Five Of 2015’s Most Important Employment Law Developments

This year has been a busy one in terms of employment law developments, especially when it comes to new family-friendly rights. We look at 5 of the biggest changes.

1. Caste discrimination is recognised

This year marked the first time that tribunals accepted that an employee can have claim for discrimination if they treated less favourably because of their caste.

This case concerned a domestic servant who had been subjected to unfair treatment by her employers because she was of a lower caste. The court felt that this was an aspect of race discrimination, so her claims succeeded.

2. Changes to adoption leave

Until 5 April 2015, a pre-requisite for taking adoption leave was that the adopted parent had worked for their employer for over 26 weeks. This threshold has now gone and, as with birth parents, adoptive parents now have the option to opt into the shared parental leave scheme (see further details below).

Adoption leave has also been extended to foster parents and those expecting a child through a surrogate.

3. Bear Scotland and holiday pay

Bear Scotland was one of 2014’s big cases, finding that compulsory overtime should be included in the calculation of holiday pay. For many workers working compulsory overtime, this meant that they had been underpaid for their holiday and had a claim against their employer for the shortfall.

In 2015, the government put in place a two-year ‘backstop’ on this type of claim meaning that workers can now only claim for underpayments of holiday pay going back two years.

4. Extended parental leave

As of 5 April 2015 parental leave can be taken to care for children aged up to 18. This is a significant extension to the previous system which only permitted for leave to be taken up to child’s 5th birthday.

The government is also considering extending parental leave further so that it can also be taken by the child’s grandparents.

5. Shared Parental Leave (SPL)

SPL applies to all babies born on or after 5 April 2015. For the first time, it allows mothers to split their maternity leave and pay entitlements with their partners.

It means that mothers will still get their usual maternity leave entitlement (2 weeks’ compulsory leave and 50 weeks’ non-compulsory leave) but have the option to curtail this and split the latter 50 weeks as SPL.

SPL has given working parents far more flexibility in the way they organise care arrangements for their new child.

Rachel Hearn is a solicitor and Sarah Owbridge is a paralegal at leading senior executive employment law firm BDBF.