As is generally the case each year, 1 October brings a number of changes to employment law.
The key changes taking effect 1 October 2014 are as follows:
National Minimum Wage Increase
The annual increase to national minimum wage rates for all workers will take effect, such that from 1 October:
- Workers aged 21 and over will be entitled to £6.50 per hour
- 18-20 year olds will be entitled to £5.13 per hour
- 16-17 year olds will be entitled to £3.79 per hour
- Apprentices will be entitled to £2.73 per hour
Power to order Equal Pay Audits
From 1 October, Tribunals will have the power to order employers found to be in breach of equal pay law under the Equality Act 2010 (i.e. those who have lost an equal pay claim brought on or after 1 October 2014) to carry out equal pay audits.
The audit will have to identify any differences in pay between men and women and the reasons for these, as well as the reasons for any equal pay breach and how the employer plans to avoid further breaches in the future.
The employer will be required to publish the relevant gender pay information and make it available on its website for at least three years – therefore making it available to competitors, customers and potential job applicants.
Time off for ante-natal 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 ante-natal appointments. “Partner” includes the spouse or civil partner of the pregnant woman and a person (of either sex) in a long-term relationship with her. The right to time off is capped at 6.5 hours for each appointment.
An employer is not entitled to ask for any evidence of the ante-natal appointments, such as an appointment card, as this is the property of the expectant mother attending the appointment.
However, an employer is entitled to ask the employee for a 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 ante-natal appointment with the expectant mother that has been made on the advice of a registered medical practitioner, nurse or midwife.
Reserve Forces Reform
The statutory two-year service requirement for bringing an unfair dismissal claim will no longer apply in cases where the dismissal is connected with the employee’s membership of the Reserve Forces. The order also makes provision for the secretary of state to make payments to small and medium-sized employers of reservists who are called out for service.