The Queen's speech delivered on 27th May 2015 at the Houses of Parliment included planned changes to laws which will affect the working world. This included a commitment to achieve full employment, changes to immigration law and greater restrictions on strike action. A Bill enabling the government to hold an EU referendum and devolving further powers to Scotland has also been published.
The Budget in July, saw the Chancellor George Osborne announce a new National Living Wage for those age 25 and over from April 2016.
The ‘Fit for Work’ service is currently being rolled out, but is not strictly a legal development; it will provide health assessments for employees who are off sick for more than four weeks.
Case law developments and any subsequent amendments to legislation will continue to affect employers, especially in areas where decisions are expected, including the fees regime for employment tribunals. A European Court of Justice ruling late in 2014 means that obesity can fall within the definition of disability under the Equal Treatment Directive, and an Employment Appeal Tribunal decision, also late in 2014, means that caste could come within the Equality Act’s definition of race and therefore be protected from discrimination.
So what has happened during the first half of 2015?
- Holiday pay: regulations came into force placing a two year limit on claims for unfair reduction from wage claims in respect of holiday pay; these apply to claims presented after 1st July 2015. The regulations also state that the right to paid holiday is not incorporated as a term in employment contracts.
- Employment agencies and employment businesses in UK are banned from advertising jobs exclusively in other European Economic Area countries without advertising them at home effective from 5th January 2015.
- Section 56 of the Data Protection Act (DPA) was implemented on 10th March 2015, following its delay from December 2014. It is now an offence for an employer to require an employee or job applicant to use their DPA subject access rights to produce a copy of their criminal record. The Information Commissioner's Office has issued guidance.
- A revised financial package providing greater assistance for employers of mobilised reservists took effect from 27th March 2015.
- Shared parental leave scheme is now in place for parents whose babies were due on or after 5th April 2015, or who had children placed for adoption on or after that date. The shared parental leave rate from 5th April 2015 is £139.58, in line with other maternity, paternity and adoption allowances.
- Adoption rights: the 26 week qualifying period for adoption leave was removed and statutory adoption pay commenced in line with statutory maternity pay; adopters can now take paid time off for some adoption appointments from 5th April 2015.
- The right to take parental leave was extended to parents of any child under the age of 18 from 5th April 2015.
- The Pension Schemes Act 2015 enables people with a defined contribution pension to access their pension more flexibly from 5th April 2015.
- The basic rates of maternity allowance and statutory maternity pay (SMP), statutory paternity pay (SPP) and statutory adoption pay (SAP) all increased from £138.18 to £139.58 on 6th April.
- The rate of statutory sick pay (SPP) increased from £87.55 to £88.45 on 6th April 2015.
- National Minimum Wage: Regulations to consolidate the legislation came into force on 6th April 2015.
- Increased limits on employment tribunal awards came into force on 6th April 2015:
- maximum compensatory award rose from £76,574 to £78,335
- limit on a 'week’s pay' rose from £464 to £475.
- A ban on exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts came into force on 26th May 2015.
- A new regime for English apprenticeships came into force on 26th May 2015.
- A maximum £20,000 penalty for underpaying the national minimum wage, on a 'per worker' basis rather than per notice, came into force on 26 May 2015.
Later in the year we will also see
- National Minimum Wage rate changes: on 1st October the standard adult rate will rise to £6.70, the development rate for those aged 18-20 to £5.30, the young workers rate for those aged 16-17 to £3.87, and the apprentice rate to £3.30.
- Changes to the Equality Act 2010 to remove the power of employment tribunals to issue wider recommendations in successful discrimination cases will come into force from 1st October.
Employment-related Acts and Bills
The Government has announced there will be Bills on employment-related topics introduced: immigration, trade unions, further welfare reforms and moves to achieve full employment.
- The Trade Union Bill was introduced to Parliament on 15th July 2015 allowing reform strike laws in Great Britain.
Employment-related Acts from previous parliamentary sessions do have provisions still to be implemented:
- The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill became an Act on 26th March 2015. It contains provisions to improve gender pay gap reporting under the Equality Act 2010, introduce annual reporting on whistleblowing disclosures, limit employment tribunal postponements and penalise employers who do not pay an employment tribunal award - these provisions have yet to come into force.
- The De-regulation Bill became an Act on 26th March 2015. The Act aims to reduce the burden of unnecessary regulation on businesses and revoke legislation which is no longer of any practical use. For employers, the main interests are changes to the Equality Act 2010 to remove the power of employment tribunals to issue wider recommendations in successful discrimination cases and the introduction of approved English apprenticeships. The provisions concerning the approved English apprenticeships came into force on 26th May 2015 and the removal of power of employment tribunals to issue wider recommendations in successful discrimination cases will come into force on 1st October 2015.
- The Childcare Payments Bill became an Act on 17th December 2014. It will remove the present employer-supported childcare system and create a new scheme to support eligible parents with costs of childcare. This is expected to launch in 2017.
Consultations & Reviews
Following the Queen’s Speech, many consultations have also been announced including:
- Preventing misuse of the term ‘apprenticeships’ and ‘apprentice’ in relation to unauthorised training - Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Closes 19th August
- Closing the gender pay gap – Equalities Office. Closes 6th September
- Various consultations on provisions in the Trade Union Bill. Closing 9th September
- Drug and alcohol addiction, and obesity: effects on employment outcomes - Professor Dame Carol Black has been asked to undertake an independent review into how best to support benefit claimants with potentially treatable conditions, such as obesity or addictions to drugs and alcohol, back into work. Closes 11th September.
- Implementing the Posted Workers Enforcement Directive (see European developments section below). Closes 24th September.
- The Ministry of Justice is currently carrying out its commitment to review the impact of employment tribunal fees and expects to report by the end of the year.
- The Low Pay Commission is carrying out visits across the UK to gather evidence on the National Minimum Wage and low pay.
The Ministry of Justice is currently carrying out its commitment to review the impact of employment tribunal fees and expects to report by the end of the year.
The Low Pay Commission is carrying out visits across the UK to gather evidence on the National Minimum Wage and low pay.
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