HR Newsletter #119 May 2018

Employment Update

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Parental Bereavement Leave

The Government is commencing consultation before introducing paid Bereavement Leave for Parents who lose a child. The aim is to shape its Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill, which is currently being considered in Parliament.

The initial bill proposed that employees with a minimum of 26 weeks’ service will:

  • receive 2 weeks paid leave
  • be eligible for a statutory rate of parental bereavement pay, for which employers would be able to reclaim some or all of the cost. The rate is assumed to be similar to SMP (£145.18/week).

The consultation will focus on the definition of a bereaved parent and how and when parents might take leave.

One question it proposes, for example, is whether step parents should be covered by the right, or “others who have a long term relationship with a child which is parental in nature, but who are not the child’s legal parents”.  The consultation states:

“We welcome views from working parents, employers, groups representing working parents and employers, groups involved in bereavement care, and legal, HR and payroll professionals.”

“It will be important to strike the right balance between allowing as much flexibility as possible for bereaved parents with varying needs to grieve, and the need for employers to have a degree of certainty over when and how their employees can take Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay.”

The changes are due to be introduced in April 2019.

Old Childcare Voucher Scheme Extended

The Government has announced that the employer-operated Childcare Voucher Scheme will remain open to new entrants for a further six months, i.e. until October 2018.

The Childcare Voucher Scheme, also called Employer-Supported Childcare (ESC), was scheduled to close on 6th April 2018 and be replaced by the government-backed Childcare Payments Scheme, also called Tax-Free Childcare (TFC). The government announced the extension during a debate in the House of Commons in response to concerns expressed by MPs about problems with the operation of TFC.

TFC was initially launched on a phased basis in April 2017. It has different eligibility criteria to ESC, plus employers have no involvement at all in the running of TFC.

ESC is now scheduled to close to new entrants in October 2018 and, as a result, employers can continue to admit new members to their schemes for a further six months. Consequently, employees who are already on ESC are not obliged to switch over to TFC immediately, as ESC will continue to run as normal providing employers with the option of continuing to offer the scheme.

Annual Statutory Updates

Every April the government increase the rates at which statutory payments are made (e.g. Statutory Maternity Pay). The attached cover the revised rates and associated steps required to ensure compliance.

pdf Wages Regulations

pdf Temporary Lay-off of Staff

pdf Adoption Leave / Pay

pdf Statutory Redundancy Payments

pdf Statutory Sick Pay

Dress Code: Government Guidance

The well-publicised case of Nicola Thorp (a temporary receptionist supplied via a recruitment agency) being sent home because she was wearing flat shoes rather than high heels, caused widespread concern about the topic of “what is an acceptable standard for clothing at work”.

The government have provided guidance on dress codes at work in order to help companies formulate their own standards should they need to have such a policy.

pdf Government Guidance: Dress Codes at Work

Shared Parental Pay & Discrimination Laws

In some Companies, a pregnant woman who takes maternity leave may be entitled to enhanced maternity pay (if that Company has a policy that provides maternity pay over and above SMP levels) which has given rise to the question – if this leave is now shared (under Shared Parental Leave and Pay) does the man now qualify for enhancements as well? and if not, does this differential treatment, on grounds of sex, constitute discrimination?

In a 2017 case (Ali vs Capita Customer Management), these questions were put to the test. In this case it was claimed that it constituted direct sex discrimination to allow new father Mr Ali only two weeks’ leave on full pay, when female staff were allowed to take 14 weeks’ maternity leave on their full salary.

The initial tribunal hearing, upheld Mr Ali’s complaint.

However, last month (April 2018), an Employment Appeal Tribunal set aside the original finding. In so doing the judge decided the Tribunal had failed to consider the different purposes of Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Maternity Leave. The judgment confirms that the purpose of SPL (to care for a child) is different from the purpose of maternity leave (which is to support the health and wellbeing of a mother before, during and after childbirth) and the entitlement of pay is inseparable from the type of leave taken.