Equal pay audits and antenatal rights to come into force

Several pieces of new employment legislation will come into force tomorrow (1 October 2014).

Equal pay

From this date, employers can be required by employment tribunals to conduct and publish equal pay audits if they are judged to have breached the equal pay provisions of the latest Equality Act.

Ingrid Waterfield, a director in KPMG’s People Powered Performance, said: “While the glass ceiling may be showing the first signs of cracking, equal earnings remain the elephant in the room.

“Equal pay audits should be welcomed as another step on the path to transparency in business, but while the threat of forced publication of pay structures might shame some employers into action, it will not solve problems overnight.

“Better communication on how decisions are made is vital to help employees understand why they are paid what they are.

“If a set of rules are harnessed to the power of data analytics, these decisions can be monitored, evaluated and brought into line. The end result will be a greater chance that equal pay for an equal day will become the norm.”

Emily Chalkley, an associate at Charles Russell, added: “It is recommended that employers take pre-emptive action such as considering their pay practices and carrying out a pay review to mitigate the risks of successful gender pay claims.”

Failure to comply with the obligations could result in a fine of up to £5,000.

Antenatal rights

Other changes to employment legislation which will come into effect includes: antenatal rights and an increase in the national minimum wage.

The changes to antenatal rights will entitle fathers and partners of a pregnant woman to take unpaid time off to attend two antenatal appointments providing they are in a qualifying relationship.

Chalkley said: “Employers should consider adopting a clear policy of how such requests will be dealt with and the parameters for refusal. Employers could be liable for compensation payable of twice the hourly rate for the period when the employee would have been entitled to be absent.”

National minimum wage

The national minimum wage will also increase from £6.31 per hour to £6.50 for workers over 21, £5.13 an hour for staff aged 18 to 20 and £3.79 an hour for those aged 16 and 17.

“While the risk of individuals perusing claims for unlawful deduction from wages is low, employers’ biggest concern will be enforcement action from HM Revenue and Customs following a complaint from workers, third parties or as a result of the targeted enforcement of a particular low-paying sector,” said Chalkley.

Employers which breach this legislation could incur a financial penalty up to £20,000.