Key changes in force from 1 October 2014

03 October 2014

A reminder of the main changes for employers which came into force on 1 October.

We are grateful to Pinsent Masons for the content from which this report has been prepared:

Whistleblowing: new list of prescribed persons

This Order gives protection for a worker if he or she were to make a qualifying disclosure to a person prescribed in the new list, provided there is:

•a reasonable belief that the fault disclosed is in the public interest which;
•falls within the remit of the person prescribed in question; and
•the information disclosed and any allegation contained in it are substantially true.

The new list includes MP's, specified Government ministers and public bodies, alongside 60 regulators.

Employers should take note, particularly those who list ‘prescribed persons’ in their whistleblowing policy, as they will need to update the content.

Right to attend ante-natal appointments for fathers and partners

Employees (including the mother's husband/ civil partner/ partner/ the father or parent of the child and intended parents under surrogacy arrangements) will now be entitled to take unpaid time off to attend up to two ante-natal appointments with a pregnant woman.

Provision is also made for paid and unpaid time off work for adopters to attend meetings in advance of a child being placed with them for adoption. Fathers and partners are now able to take paid time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments and are protected from detriment and dismissal as a result of exercising those rights.

Equal Pay Auditing

A tribunal must now order an employer to conduct and publish an equal pay audit where it finds that an employer has breached the equal pay provisions under the Equality Act 2010. This is subject to certain exceptions and exemptions.

The regulations also set out the required content of an audit. For example it must: include relevant gender pay information of the descriptions of employees specified by the tribunal; identify and give reasons for any pay differences between men and women; and include reasons for any potential equal pay breach identified by the audit as well as setting out the employer's plan to avoid breaches occurring or continuing.

Finally, theregulations specify time frames for submitting the audit to the tribunal and publishing the audit on the employer's website. Employers who fail to carry out an audit in breach of the new legislation could face a penalty of up to £5,000.

Military Reservists: removal of qualifying period for unfair dismissal and additional payments for employers

The statutory qualifying period for unfair dismissal will be removed where a dismissal is connected with the employee’s membership of the Reserve Forces. This change will only apply to employees whose employment terminates after 1 October 2014.

Also, military reservists are currently paid directly by the Ministry of Defence with employers able to claim for additional costs incurred whilst replacing the reservist (a maximum of £100 per day). Small and medium employers will now be entitled to an additional monthly payment of £500 per month for each full month a reservist is absent from work, provided they are on a full-time contract and work at least 35 hours a week. This amount is pro-rated for periods of less than a month and where the reservist is contracted to work less than 35 hours a week.

Increase in National Minimum Wage Rate (NMW)

The NMW has been raised as follows:

•Adult rate – increased 19p from £6.31 to £6.50 per hour
•Rate for 18-20 year olds increased 10p from £5.03 to £5.13 per hour
•Rate for 16-17 year olds increased 7p from £3.72 to £3.79 per hour
•Rate for apprentices increased 5p from £2.68 to £2.73 per hour