The big employment law guide: What to expect in 2015

Shared Parental Leave

From 5 April, Shared Parental Leave will be available to parents of children due to be born. “The two weeks compulsory maternity leave is retained but eligible parents will be able to share some or all of the remaining maternity leave and pay, replacing additional paternity leave,” said Simon Rice-Birchall, partner at Eversheds.

“Adopters will also be entitled to time off work to attend pre-adoption meetings; adoption leave will become a ‘day one’ right, with no qualifying service; and adoption pay will be enhanced to 90 per cent of pay for the first six weeks. Parents fostering a child under the ‘Fostering to Adopt’ scheme will be eligible for adoption leave (and shared parental leave), as will eligible surrogate parents.”

Read more about Shared Parental Leave:

Possible equal pay

The Brierley and others vs Asda case has been dubbed as “Made in Dagenham for the 21st Century” by the BBC. Thousands of female Asda warehouse staff have claimed that they do work of equal value to that of their male counterparts.

What makes this case so special is that it is the first claim against a private sector employer. And now that the doors have opened, it is likely to be the last of its kind.

Indeed, this case will “test how retailers decide what they pay their staff in different parts of their business,” says BBC business editor Kamal Ahmed.

Flexibility of accessing pension savings

As part of the Taxation in Pensions Bill, chancellor George Osborne announced that those aged 55 and over won’t have to take their tax-free allowance within 18 months of becoming eligible for their pension income.

“This is called ‘phased vesting’: you divide your pension pot into portions and vest one portion only,” said Pinsent Masons pensions expert Simon Laight. “Of that portion you take 25 per cent tax free and leave the rest undrawn or take it as lumps of income. When you want another lump sum, repeat the process. The flexibility is already there, but it involves buying a drawdown product to make it happen.

“The changes set out in the Taxation of Pensions Bill create a simpler mechanism to achieve the same outcome. It is a simpler concept – you ask your pension scheme or pension provider to let you take out a number of smaller lump sums, without having to buy a drawdown product.” 

This regime is set to come into force in April 2015.

Continuing staff auto enrolment

Kirsty Senior, co-founder and director of human resources at citrusHR, explains that “many small businesses” will have “started looking for advice on auto-enrolment, and with deadlines fast approaching it’s going to be a busy year.”

Indeed, 1 March is the next staging date, intended for companies with 54-57 staff.

In a previous Real Business article, she notes: “Concerns have been raised over whether the schemes that are offered will be robust enough, and that demand for assistance may outstrip supply. Our advice at the moment is to start planning for it sooner rather than later. After all, as an employer you don’t want to be individually liable for a £5,000 penalty.”

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