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Managing April Fools (and employment law changes)

It’s April Fools’ Day and given how many people are employed, the jokers amongst us may choose the workplace to exercise their mischievous streak. While some people can laugh off a prank, a common reaction to being a victim of a practical joke is to seek revenge – by playing a joke of their own.

How quickly can this get out of hand? Well, thanks to the Internet it is easy to compare some inventive, fiendish and sometimes just mean pranks that have been played.

Anyone for toffee onions? From the outside they look exactly like toffee apples but it will only take one bite to find out the horrible truth. A quick and equal response could be doughnuts with mayonnaise rather than jam piped into them. But what if someone wants to up the ante?

Ok! This one is still rather gentle – although more devious and could lead to equipment damage. Remove the outer casing of a keyboard and plant a bed of cress in its innards before putting the casing back on (we are not advising anyone to do this by the way!). A few days later the keyboard will have a distinctive horticultural vibe to it.

Then you get on to the really mean stuff: replacing a toilet roll with a dummy one that includes a taunting April Fools’ message, wrapping someone’s car in cling film or putting an air horn under a colleague’s chair.

All these examples can be witnessed here. We hope for your office’s sake they are confined to the Internet.  Should you, however, have to deal with a prank that gets out of hand, call the HR Dept for help in handling the culprit and the victim.

One thing that is no joke this April is the raft of employment law changes that are being introduced.

It’s a busy month and you need to be aware of the changes that are taking place. The biggest one is shared parental leave. This allows parents to split up to 52 weeks of leave between them when a child is born. The freedom that this gives parents will almost certainly cause headaches for employers.

Adopting parents are to get more rights too. It will be easier for them to take adoption leave (they no longer have to complete 26 weeks’ service) and statutory adoption pay will rise. They will also have the right to paid time off before the adoption begins to get to know the child.

Unpaid parental leave rights will also increase on 5th April. This had only related to the parents of children under 5 (unless the child was disabled), but now will be extended to cover all children under 18. Parents can take up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave.

Many statutory pay rates are rising: maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave will rise to £139.56. Statutory sick pay goes up to £88.45.

The other big change is the new scheme to assist in getting the long-term sick (four weeks plus) back into work. Called Fit for Work, it co-ordinates the employee, employer and GP to develop a plan for the employee’s return to work.

Like a toffee onion or mayonnaise donut, that’s quite a mouthful. So if you need help digesting employment law changes this April don’t hesitate to speak to your local HR Dept.