In late October I wrote about what is probably the most significant change coming in 2015, the introduction of shared parental leave. As I pointed out at the time, although the changes apply to babies due or due to be adopted on or after 5 April, requests for leave could come as soon as next month so arrangements need to be in place now.
Due in May 2015 is the introduction of the Fit for Work service following pilot runs which were supposed to have started already but seem to be awaiting implementation. Under a partnership agreement 45 NHS occupational health teams covering 103 sites will provide face to face appointments for the new service. This is in addition to the telephone helpline and website that were initially announced. When I wrote about the service last August I gave it a qualified welcome. However, doubts have emerged about its likely effectiveness. Guidance for employers is yet to be published and it is entirely voluntary, on the part of both employers and employees. If an employee refuses to take part, that is the end of the process. Even if a report is prepared the employee can refuse consent for its disclosure to the employer. It is down to GPs to decide whether to refer employees for assessment. According to recent research the proportion of likely referrals of eligible patients varied widely from 11% to 72%.
As usual statutory rates will increase on 5 April 2015 with statutory maternity, adoption and shared parental leave rates increasing to £139.56 per week and SSP to £88.45 per week.
Also on 5 April the right to unpaid parental leave will be extended to parents of any child under the age of 18 years.
Cases to watch out for include the decision of the European Court in USDAW v Ethel Austin Ltd and others concerning whether the 20 employees’ threshold for collective consultation applies to one “establishment” or a whole organisation (likely to be the latter).
Lock v British Gas Trading Ltd is the case in which the European Court held that calculations of holiday should include commission payments. The case is returning to the UK in 2015 for implementation by the UK courts and tribunals.
Expect a further challenge to employment tribunal fees with an appeal from this month’s decision in the UNISON case. In the event of a Labour Government there is already a commitment for the fees to be abolished.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal is due to consider whether or not protection from discrimination on the basis of caste falls within the Equality Act 2010. Even if unsuccessful the Government has indicated that the Act will be amended to incorporate protection from caste discrimination.