10 things you need to know about the Employment Act

The
largest piece of employment legislation ever produced in one government bill
became law on 6 April. So how prepared are you? Audrey Williams, HR lawyer at
Eversheds, highlights the key points

1.
Employers are obliged to respond to the equal pay questionnaire within eight
weeks. A questionnaire could land on your desk in the next week – are you
prepared to respond?

2.
Employers must be careful about the responses they give to the questionnaire –
businesses will face greater liability and an increased penalty if they mislead
an employee about pay structures or ignore the employee’s request for
information.

3.
Employers will also need to be mindful of data protection legislation when
providing answers to the questionnaire. For example, an employee might ask for
exact details of a colleague’s pay package or appraisal review. If the
information is confidential, and that colleague does not want it to be
disclosed, the employer will need to consider how much information can be
given.

4.
Mothers with an expected week of childbirth on or after 6 April and 26 weeks’
employment with the same employer will be entitled to increased maternity leave
from nine months to a year. This means all employees who are currently pregnant
will be entitled to the new provision. This legislation is already in force, so
procedures should already have factored in the new regulations.

5.
Under the new maternity arrangements, a woman is required to notify her
employer of her intention to take maternity leave 15 weeks before her expected
week of childbirth. This should be communicated to all staff, so that women
will be able to give the correct notification.

6.
Once an employee has given notification, an employer will be obliged to respond
within 28 days, setting out the date on which the employee is expected to
return to work. From this date, the employer should assume the employee will be
returning to work, because they are no longer entitled to write to the employee
during their maternity leave and insist they confirm their intentions.
Therefore, it is advisable to keep the channels of communication open with
employees while they are on maternity leave.

7.
Fathers will be entitled to two weeks paid paternity leave around the time of
birth of a child or the placement of an adopted child.

8.
Employees with children under six or parents of disabled children under 18 have
the right to request flexible working. However, this doesn’t just mean changing
their hours – it could mean working from home, job sharing, flexitime,
staggered hours or term-time working.

9.
Employers must respond to a request for flexible working by meeting with the
employee within 28 days. A decision must then be made within 14 days.

10.
Employers can refuse a request for flexible working, but they must have a sound
business reason as listed in the provisions and show they have seriously
considered the employee’s request.

www.eversheds.com

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