The leaves have fallen and the golden colours of Autumn have left us being replaced by snow in some areas! On the employment front, change is also afoot with the Government keen to make an impact on their pledge to ‘review employment and workplace laws to ensure maximum flexibility for both employers and employees’. It is clear that the Government is determined to do more than simply review employment law: we have already seen significant changes, and more are in the pipeline. Here is a brief overview of things to look out for as well as some light hearted snippets which highlight some surprises in our workplaces!
In a study for 2011/12, undertaken by the Trade Union Congress (the "TUC"), it has been revealed that of the 285,000 men asked, only 1,650 or 1% of them took additional paternity leave.
Eligible fathers are entitled to take one or two consecutive weeks of ordinary paternity leave ("OPL") within 56 weeks of the child's birth. To be entitled to such leave the father must have been employed for at least 26 weeks ending with the 15th week before the expected week of child birth; and must be responsible (or be expected to be responsible) for the child's upbringing.
Since 3 April 2011 new fathers have also been entitled to take additional paternity leave ("APL") if taken at least twenty weeks after the child's birth but before the child's first birthday; and provided the mother has returned to work without taking her full entitlement to ordinary and additional maternity leave. APL can last for between two to twenty six weeks and must be taken in multiples of weeks.
Unlike APL the survey by TUC found that nine out of ten men do take advantage of OPL. The TUC believe this difference is probably due to the fact that many men cannot afford to take APL. During OPL fathers will be entitled to statutory paternity pay which will be the lesser of the current limit set by the Government (£136.78 from 7 April 2013) and 90% of the employee's gross weekly earnings. Exactly the same rates apply during APL, however most employers do not choose to increase this amount. On the other hand many employers make the decision to pay fathers their full pay during OPL, thus making OPL a more attractive financial arrangement than APL.
The Government have recognised that there are flaws in the current system with a spokesman for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills ("BIS") saying that "the current system for parental leave is old-fashioned and too rigid". In an attempt to rectify this, the Coalition is introducing a system of shared parental leave in April 2015 which, according to BIS, is "so that fathers can take more leave if they want to in the early days of a child's life".
Under the proposals for shared parental leave parents will be able to share between them up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay. Effectively everything apart from a mother's compulsory maternity leave (the two weeks immediately following the birth of the child) will be capable of being shared. It will be possible for both the mother and the father to take shared parental leave at the same time as well as separately and the leave may be taken in small blocks of at least one week. However, employers will not be obliged to agree to an employee's preferred shared parental leave pattern and the default position, where agreement cannot be reached, will be for a parent's portion of leave to be taken in one continuous block, to start on a date of their choice. Once shared parental leave is introduced the provisions for OPL will continue in force but APL will no longer exist.
The final details of shared parental leave will be contained in Regulations yet to be published. The Government's latest consultation on shared parental leave closed on 17 May 2013 and the response will be published in "late summer".
In order to comply with the European Union's Parental Leave Directive, the Government is to amend the Parental Leave law from 9th March 2013. With effect from 9th March parents can request to take up to 18 weeks (unpaid) leave before a child's 6th birthday. (At present, eligible parents of children under 6, can apply for to 13 weeks unpaid leave). If the child is disabled this is extended to 18 weeks until the child's 18th birthday. The Government are still considering extending this to the child’s 18th birthday; this is due to be introduced in 2015.
More Flexible workplaces required
A survey by the charity Gingerbread has found that the top job priorities for single parents are (1) having understanding line managers, (2)flexible or part-time hours and (3) a workplace close to the school or nursery attended by their children. It could be said that this applies to those with dependents at the other end of the age spectrum as well as a number of other people who would just prefer more flexible working hours – such as flexitime. If this is something your organisation is considering then contact me for more information about the range of options when considering flexible working.
Flexi – Flexible working
In another survey, some workplaces are so flexible employers might be wondering if home working is such an efficient option. 10% of those surveyed said they liked to work in the garden, 10% in bed, 7% while cooking and scarily 5% in the bathroom. Now we’ve probably all texted from the little room but who would admit to it?!
Breaks at work
How many of my readers don’t take a break at work preferring instead to just eat a sandwich or drink a cup-a-soup at their desk?
Be honest! In a recent survey by BUPA it was revealed that up to £50 million a day is lost in productivity from workers who fail to take a lunch break. Workers should be encouraged to take their rest breaks away from their desk and the temptation of the BBC news website or EBay.
Boring but important!!
Queens Speech – Enterprise, Employment and Regulatory Reform Bill
In the Queens Speech it was announced that further reform is likely in order to increase the number of employment disputes resolved without resorting to litigation. Here is a summary of the Government’s proposals:
The introduction of “Protected conversations” which they hope will increase the number of mutually agreed settlements for unfair dismissals. There will be model documents included as part of the consultation which the Government has announced. They also propose that a new statutory Code of Practice be drawn up by ACAS.
A limit on unfair dismissal compensation (currently £72,300).
New rules are being looked at for tribunals with a view to weeding out unmeritorious or incomplete claims earlier. There are a number of other changes being adopted in connection with tribunals and potentially a mandatory period of ACAS conciliation before tribunal proceedings as well as the introduction of ACAS pre-conciliation to all claims.
The introduction of Employment Tribunal fees will be brought in next summer whereby any employee wishing to make a claim against their employer will have to pay a fee upfront; the balance of the total fee will fall due when the claim is tabled for a hearing. The precise details as to how, and by whom, this is to be collected are still to be decided.
And more …
As if this wasn’t enough the Government are also currently consulting on changing the TUPE Regulations and have consulted on shortening the collective redundancy rules from the current 90-day consultation to either 30 or 45 days – the consultation closed on 19th September.
And there’s more ….
In his speech to the Conservative Party conference, George Osborne set out a voluntary three-way deal option in which employees could give up rights such as unfair dismissal and redundancy in return for shares in the business, which will in turn be exempt from Capital Gains Tax. This new type of contract is aimed at fast growing small and medium sized businesses in an attempt to encourage more recruitment.
As for me … I’ve been busy with new and existing clients assisting with issues such as managing poor performance, delivering training packages on recruitment, discipline, grievance and attendance management, and assisting a new client with policies required for them to complete tendering documents for a public sector organisation.
Wishing you all the very best for the forthcoming festive season and a prosperous 2013 to you all!