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April 2011 changes to employment legislation

Meredith Hurst Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The following changes come into force today

Additional paternity leave and pay

  • New fathers employed for six months or more already have the right to take two weeks' paternity leave with statutory paternity pay.
  • New additional rights are due to come into force for employees whose child is due (or adoptive parent who is notified of a match) on or after 3 April 2011.  Where both parents are working, once the mother goes back to work, the father can take up to six months' additional paternity leave (APL).
  • The right can only be requested if the child's mother returns to work without exercising her full entitlement to maternity leave.
  • To take APL, an employee needs to have qualified for ordinary paternity leave (OPL) and have continued to work up to the date that they intend to take APL.
  • An eligible employee can only take APL within a window that starts 20 weeks after, and ends 12 months after, their child is born or placed with them on adoption.
  • The minimum period of APL that can be taken is two consecutive weeks and the maximum period is 26 weeks. APL must be taken in multiples of complete weeks and as one period.
  • The employee will be required to give a minimum of eight weeks' notice of their intention to take APL.
  • Employees may be entitled to additional statutory paternity pay (ASPP) if they meet certain eligibility requirements. The number of weeks of ASPP they will be entitled to be paid for depends on how early their partner returned to work from maternity leave.

Default retirement age

  • From today, the default retirement age of 65 (DRA) will be abolished. Removing it is seen as a way of encouraging people to work longer and save for retirement.
  • The abolition of the DRA will not mean individuals can never be forced to retire. An employer will be able to compulsorily retire an employee if it can objectively justify the decision, although this is likely to be the exception.
  • There will be a transitional period from 6 April 2011, so any retirements an employer has already given notice of can continue through to completion. However, if it wants to retire an employee under the DRA, it must have given proper notice to them yesterday at the latest.
  • If you are an employer and the answer to any of the following questions is yes, we would recommend that you should contact us as soon as possible:
  • Do you have any employees over 65 or about to reach 65 that you want to retire?
  • Do you want to impose your own contractual retirement age for employees once the DRA has been abolished?
  • Do you have any contracts, benefits, procedures or policies that refer to the DRA of 65?

Extension of flexible working

The right to request flexible working is available to employees continuously employed for at least 26 weeks, to care for either a child under 17 or an adult in need of care. This right is extended to parents with children under 18 from today.

New statutory payments rates from 11 April 2011

  • Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay and Statutory Adoption Pay.The standard rates will increase from £124.88 to £128.73. The weekly earnings threshold for these payments will rise from £97 to £102.
  • Statutory Sick Pay.The standard rate will increase from £79.15 to £81.60, with the weekly earnings threshold also rising from £97 to £102.
  • Maternity allowance.This will increase from £124.88 to £128.73, with the earnings threshold remaining at £30.

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