2015 Employment Law Round Up and a look ahead
The most publicly heralded “new law” from the Government in 2015 was the introduction of shared parental leave (SPL) for all babies born or adopted on or after 5th April 2015. SPL allows mothers to curtail their statutory maternity leave in order to share the balance of their statutory leave/pay with her partner. Adoption rights were also extended in April and prospective parents having a child through a surrogacy arrangement are also now able to participate in adoption leave/pay, paternity leave/pay and shared parental leave/pay if they meet the respective eligibility criteria.
Some of the highlights delivered by the courts in 2015, included receiving confirmation that an employee’s overtime must be considered when calculating the employee’s holiday pay. The fear that this decision would allow employees to make sizeable claims for backdated holiday pay was allayed by both the courts (which confirmed that where more than 3 months had elapsed between any “underpayment of holiday pay”, the employee could claim no further back) and also by the Government who introduced a 2-year cap on any backdated claim lodged after 1st July 2015 through the Deduction from Wages (Limitation) Regulations 2014.
The European Courts also provided confirmation that travelling time for peripatetic workers (workers who are not assigned to a fixed place of work) should be counted as working time. The European court elected not to give any direction to the national courts on whether/how this time should be paid, but employers of such workers must consider this time when arranging working/rest time.
Looking forward to 2016, one of the hot topics on the horizon is the Government’s proposals to reform trade union law under the Trade Union Bill 2015-16. Some of the key reforms proposed by the Government relate to the legality of trade union backed strike action (by increasing the minimum level of support from trade union members for authorised strike action and increasing the period of notice which must be given ahead of any strike action) and allowing employers to be able to use agency staff to cover for striking employees. We also await the outcome of the Government’s consultation on proposals to simply the tax treatment of termination payments. One change we can be sure of though is the introduction of the new National Living Wage (NLW) in April 2016 for workers aged 25 and over which will add a 50p premium to the over 21 National Minimum Wage fixing the first NLW at £7.20.