What do employers need to know and do this October?

Written on 28 Sep 2014

Please find below our key points on legislative and case law developments to be aware of in October. Also, see here for our thoughts on the publicity last week surrounding press reports that Richard Branson is introducing a policy of allowing some of his staff to take holiday as and when they wish and here for factors for employers to consider when managing the ever increasing presence of technology in and out of work.

Our essential HR calendar setting out key employment law dates is here.

Right for partners to attend ante-natal appointments

From 1 October 2014, employees who are in “qualifying relationships” with expectant mothers (e.g. fathers or partners) will have a ‘day one’ right to unpaid time off work in order to attend up to two anti-natal appointments (see our alert here). Such employees will be entitled to bring a complaint to an Employment Tribunal if they are dismissed or otherwise subjected to a detriment for exercising this right. Any dismissal will be automatically unfair. The right will also extend to agency workers who have worked for a period of 12 weeks or more.

Rise in National Minimum Wage (“NMW”) rates

From 1 October 2014, the following NMW hourly rates will apply:

  • £2.73 for apprentices under 19 (or 19 and over who are in their first year of apprenticeship)
  • £3.79 for 16 to 17 year olds
  • £5.31 for workers aged 18 to 20 years
  • £6.50 for workers aged 21 and over

Introduction of Equal Pay Audits

Also from 1 October 2014, Employment Tribunals will be empowered to order an equal pay audit if an employer is found to have discriminated in relation to a contractual or non-contractual pay matter (see here). Penalties of up to £5,000 may be imposed for non-compliance.

Shared parental leave

On 18 September 2014 the Government published its “Employers’ Technical Guide to Shared Parental Leave and Pay” (see here). The guide was produced to assist employers (whose employees might be eligible for shared parental leave and/or pay on or after 5 April 2015) in understanding how the right works; the eligibility criteria; how shared leave/pay should be arranged and how to deal with changes to shared leave plans. The guide also contains a useful frequently asked questions section.

Our seminars looking at shared parenal leave together with the thorny issue of holiday pay are in Reading (30 September – here), London (16 October – here) and Bristol (22 October – here).  Please contact your usual Osborne Clarke contact for further details. 

The need to impress upon employees the importance of protecting personal data

An employee was successfully prosecuted under s.55 Data Protection Act 1998 after taking a number of electronically stored documents containing personal client data when he left for a position at a rival firm. The documents, which had included workload lists, file notes and template documents contained sensitive information relating to over 100 people. The employee was fined £300 and ordered to pay a victim surcharge, along with costs totalling £468.63.

Had the information been used to the detriment of the client, the employer may well have faced similar sanctions. Employers should therefore impress upon employees the importance of protecting personal data and that any attempt to take personal data when moving to a new role is likely to amount to both a breach of contract and a criminal offence. Employees should also be reminded that the documents or work they produce remains the employer’s intellectual property and not their own.

The consequences of not responding to agency requests for salary information

An Employment Tribunal recently held that the hirer, and not the temporary worker agency, was liable to pay £10,878 compensation to an agency worker when it failed to pay the worker (on completing the 12 week qualifying period) the rate she would have received if she had been directly recruited by the hirer as an employee (in breach of Regulation 5 of the Agency Workers Regulations 2010).

Under the Regulations, while both agency and hirer are potentially liable for breaching Regulation 5, in holding the hirer solely responsible in this case, the Tribunal took into account the fact that the agency had repeatedly requested information from the hirer as to the appropriate salary for the worker but the sum payable under Regulation 5 had not been quantified by the provision of information by the hirer. Please do not hesitate to contact your usual OC Contact if you would like to discuss the rights of any agency workers you use further.