September 2014 has proved a month of speculation and anticipation: the Scottish referendum on independence looming large in the political arena, even post-event, and “Conference season” providing a glimpse of future reforms by the respective political parties as we head towards a General Election next year.

But October, at least, brings with it a degree of certainty in terms of employment law changes which will take effect from 1 October 2014.

  • 1 October

Whistle-blowing

An updated list of “prescribed persons” who can legitimately receive whistle-blowing complaints (subject to conditions) will apply. The list is important, not only since our whistle-blowing legislation provides that claims can only be raised outside an organisation to one of the prescribed persons but also, since employment tribunals may need to refer allegations in the context of tribunal proceedings. The current list has not been updated substantially since it was drawn up in 1999, during which period various regulatory and other relevant bodies have changed name, disappeared or been created.  

National minimum wage

The standard adult rate (for workers aged 21 and over) will rise to £6.50 per hour (from £6.31) and the rate for workers aged 18-20 to £5.13 (from £5.03).

Equal Pay audits

Tribunals are to be obliged to order equal pay audits. Subject to certain exceptions, equal pay audits will become mandatory for employers found to have breached equal pay requirements.

Time off to attend ante-natal appointments

Qualifying workers will have the right to take unpaid time off work to accompany pregnant partners to up to two ante-natal appointments (qualification being dependent upon the relationship with the pregnant woman as well as employment status).  Please see our previous e-briefing here.

New rights for members of the reserve forces The need for two years’ qualifying service to bring an unfair dismissal claim will no longer apply to employees who are dismissed for reasons connected with membership of a reserve force (though such dismissals are not made automatically unfair). Reservists (eg members of the Army Reserve, formerly known as the Territorial Army) already have some protection against dismissal under the Reserve Forces (Safeguard of Employment) Act 1985, which (amongst other things) imposes criminal sanctions where an employee is dismissed because he or she is liable to be mobilised.  Further ahead….

  • 1 December

Data Protection changes

From December, it will be a criminal offence for employers to require prospective employees (or existing employees applying for new positions) to seek and disclose the results of a data access request from the Police as a means of checking their criminal records and, for example, obtaining details of spent convictions or mere cautions, to which they would not otherwise have access. 

Sickness absence regime

A new scheme is to be rolled out across UK. An independent service (the name of which is to be confirmed shortly) will provide help-line support regarding sickness absence, but also provide access to assessment by an independent occupational  health advisor after 4 weeks’ absence, to help facilitate a return to work.