Four Employment Law updates for November

Kirsty Senior Director and Co-Founder of citrusHR, a comprehensive HR software and Support service designed to help small businesses and startups, offers some insights into Employment Law changes affecting businesses this November

Recently there were a number of changes to the law that small business owners really should know about. Whether you are employing an expectant parent or their partner, an apprentice, or even someone who’s chosen to go into the reserves; there’s a breadth of updates to employment law that I’m fairly certain will affect employers fairly quickly.

Antenatal Appointments & Your Employees’ Time

As part of a bundle of new rules that came into force on the 1st October to give more flexibility to families, the partners of expectant mothers now have the right to unpaid time off in order to attend antenatal appointments. New guidance from the government states that a maximum of 2 appointments should be allowed – with leave of at most 6.5 hours per appointment.

Whilst you don’t have a right to see the appointment card as an employer, you are able to request a declaration from the parent as to why they are attending; for example their relationship to the mother and the unborn child etc. It is certainly a tricky one, as the partner could end up being little more than a glorified taxi driver with their time off – expectant mothers retaining their right to be unaccompanied into the appointments themselves.

Applying to all expectant fathers and partners (including same sex), you should certainly take the time to consider this as you could find yourself in employment tribunal facing compensation at twice the hourly rate of pay for each hour that should have been taken off.

Guidance On Dress Code

If you’re thinking about enforcing a dress code on your employees, it’s probably best to take note of the recent guidance from ACAS. We’re sure you’ve heard about the recent case of the teacher turned away from working at a school because of her tattoos, and this guidance is designed to help other employers avoid becoming the focus of a similar news story!

With an increased number of people with tattoos – one in five Britons according to ACAS – you need to consider the business reasons for restrictions to dress code. For example, if you run a restaurant, café, or anywhere else that may serve food, you may wish to restrict employees to having their hair tied back – this is fine. In fact, you’re more likely to succeed in enforcing a dress code if you point out the health and safety reasons for doing so.

However, you need to consider that people may have different lifestyle choices, or even disabilities which mean they cannot conform so rigidly to your dress code. Therefore, reasonable adjustments should be made to give a fair and flexible approach to appearance – your own preference is not a suitable basis for this.

New Rules For Employing Reservists

The government brought into force a couple of changes to the way in which reservists are employed last month, which are important for employers to know – especially with an increased focus on reserve forces in the UK.

First, there’s now no qualifying period of time in employment before a reservist can bring a claim of unfair dismissal related to their reservist status. Second – and this is where small businesses should take note – if you’re a smaller employer, then you can now get up to a £500 incentive payment per month for employing reservists.

I personally welcome the introduction of the financial incentive, and I don’t really expect to see a huge increase in unfair dismissal claims – especially as employees now have to pay to bring claims – so if you are a small employer this is a great change to legislation! You don’t even need to update your employment contracts either.

New Apprenticeship Standards

If you’re an employer who is seeking an apprentice – primarily in the automotive industry – then this is something to keep an eye on. The government is aiming to replace all apprenticeship standards by 2017, and are well on the way with over 40 now published, and 13 ready for use.

The 13 used standards include specific Assessment Plans, which need to be in place with an allocation of a maximum core government contribution before any government funding can be used. Essentially, the government is attempting to ensure that a minimum level of competence is reached during an apprenticeship so that they are worthwhile both for the employer and employee. The standards have even been written by employers so are really simple to follow.

If you’re new to employing staff, or struggle to keep up to date with employment law, I hope this has helped you to understand the latest legislation in the world of employment.


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