Committee calls for increase in paternity leave, increases to statutory rates of pay and NMW, new tribunal limits and statutory payments, workplace progression for ethnic minorities and new fund for returners are covered in this month's Quick fire!

Committee calls for increase in paternity leave

The Women and Equalities Committee has published a new report calling for significant reforms to workplace policies to support fathers at work. According to the report, recent policies on flexible working and shared parental leave represent positive steps forward, but have failed to create the necessary cultural change in the workplace.

Key recommendations in the report are as follows:

  • employed fathers should be entitled to paid time off to attend antenatal appointments as a day one right
  • statutory paternity pay should be paid at 90% of the father’s pay (capped for higher earners)
  • the government should consider introducing a new right of 12 weeks’ paternity leave in place of the current right to take shared parental leave
  • all jobs should be advertised as flexible, unless there are solid business reasons for not doing so
  • workplace rights for agency workers and self-employed should be harmonised with those of employed fathers, where practical
  • the government should consider amending the Equality Act 2010 with a new protected characteristic of ‘paternity’.

It is unlikely that many (if any) of these recommendations will be taken forward by the government, but it will need to respond to the committee’s report and address its findings, particularly given the forthcoming review of the right to take shared parental leave.

Increases to statutory rates of pay and NMW

A reminder that increases to rates of statutory pay will take effect from April 2018:

  • statutory maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental pay and maternity
  • allowance to increase from £140.98 to £145.18 per week from 1 April 2018
  • statutory sick pay to increase from £89.35 to £92.05 per week from 6 April 2018.

The national minimum wage hourly rates also increase from 1 April 2018:

  • Apprentices: £3.70 (currently £3.50)
  • 16-17 year olds: £4.20 (currently £4.05)
  • 18-20 year olds: £5.90 (currently £5.60)
  • 21-24 year olds: £7.38 (currently £7.05)
  • 25 years plus (national living wage): £7.83 (currently £7.50)

New tribunal limits and statutory payments

The Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2018 has been laid before Parliament and will take effect from 6 April 2018, increasing the level of tribunal awards and certain other statutory payments.

  • The maximum limit for a statutory week’s pay (used to calculate statutory redundancy payments and the basic award for unfair dismissal) will increase from £489 to £508.
  • The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal will increase from £80,541 to £83,682.
  • The minimum basic award for certain automatically unfair dismissals will increase from £5,970 to £6,203.
  • Guarantee pay will increase from £27 to £28 per day.

In cases of dismissal, these new rates will take effect where the effective date of termination falls on, or after 6 April 2018. The increases are based on a 3.9% increase to the retail prices index (RPI) as at September 2017.

Workplace progression for ethnic minorities

The government has commissioned new research into what steps employers have taken to remove barriers to workplace progression for ethnic minorities.

The research will be undertaken by Business in the Community (BITC) and will be used to assess progress made by employers following last year’s independent McGregor-Smith Review into black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) participation and progression in the workplace.

The review called on employers to publish aspirational targets, and a breakdown of their workforce by race and pay band, to increase diversity and inclusion throughout their workforce. This latest research will investigate measures employers have taken to prevent bullying and harassment of BAME staff in the workplace, and also whether companies report their ethnicity pay gap. It will be used to help establish whether any further action is needed to ensure workplaces are inclusive.

New fund for returners

The government has launched a new fund for the purpose of supporting workers returning to work in the private sector after a career break. The £1.5m fund will provide financial assistance for returners, to update their skills or undertake other training, and will support businesses to increase employment opportunities for returners. It is aimed primarily at small and medium enterprises, and employers based outside London.

In addition, new best practice guidance for employers on designing and implementing returner programmes, and the business case for doing so, has also been launched. The guidance, developed in association with Timewise and Women Returners, is aimed at employers of all sizes and across all sectors.

The new fund and guidance form part of the government’s strategy to close the gender pay gap. A separate returner programme was announced in last year’s spring budget to support certain public sector workers to return to work after a career break.