UK: Looking Ahead At 2015

Last Updated: 9 February 2015
Article by Rose Branson

Employment law this year, as in every year, faces significant changes in 2015. In the first half of the year, we can expect to see:

The introduction of Shared Parental Leave – 5 April 2015;

This new system will come into force for children whose expected week of childbirth, or date of placement for adoption is on or after 5 April 2015. The new system provides that, if a qualifying mother on maternity leave or an adopter on adoption leave terminates their maternity leave or adoption leave before it is exhausted, the remainder of the leave (and pay if applicable) can be taken as shared parental leave – by either parent if both qualify. Parents who can take shared parental leave can swap periods of leave, or take leave at the same time.

Changes to the meaning of 'worker' for the purposes of whistleblowing legislation – 6 April 2015;

The definition of worker for the purposes of the whistleblowing legislation will be extended to include student nurses and student midwives. This legislation is due to come in to force on 6 April 2015.

New national minimum wage regulations – 6 April 2015; and

New national minimum wage regulations will be introduced, to replace the much amended current regulations, on 6 April 2015.

The limitation of two years on backdating claims for series of deductions from wages will kick in for claims lodged on or after 1 July 2015.

These changes have been introduced following developments in case law in relation to payments for holiday pay (see Helen Brooks' article from GD Online November 2014 for further details click here) but will not apply to deductions from statutory maternity leave or adoption leave, nor deductions from guarantee payments.

Any changes thereafter will of course depend greatly on the outcome of the general election on 7 May 2015. Though at the time of writing, full manifestos have not yet been released, the material that has been published so far, and speeches at the party conferences in the latter half of 2014, suggests that there are some key proposals expected from the major political parties in relation to employment rights. We have summarised these, below. Please note that we have not detailed the Scottish National Party's proposals in relation to Employment Rights, which are omitted as they relate to a different system of laws.

From the Conservative Party:

  • Abolishing the abuse of zero hour contracts by prohibiting exclusivity clauses;
  • Permitting strike action only if mandated by vote with at least 50% turnout; and
  • Creating a further 1 million apprenticeships.

From Paid Cymru

  • Enforcing the living wage.

From the Green Party:

  • Introducing 2 years' paid parental leave;
  • Requiring large companies to publish details of earnings in order to establish if equal pay between the sexes is a reality; and
  • Introducing completely flexible working arrangements for all.

From Labour:

  • Banning exploitative zero hour contracts, and, if regular hours are worked under a zero hours contract, creating a fixed hours contract following 12 weeks' service;
  • Ensuring that agency workers cannot be paid less than equivalent permanent staff;
  • Raising the national minimum wage to Ł8 per hour by 2020;
  • Abolishing the current Tribunal system and creating a system in which affordability is not a barrier to justice;
  • Protecting self employed individuals from discrimination;
  • Social background monitoring in public services; and
  • Creating mandatory apprenticeships at firms holding major government contracts.

From the Liberal Democrats:

  • Providing more free childcare for working families;
  • Promoting name blind recruitment in the public sector;
  • Strengthening 'worker' rights (as compared to employee rights);
  • Raising the national minimum wage for apprentices; and
  • Promoting boardroom diversity.

And from UKIP:

  • Permitting discrimination in favour of young British workers (which, as it contravenes EU legislation, would require leaving the EU, which could have a huge knock on effect on employment rights in the UK);
  • Workers on zero hours contracts for large employers being able to earn the right to fixed hours after a years' service; and
  • Repealing the agency workers directive.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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