Employment update

Equal Pay Audits – employers named and shamed

The new Equality Act 2010 (Equal Pay Audits) Regulations 2014 mean that employers found to be in breach of equal pay legislation can now be ordered by the employment tribunal to carry out equal pay audits. These Regulations apply to equal pay claims brought on or after 1 October 2014.

Micro businesses with fewer than 10 full-time equivalent employees are exempt. There is also an exemption for new businesses, as defined in the regulations.

The audit must identify:

  • any differences in pay between men and women and the employer’s reasons for these differences;
  • the reasons for any potential equal pay breach; and
  • the employer’s plans for avoiding further breaches.

The employer must publish the results of the audit on its website for at least 3 years and inform employees how to obtain a copy. The consequences of publishing will be far-reaching, potentially deterring job applicants and exposing sensitive information to competitors.

Failure to comply with the order could lead to a £5,000 fine for every breach.

Unpaid time off work

Employees and agency workers who are in a ‘Qualifying Relationship’ (see below) may now take unpaid time off work to accompany their pregnant partner to up to two ante-natal appointments. Time off for each appointment is capped at 6.5 hours. There is no qualifying period for employees but agency workers have a 12 week qualifying period.

An employer cannot ask for evidence of the appointment, such as an appointment card. However, the employer may ask the employee for a declaration stating:

  • date and time of the appointment;
  • time off is to accompany the pregnant mother to the appointment; and
  • that the employee or agency worker is in a ‘Qualifying Relationship’ – this includes the child’s father; the mother’s spouse, partner or civil partner.

The right may be reasonably refused.

Whistleblowing: New List of Prescribed Persons

The Public Interest Disclosure (Prescribed Persons) Order 2014 (the Order) contains a new list of prescribed persons for whistleblowing. Whistleblowers can make an external disclosure to a prescribed person, instead of to their employer via internal procedures. The new list is contained in the Order’s Schedule which includes MPs, specified Government ministers and public bodies, alongside 60 regulators.

In view of all the whistleblowing changes since last year, employers should review their whistleblowing policies, particularly those who list ‘prescribed persons’ in their whistleblowing policy, as this will need updating.

National Minimum Wage

The new minimum hourly rates for 1 October 2014 – 30 September 2015 are:

  • workers aged over 21: £6.50;
  • workers aged 18 to 20: £5.13;
  • workers aged under 18: £3.79; and
  • apprentices: £2.73.

HMRC’s publicity surrounding the 2014 increases stresses that employers who fail to meet their obligations to pay the national minimum wage will face fines of up to £20,000 per employee.

If you have any questions on the above and its implications to your workplace, please contact our Employment team – Ruth ([email protected]), David ([email protected])or Tad ([email protected]) and they will happily help you.

Employment update

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

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