Employment Latest April 2015

Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015

On 26th March 2015 the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 gained Royal Assent. The Act will implement a number of employment measures over the next year. These changes are the result of the Government’s intention of reducing the red tape faced by smaller companies and improve the transparency and trust placed in UK companies. With the exception of the limit of the number of successful applications for the postponement of an Employment Tribunal hearing a claimant or respondent can be granted in a case which came into force immediately, no other commencement dates have been indicated. This is now law unless and until the next government amends it

Equal pay transparency
The Government will consult on the detail of regulations to implement S.78 of the Equality Act 2010, which will require employers with at least 250 employees to publish information about the pay of employees, for the purposes of showing any differences in pay by gender.

Whistle blowing
Under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 (PIDA), often known as whistle blowing, employees can make a protected disclosure to the employers or other “prescribed persons”. This could be anyone from HMRC to the Environment Agency. The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act provides the Secretary of State with a power to require certain prescribed persons to report annually on the PIDA disclosures they receive.

Employment tribunal changes

There are two changes in the Act that directly relate to Employment Tribunals.

The Act limits the number of postponements of a hearing that a tribunal may grant a party. This will also require an employment tribunal to consider making a cost award against the party because of their late application for postponement.

The Act also introduces an enforcement system for unpaid tribunal awards or a settlement sum following conciliation in which a settlement certificate has been issued. The first stage is where an enforcement office gives the employer 28 days to pay the award. This is followed by a penalty notice if the award has still not been paid. The fine can be anything between £100 and £5,000.

National Minimum Wage
Currently the maximum penalty is £20,000 per notice of underpayment no matter how many workers are involved. The Act increases the maximum penalty which can be imposed for underpayment and require payment to the arrears owed to each worker up to a maximum of £20,000 per worker.

Exclusivity in zero hours contracts
Exclusivity clauses in zero hours contract prevents the employee from working for anyone else. The Act will make such clauses in zero hours contracts invalid and unenforceable, so that no one is tied into a zero hours contract without any guarantee of paid work elsewhere.

New statutory pay rates
Statutory pay for maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave has increased to £139.58 per week. Statutory sick pay will increase to £88.45 per week. The limit for a week’s pay when calculating redundancy pay and unfair dismissal increased to £475 from the 6th April. The maximum compensation amount for unfair dismissal has now increased to £78,335.
or 1 year’s salary whichever is the lesser

Changes to statutory adoption leave and pay
Employees who wish to take statutory adoption leave no longer require the 26-week service qualifying period, though service qualification is still required for adoption pay. Adoption pay has also been brought in line with maternity pay which is now 90% of average earnings for the first six weeks.

As long as employees meet the eligibility criteria, employees who have a child through surrogacy will be able to take ordinary paternity leave and pay, adoption leave and pay and shared parental leave and pay. Both parents are also allowed time off to attend two antenatal appointments with the woman carrying the child.

Parental leave extended to 18
Parents are now entitled to 18 weeks of ‘ordinary’ unpaid parental leave of any child under the age of 18 years.

Right to a companion in formal disciplinary or grievance meetings
The Acas code of practice relating to the companion at a formal discipline or grievance meeting has recently changed and came into force on Wednesday 11th March. The change reflects the EAT’s judgment in Toal v GB Oils in which Mr Toal asked for a companion who was within the statutory pool but whom the employer found unacceptable. The EAT agreed that Mr Toal was entitled to have a qualifying companion at his grievance meeting, even if the employer opposed it. The Acas Code of Practice now reflects this. Employees have an absolute right to request the employee’s choice of trade union representative or workplace colleague to accompany him/her, provided the request to be accompanied is reasonable.

Auto Enrolment

As you know all employers are affected by this I recently wrote to most of you giving you details of a low cost method of ensuring you are conforming to this requirement. This offer is open until April 29th If you are interested please contact me on mnewman@umemploymentlawadvice.co.uk as quickly as possible


I will be away from April 29th until May14th. I will have my phone and tablet with me and I will respond to emails etc. I will be on the East Coast of the USA up to May 7th (5 hours behind) and thereafter on the West Coast (8 hours behind)

Michael Newman