As the autumn is setting in, so are a number of employment law reforms. A brief outline of the changes that are coming into force on 1 October 2014 is set out below:
Equal pay audits
As discussed in further detail in Rachel's previous blog post, as of next month, Tribunals can order respondents to carry out equal pay audits where employers are found to have breached equal pay law. Employers that fail to carry out an audit when required to do so could face a fine of up to £5,000.
An equal pay audit must include gender pay information (as specified by a Tribunal), identify any differences in pay between men and women, the reasons for these differences and the potential equal pay breach, and set out the employer's plan to avoid breaches from occurring or continuing in the future.
If an employer is ordered by a Tribunal to carry out an equal pay audit, unless doing so would result in a breach of a legal obligation, it must publish the audit's results on its website (if it has one), and leave it there for three years.
The power to order audits will only apply in relation to equal pay claims presented on or after 1 October 2014.
National Minimum Wage
Following recommendations by the Low Pay Commission, the National Minimum Wage rates are increasing as of 1 October to:
- Standard (adult) rate: £6.50 per hour for workers aged 21 and over (up 19p from £6.31);
- Development rate: £5.13 per hour for workers aged between 18 and 20 years old (up 10p from £5.03);
- Young workers rate: £3.79 per hour for 16 to 17 year olds (up 7p from £3.72); and
- Apprentice rate: £2.73 per hour for apprentices (up 5p from £2.68).
Time off for ante-natal appointments
Aimed at achieving greater involvement of both parents in the early stages of pregnancy, from 1 October expectant fathers or partners of pregnant women (including same-sex partners), will be entitled to take unpaid time off work to attend ante-natal appointments with their partner.
The right to time off is limited to unpaid leave for up to two appointments (capped at 6.5 hours for each appointment). Employers can of course offer more generous provision than the statutory entitlement of two appointments and also decide whether the leave should be paid, rather than unpaid.
Under the new legislation, if an employer unreasonably refuses to let an expectant father or partner of a pregnant woman take time off to attend the two ante-natal appointments, an employee could bring a claim in the Tribunal.
The Government has issued some useful guidance on the right to time off to attend ante-natal appointments, a copy of which can be found here.