Michelmores, Law, Employment, Solicitor, Lawyer
Bethan Jones
Posted on 13 Apr 2015

New Rates, Limits and Changes

New Rates, Limits and Changes

The beginning of April marked a number of changes for Employment law. The following summary shows you what you need to know.

Commencement Date - 5 April 2015

  • Statutory Sick Pay ('SSP') - £88.45 (increase from £87.55)
  • Statutory Maternity Pay ('SMP') - £139.58 (increase from £138.18)
  • Statutory Paternity Pay ('SPP'), Statutory Adoption Pay ('SAP'),  Statutory Shared Parental Pay ('SSPP') - £139.58 (increase from £138.18)

Commencement Date - 6 April 2015

  • Maximum limit on week's pay - £475 (increase from £464)
  • Unfair Dismissal compensatory award - £78,335 (increase from £76,574)
  • Maternity Allowance ('MA') - £139.58 (increase from £138.18)
  • Weekly Lower Earnings Limit (below which employees not entitled to SMP, SPP, SSP, SAP, SSP, but remain entitled to MA) - £112 (increase from £111)

Family Leave Changes 

Abolition of Additional Paternity Leave and Additional Statutory Paternity Pay

As a consequence of the introduction of the Shared Parental Leave and Shared Parental Pay regime, Additional Paternity Leave and Additional Statutory Paternity Pay are to be abolished except, under transitional arrangements, in relation to children whose Expected Week of Childbirth ends on or before 4 April 2015, and children placed for adoption on or before 4 April 2015.

Availability of Parental Leave to cover children up to 17 years old

The right to Parental Leave will be extended so that eligible employees will be able to exercise the right at any time before the child (whether born to the parents or adopted) turns 18.

Time off for adoption appointments

From 5 April 2015, rights parallel to those for pregnant women and their companions will be introduced to allow those adopting children to take time off during working hours to attend adoption appointments.

Removal of qualifying period of employment for Adoption Leave

The need to have accrued 26 weeks (or any other period) of continuous employment to gain entitlement to take Ordinary Adoption Leave will be revoked.

Introduction of 6 week higher rate period of Statutory Adoption Pay

In relation to any Adoption Pay period which begins on or after 5 April 2015, Statutory Adoption Pay will be paid mirroring the mechanism that applies in the case of Statutory Maternity Pay:

  • For the first 6 weeks, the 'earnings related rate' (90% of normal weekly earnings); and
  • The lesser of 90% of normal weekly earnings and the prescribed rate (£139.58) for the remaining 33 weeks.

Expansion of Paternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave

From 5 April 2015, the following will give rise to an entitlement to Paternity Leave, Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave:

  • Fostering to adopt;
  • Adopting from abroad; and
  • Surrogacy ('parental order parents').

Other Changes

Protected Disclosures

From 6 April 2015, the definition of 'worker' also includes individuals who are provided with work experience pursuant to a specific course of education or training approved by, or under arrangements with, the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Student nurses and student midwives who undertake work experience as part of a course of education or training approved by, or under arrangements with, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, now fall within the extended definition of a worker who may make a protected disclosure.

A student nurse or student midwife who makes a protected disclosure concerning their work experience may bring a claim against the person providing the work experience. Any claim brought will be determined in an Employment Tribunal.


Stress at Work

Easton v B&Q plc [2015] EWHC

Facts

The Claimant was a manager of a superstore. He became ill through occupational stress and was off work with depression for around five months. He was prescribed both medication and therapy.

When the Claimant returned to work, it was on a phased basis at a store nearer his home address, which was less busy than the store he had previously managed. However, this arrangement did not work out and he was recertified as unfit for work due to depression.

The Claimant submitted a claim of negligence and/or breach of statutory duty against his employer. One of the Claimant's main arguments was that his employer had not carried out a risk assessment in relation to stress.

Judgment

The Judge relied upon the leading authority of Hatton v Sutherland [2002], which dealt with claims by employees in respect of psychiatric injury caused by stress in the workplace. The question was whether the injury was reasonable foreseeable by the employer.

The Judge held that an employer has no general obligation to make searching or intrusive enquiries and may take at face value what an employee tells him. An employee who returns to work after a period of sickness, without qualification, is usually implying that he believes himself to be fit to return to the work he was doing before. The foreseeability threshold in stress claims is therefore high.

As a result, the Claimant's claim failed at the 'foreseeability' hurdle in respect of his first breakdown. This was because he had enjoyed a long managerial career in charge of large retail outlets, and had suffered no psychiatric history during this time. In respect of the relapse suffered by the Claimant, the employer clearly now knew he had suffered psychiatric illness. However, the fact he was still taking medication was not determinative as to how his employment should have been handled. The Judge commented that there are many individuals who hold down demanding jobs whilst requiring medication. On the facts, and given the high standard of proof required, the relapse was not foreseeable by the employer.

Regarding the risk assessment issue, the court found that the employer had issued a document about managing stress, inviting individuals to identify and notify the employer of any symptoms concerned. The Claimant had made insufficient efforts to do this and, therefore, the Judge considered that a wider risk assessment would have had no effect on the outcome.

Tips for Employers

This case is useful in highlighting the extent to which employers need to foresee the risk of psychiatric injury as a result of stress in the workplace. Helpfully for employers, this case has determined that the foreseeability threshold is high. It also provides useful guidance about the use of risk assessments.