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Employment law changes April 2014 – increases in statutory rates

In this second article looking at employment law changes April 2014, we focus on practical changes affecting the day to day running of businesses across the UK.

Right to request flexible working

Under the Children and Families Bill, the right to request flexible working will be extended to all employees from 6th April.  Previously, the right applied only to employees with children under the age of 17 (18 if a child is disabled) or who are carers.

What does it mean to me?

The other important thing to be aware of is that the statutory process for considering requests for flexible working is now being replaced.  Instead of a statutory process that must be followed, employers will now have a duty to deal with the request in a reasonable manner.  In our experience, we often see two different reactions to a flexible working request.  The first is to assume that you are obliged to agree the request, regardless of the impact on your business.  The second is to assume that it would never work and should be rejected.

This change now means that any employee may make the request but it is still the case that no employee has the automatic right to insist on changing their working hours.  However, with potentially more applications being received, it’s more important than ever to look at each request on its merits and deal with it reasonably.  If it can be accommodated then it should be.  If it cannot, then the employee needs to understand the reasons you have for rejecting the request.

Statutory rates increased

As usual, the statutory pay rates are increasing from 6th April 2014 as follows:

Statutory Maternity, Paternity and Adoption Pay (SMP, SPP, SAP)

The rates for statutory pay for maternity, paternity and adoption pay will all increase from 6th April from £136.78 to £138.18.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

Statutory Sick Pay rates will increase to £87.55 per week.

What does this mean to me?

From 6th April, any rates you are paying to employees on statutory leave must be increased in line with the new minimum rates.

And finally…

Although this last update has yet to be given a confirmed date, it will be of interest to every employer at some point.  The Government has indicated that a new Health and Work Service is to be introduced, possibly in spring 2014, to offer free occupational health assistance to employers, employees and GPs.  The new service will include an independent assessment of employees who have been off sick for four weeks or more.

It remains to be seen how this service will work in practice but the pledge to support employers in dealing with sickness absence is a welcome one.  Medical issues and concerns are difficult at the best of times and while every employer wants to support their staff, there also needs to be a recognition of the effects on a business when a member of staff is off sick.

For advice on how to implement any of the employment law changes explained in this article, contact us today on 01487 815720.

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