What to expect in employment law in 2015

Victoria Watson provides a useful round-up of key legislation changes this year.

Due to the forthcoming General Election, future developments in employment law this year are currently limited. Whilst it remains to be seen what proposals the political parties will put forward in their manifestos, we look below at the key confirmed changes in 2015 which are likely to have a significant impact on healthcare employers.

Changes to ‘family-friendly’ employment rights

Shared parental leave from April 2015

Shared parental leave will be available in respect of children whose expected week of childbirth (EWC) begins on or after 5 April 2015 or who are placed for adoption on or after that date. Employers may have increased costs of shared parental leave pay if parents decide to split the maternity leave between them. That said, due to the generous maternity pay in the NHS the impact of this change is likely to be limited.

Eligible employees will be entitled to a maximum of 52 weeks' leave and 39 weeks' statutory pay upon the birth or adoption of a child, which can be shared between the parents. A mother must still take two weeks’ compulsory maternity leave and the two weeks’ paid paternity leave is still available to fathers (although the right to additional paternity leave will be abolished).

Healthcare employers will need to decide whether or not to offer enhanced occupational shared parental pay. There are no plans to amend AfC to incorporate such a right but it is open to NHS employers to take the decision that they wish to offer enhanced pay to their employees.

If employers have not already amended their family leave policies, it is recommended that they do so as soon as possible.

Unpaid parental leave

The unpaid parental leave rules which are due to come into force on 5 April 2015 will increase the period unpaid parental leave can be taken from up to the child's fifth birthday to up to the child's eighteenth birthday.

Surrogacy

Parents who have a child via a surrogate mother now have similar rights to paternity and maternity leave and will have similar rights to shared parental leave from 5 April 2015. Again it is recommended that a review of family leave policies is undertaken.

Deductions from wages

The Deduction from Wages (Limitation) Regulations 2014 were introduced at the end of last year by the government to limit the effect of the Bear Scotland case (non-guaranteed overtime and holiday pay). Although the Bear Scotland decision was limited to holiday pay, the Regulations will apply to all claims for unlawful deductions from wages, of whatever nature. The Regulations limit claim for backdated deductions to two years before the date of the claim.

The Regulations came into force in early January, but their provisions only come into effect for claims lodged after 1 July 2015. Employers may therefore see a rush of claims from workers in the first six months of 2015.

Whistleblowing

The Protected Disclosures (Extension of Meaning of Worker) Order 2015 will amend the definition of worker in section 43K of the Employment Rights Act 1996 to include both student nurses and student midwives. HR departments will need to ensure that disclosures by such employees are dealt with under their whistleblowing procedures.

An additional change is that ‘prescribed persons’, such at the CQC, will also have to produce an annual report setting out any protected disclosures made to them.

The amendments are due to come into force on 6 April 2015.

Public sector exit payments (provisions in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill)

Public sector employees and office holders are to be required to repay exit payments (where they receive over £100,000) where they return to public sector work within 12 months. There is, as yet, no date for this change to come into force but it is expected to be by no later than the end of the 2015/16 financial year.

Following the General Election, there are likely to be further changes to employment law and we will keep you updated on these in due course.

Victoria Watson
Capsticks