T. S. Eliot once wrote that April is the cruellest month. Whilst Eliot probably wasn’t referring to the revisions in employment law that April traditionally brings, you could be forgiven for thinking this if you’re an employer who has to get to grips with this year’s many changes. This year has not only brought the usual increase in statutory payments but has also amended parental leave. However, contrary what David Cameron claimed in the Leadership Debate with Jeremy Paxman, zero-hour contracts have not yet been ‘outlawed’.
The following changes now apply:
- The limit on a week’s pay when calculating redundancy pay has increased to £475. Similarly the maximum compensatory award an employee claiming unfair dismissal can receive is £78,335 (or one year’s gross wage – whichever is the lower).
- Statutory sick pay is now £88.45 per week (remember that you can no longer recover this from the government).
- Maternity leave, adoption leave, parental leave and shared parental leave is now £139.58 per week.
- Up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave can be taken per child under the age of 18.
- Shared Parental Leave applies for children born on or after 5 April. This complicated legislation allows for parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave in discontinuous blocks. The first two weeks following childbirth must be taken by the mother.
- Adopters are able to attend up to 5 paid adoption appointments and they are entitled to 52 weeks of adoption leave (and 39 weeks of adoption pay). Prior to 5 April an adopter had to have 26 weeks’ service before they could become entitled to adoption leave but requirement has been removed. These rights only apply to adoptions through an adoption agency and not private adoptions. Adoption pay has also been brought into line with maternity pay.
- Employers do not have to pay national insurance contributions for employees who receive less than £815 per week and are under the age of 21/apprentices under the age of 25.
Zero-hour contracts: Those of you who watched the leadership debate on 26 March may have heard David Cameron’s claim that he had ‘outlawed’ exclusivity clauses in zero-hour contracts. However, technically speaking, this isn’t yet true. While the legislation which prohibits the use of exclusivity clauses (the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015) received Royal Assent on 26 March the provisions which deal with zero-hours contracts are not yet ‘live’. These provisions require a commencement order before they come into force and Parliament was dissolved on 30 March without issuing the commencement order. So, at the moment, exclusivity clauses are still valid. However as the Conservative party want exclusivity clauses banned and the Labour party want ‘exploitative’ zero hour contracts banned it is likely to happen sometime after September.