinion, it normally does. More detail on the EAT’s decision, and what it means for employers, can be found here.

Health and Work Assessment and Advisory Service

A new, independent health and work assessment and advisory service is to be introduced by the spring of 2015. This service, which is aimed at getting employees off long-term sickness benefit and back to work, will give employers of all sizes support to help them manage long-term sickness absence, thus (hopefully) reducing costs.

The new service will provide state-funded occupational health assessments (to be delivered by private sector firms) for employees who have been off sick for four weeks or more. It will also provide advice to both employers and employees as to how employees on long-term sickness can be helped to return to work

Bonus Clawback for Firms Approved by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA)

PRA-approved firms must introduce the contractual right to claw back variable remuneration that vests after 1 January 2015 (for a period of up to seven years after vesting) in cases of employee misbehaviour or material error, or where the firm suffers a material failure of risk management.