Fit for Work

Fit for Work…

…advice service launched (but not everywhere – just yet)!

There has been some positive developments with the government’s new Fit for Work scheme.  You’ll be delighted to hear it’s designed to help you, the employer – particularly the smaller ones – deal with health issues and handle sickness absence matters.

Fit for Work is separated in two – the first is an occupational health service and the second is it’s free, impartial, work-related health advice service – this is being delivered by a team of occupational health professionals.

Employer referrals – once this element is fully functional in your area, you’ll be able to refer an employee who has reached, or whose GP expects them to reach, 4 weeks’ sickness absence for a free occupational health assessment.  This service should, we are informed, be fully operational by the end of 2015.

Advice and guidance – the second part (free, work-related health advice service) has been launched.  You can chat online or by phone to a specialist advisor; you are able to submit queries about specific problems via e-mail.  There’s also an “Advice Hub” for more general information, which contains a range of topics.

Quite what their capacity to deal with matters from an employment law aspect will be, is not known.  However, it’s free and impartial – so you’ve nothing to lose by trying it!

Key Dates for 2015 : Employment Law Update

Employment Law Update: Key Dates for 2015

APRIL

  • Shared parental leave and pay begins – the new right to shared parental leave and pay will apply to eligible parents of babies due on or after 5th April 2015 (this will also apply to adoptive parents of children placed for adoption on or after the same date)
  • Statutory adoption leave and pay will change – the 26 week qualifying service requirement will no longer apply where the date of placement of the child for adoption is on or after 5 April 2015
  • Statutory pay increases (these are proposed rate increases and are subject to approval – it’s highly unlikely they will change, so you can start planning now.  Any changes will be publised under the heading of “Statutory Pay Rates” on this website)

    • adoption – where the child is placed for adoption pre 5 April 2015, the lower of 90% of AWE or £139.58 p.w.  Where the child is placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015, 90% of AWE for the first 6 weeks of the adoption pay  period, followed by the lower of 90% of AWE or £139.58 p.w.
    • sick pay (SSP) – £88.45 p.w.
    • maternity pay – 90% of the AWE for the first 6 weeks followed by the lower of 90% of AWE or £139.58 p.w. for the remainder
    • ordinary paternity pay – £139.58 p.w. or the lower of 90% of AWE
    • additional paternity pay – £139.58 p.w. (2015/16 is the last tax year in which ASPP will be available because additional paternity leave is being replaced by the new shared parental leave system)
    • shared parental pay – £139.58 p.w. or the lower of 90% of AWE
    • important points to note: the new rate of SSP will apply from 5 April 2015, all the other new rates apply from 6 April 2015.  The LEL (lower earnings limit) for all rates will rise from £111 to £112 p.w.
  • Autumn Statement – in Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement on 3rd December 2014, he announced the income tax rates and allowances and national insurance rates coming into effect on 6 April 2015
  • Age limit for unpaid parental leave extended – from 5 April 2015, the age limit for unpaid parental leave increases to parents of all children under the age of 18
  • Flexibility in defined-contribution pension schemes – from 6 April 2015, there will be more flexibility in how individuals can access their defined-contribution pension savings

MAY

  • “Fit for Work” service in place – formerly known as the Health and Work Service, the new health and work asessment advisory service, “Fit for Work”, is expected to be fully operational in England and Wales by May 2015.  Further details as this evolves.

OCTOBER

  • National minimum wage may rise – details posted as they come in nearer the time

Employment law is complex – muddling through on your own brings high risk, so whatever your employment issue, we’d love to help

Holidays – what on earth should you be paying?

Every worker has the statutory right to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per holiday year/per annum – sounds straightforward to calculate?  It appears not…

You won’t have missed the recent headlines announcing that workers can sue their employers for £millions in holiday back-pay claims, going all the way back to the 1990s – eek!

We normally calculate holiday pay based upon a worker’s basic salary – but we don’t normally include overtime, commission or similar payments.  Recent judgments have it clear that European Laws (which usually trump UK laws) require employers to factor overtime and commission payments – and anything else a worker would normally receive if they are working – so they are not dissuaded from taking holiday by being paid less when on holiday than when at work.

You’ll not be surprised to hear the media have missed out 2 crucial points and as always, the devil is very much in the detal!

  1. This higher holiday pay rate only applies to the first 4 weeks’ paid holiday each year.  The employer can continue to pay basic salary for any additional annual leave (NB the rules are slightly dfferent if the employee does’t have normal working hours).
  2. Employees are very unlikely to be able to bring large, historic back-pay claims.  The court decision makes it clear that if there is a  three month limit gap in holiday underpayments (as is more likely in most cases), the employee cannot claim further back in time.  So the reality is this affects holiday payments going forward, but employers are not as likely to face large back-pay claims as the publicity suggests.

The decision re holiday pay arrangements is likely to be appealed so it may not be the end of the story yet.  However, there may be some advantages in planning to start off the New Year including regular overtime payments in the amount of holiday pay.

Nevertheless, all employers need to review their holiday pay arrangements.  If you’re not sure about the implications for your business, please get in touch and we can look at it together.

Antenatal Appointments for Fathers

New right for fathers to take time off for antenatal appointments – yes, really!

With effect from 1st October 2014, fathers have the right to unpaid time off to accompany their spouse or partner to antenatal appointments.

Those entitled to do this include the:

  • baby’s father (obviously!)
  • the expectant mother’s spouse,
  • her civil partner
  • or partner (of either sex) in an enduring relationship

and are all able to exercise the new right and of course it is possible that more than one person may claim an entitlement.  The intended parents of a child in surrogacy arrangement are also entitled to the time off.

Parents adopting a child will also get the right to attend meetings in advance of a child being placed with them.  However, this does not come in to force until 5th April 2015.

An employee will be able to take unpaid leave for one or two antenatal appointments with a maximum of six and a half hours per appointment in relation to each child.  An employee can of course, at its discretion, allow additional appointments.

The employee must provide evidence to the employer in the form of a signed declaration, specifying a number of facts inlcuding they have a qualifying relationship with a pregnant woman, date and time of the appointment and so on.

There is no express right to be paid for this time off, any payment made by the employer will be entirely discretionary – unless you choose to make it a contractual right.

You can refuse an employee time off to attend this appointment – where it is reasonable to do so.  Do bear in mind there is currently no guidance as to when it would be reasonable to refuse such a request!  However, where you have been given short notice by the employee and there are pressing business deadlines, that would constitute reasonable grounds on which to refuse such a request.

Beware of the consequences of refusal

  • where a worker is unreasonably refused time off, they may bring a claim in an employment tribunal for compensation
  • the award will be of an amount equal to twice their hourly rate for the period of time off requested

Flexible Working rights extended to ALL from 30th June 2014

With effect from 30th June 2014 the right to request flexible working wil be extended to ALL employees, who have at least 26 weeks’ qualifying service with you, and will be able to apply for flexible working.  Previously it was only available to employed parents of children under 17 (or under 18 where the child is disabled) and carers of dependent adults.

The extension of this right will bring new opportunities and challenges for employers seeking to manage their workforce, so what can you do to prepare? Consider the following points:

  • Engage with your staff and you may wish to communicate the changes
  • Line managers wil be key and training needed
  • Examine your current flexible working policy against the needs of your business
  • Do your policies need review?
  • Are they fit for purpose with an increased flexible workforce?
  • Think around the wider issues in addressing any requests you receive

If you need any help with reviewing your policies or porcesses more generally, or have any queries about the changes or how requests will be handled within your business then please just let me know.  As always, I have the necessary and relevant documentation you will need when dealing with flexible working requests, such as:

  • Flexible Working application form
  • Letter inviting to Flexible Working request meeting
  • Flexible Working acceptance letter
  • Flexible Working rejection letter
  • Letter inviting to Flexible Working appeal meeting
  • Outcome of Flexible Working appeal meeting
  • Flexible Working Policy

Rates of Pay

See the ‘Statutory Pay’ page for the latest on the new rates applicable from 6 April 2014 and what the National Minimum Wage rates will be with effect from 1 October 2014.

Please Note: Employment tribunals will be able to order an employer to conduct an equal pay audit in circumstances where it is clear they have breached the equal pay provisions in the Equality Act 2010 – which is expected in October.

No more minimum SSP records

Currently, you are legally obliged to maintain records of all dates of employee sickness absence or incapacity lasting at least four consecutive days as well as payments of SSP made to employees during these periods for each tax year.

However, on 6 April 2014, this legal obligation will exist no longer and The Statutory Sick Pay (Maintenance of Records) (Revocation) Regulations 2014 come into force; and from that date you’ll be free to keep whatever sickness absence records best suit the needs of your business.

A note of caution – although you’ll no longer be burdened with another form of record keeping, you should continue to closely monitor staff attendance like a hawk by recording every single absence on an employee absence record form, that way you’ll be able to easily spot problems or patterns and common excuses for non-attendance. Without this detail being recorded you will also lack documentary evidence to support any disciplinary procedures you may wish to pursue in the event there is an issue in an employee’s absence patterns and / or attendance.

Having robust internal procedures and processes is a must to continue to support your business, in addition, you must continue to retain good records for PAYE purposes – so you’re not let off the hook that easily!

There is a hidden catch, of course! The abolition of SSP record keeping has been arrived at due to the impending withdrawal of the percentage threshold scheme (PTS). To fund the new Health and Work Service that will be introduced later this year, PTS is being removed and, subject to parliamentary approval, PTS will be removed from 6 April 2014. You’ll still be able to claim for the reimbursement of SSP paid for sickness periods up to 5 April 2014 until the end of the 2015/16 tax year.

National Minimum Wage Increase

National Minimum Wage (NMW) rate increase with effect from 1 October 2015 is:

Workers –

  • Aged 21 and over – £6.70 per hour
  • Aged 18 – 20 – £5.30 per hour
  • Aged 16 – 17 – £3.87 per hour
  • Apprentices under 19, or over 19 and in the first year of the apprenticeship – £3.30 per hour

 

The National Living Wage

A compulsory National Living Wage is due to be introduced in April 2016 for all working people aged 25 and over.  This will be set at a rate of £7.20 per hour

Flexible Working

A new date has been announced for the extension of the right for ALL employees to request flexible working.

With effect from 30th June 2014, all employees will have the right to request flexible working. This announcement was made on 21 February 2014 by Jenny Willott – minister for employment relations and consumer affairs.

Increase in Compensation Limits – Can you afford them?

From 6 April 2014, the new maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal increases to £76,574 (currently £74,200)

The new maximum for a week’s pay increases from £450 to £464.

Therefore, the maximum unfair dismissal award (which is basic PLUS compensatory) will be a whopping £90,494 – ouch!

The maximum statutory redundancy payment will be £13,920.

(Since 29 July 2013, there has been a cap on the unfair dismissal compensatory award of the lower of 52 weeks’ pay and the upper statutory limit).

DON’T LEAVE IT TO CHANCE – BE SURE TO FOLLOW CORRECT PROCESSES AND PROCEDURES WHEN DEALING WITH EMPLOYEE RELATION ISSUES – GIVE ME A CALL AND I’LL BE SURE TO GUIDE YOU ACROSS THE MINEFIELD TO SAFETY IN THE MEADOW