Over the last few years a tendency has emerged for employment law changes to take place in April and October each year, with the main changes in April. 2014 is no exception but should nonetheless be aware of four changes that come into effect tomorrow, 1 October.

Antenatal rights for fathers and partners

Under the Children and Families Act 2014 (amending the Employment Rights Act 1996) fathers to be and partners of pregnant women can take time off for antenatal appointments. the right is to attend up to two antenatal appointments, each of which can last up to six and a half hours.

There is no qualifying period so the right is available to employees and agency workers from the commencement of employment.

The individual must have a “qualifying relationship” with a woman or her expected child, defined as:

  • you are the expected child’s father;
  • you are the pregnant woman’s husband or civil partner;
  • you live with the woman (whether in a heterosexual or same sex relationship) in an “enduring family relationship” and are not a relative of the woman;
  • you are one of a same sex couple who is to be treated as the child’s other parent under the assisted reproduction provisions in the Human fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008; or
  • you are the potential applicant for a parental order in relation to a child who is expected to be born to a surrogate mother.

Employers can require documentary evidence of an appointment which, if requested, must include a written declaration stating the qualifying relationship with the expectant mother or expected child, that the request has been made to attend an antenatal appointment, that the appointment has been made on the advice of a GP, midwife or nurse and the date and time of the appointment.

National Minimum Wage Rates

With effect from 1 October the standard national minimum wage increases from £6.31 an hour to £6.50 and hour. The youth rate (18 to 20) increases from £5.03 to £5.13, for under 18s it is £3.79 and the apprentice rate goes up 5p to £2.73. Further information is available here.

Mandatory Equal Pay Audits

If an equal pay claim has been submitted after 1 October 2010 and a tribunal find that there has been a breach an employment tribunal, pursuant to the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, it must order an equal pay audit unless an exception applies.

These include cases where an audit has been carried out in the last three years, if it is clear without an audit what action is required to avoid equal pay breaches, and where an employer is a new business or micro business. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has extensive information about equal pay and audits.

Improved Rights for Reservists

Reservists are no longer required to have completed two years’ service in order to secure protection from unfair dismissal if the reason or principal reason is connected with being a reservist. the change is pursuant to the The Defence Reform Act 2014 (Commencement No 2) Order 2014.