As well as the Shared Parental Leave changes, there a number of other important changes to legislation taking place in April.

Here are the key highlights:-

Adoptive parents’ rights are enhanced

Adoptive parents’ rights are to be more closely aligned with those of mothers taking maternity leave.

Currently, to qualify for adoption leave, an employee must have 26 weeks’ service with the employer. From 5 April 2015, this continuous service requirement for adoption leave will no longer apply. Further, the amount of statutory adoption pay will increase and adopters will be entitled to paid time off work to attend appointments to have contact with the child.

Ordinary parental leave extended

With all the attention focused on the introduction of shared parental leave and pay, it is easy to forget that the right to take up to 18 weeks’ unpaid parental leave (which applies to employees with at least one year’s continuous employment) is being extended.

Currently, it applies to parents of children under five unless the child has a disability, in which case the age limit is 18. From 5 April 2015, it will apply to parents of children under 18 in all cases.

Changes to pension rights

There will be a significant increase in the flexibility around accessing defined-contribution or money purchase pensions savings. At present, in most cases, the only option for people in one of these workplace pension schemes is to purchase an annuity.

From 6 April 2015, individuals aged 55 or over will be able to access their pension funds flexibly, subject to their marginal rate of tax. There are different options in how they will be able to do this and it will still be possible to purchase an annuity or receive a pension from an occupational scheme, as under the current rules.

 Changes to national insurance

As announced in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s 2013 Autumn Statement, from 6 April 2015, employers’ national insurance will not be due in relation to employees under 21. The exemption will apply to earnings up to the upper secondary threshold.

Limits on unfair dismissal tribunal awards increase

Other employment law changes in April 2015 include increases in the limits in tribunal awards and other statutory rates. From 6 April, the limits on the amount of compensation that an employment tribunal can award for unfair dismissal increase. So the limit on the compensatory award and the amount of “a week’s pay” for calculating the basic and additional award will rise.

The rise in the limit on the amount of a week’s pay also affects redundancy payments. The maximum guarantee payment payable to an employee in respect of a work less day also increases.

Statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay increase

From 5 April 2015, the standard weekly rate of statutory maternity pay, paternity pay and adoption pay will increase from £138.18 to £139.58.

Statutory shared parental pay will be payable at the same rate

Statutory sick pay will increase from £87.55 to £88.45.

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