It’s the start of a new season and it looks like Autumn is going to be a busy time for HR professionals, as the government introduces a string of changes to employment law. Here are some of the laws that are changing or coming into force from October 2016, as reported on the Personnel Today website:
National minimum wage increases
Certain age bands will see the national minimum wage increase from 1 October 2016. For workers aged 21-25, the rate will rise to £6.96 per hour; for those aged 18 and above but under the age of 21, it will be £5.55 per hour; for workers under 18 but above compulsory school age, it will increase to £4.00 per hour; and apprentice rates will rise to £3.40 per hour. There will be no changes to the national living wage – the national minimum wage for over 25s.
English language requirement for public sector
Those working in public-facing roles within the public sector will need to be able to speak fluent English. In Wales, these individuals will have to speak either English or Welsh. A draft code of practice has been drawn up to assist public authorities with the changes, but a start date has not yet been confirmed.
Businesses illegally employing foreign workers face closure
New measures are being brought in to clamp down on employers who permit illegal workers. In cases where illegal working is suspected, employers will be issued with a closure notice, suspending access to their premises for up to 48 hours. A further order can be made to prevent or restrict access for an additional 12 months.
In a bid to reduce employers’ dependence on migrant workers, the Government will enforce a visa levy on companies who sponsor workers from outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland. This is not due to be implemented until April 2017.
Gender pay gap reporting
The first gender pay gap and gender bonus gap reports will need to be published by April 2018, but the payment period taken into account will begin in April 2017. Meanwhile, the bonus information will cover the 12-month period leading up to April 2017.
Large employers will be forced to pay an apprenticeship levy totaling 0.5% of their overall pay bill. This money will be used to help fund apprenticeship schemes; in addition to this, there will be restrictions on courses being described as an ‘apprenticeship’ unless they actually are. English public-sector companies with 250 or more employees will be set an apprenticeship target of 2.3% of their workforce each year.
New rights for Sunday workers
Shop workers will be able to contest working more than their normal hours on a Sunday, and the notice period they must give for opting out of Sunday working will be reduced. The start date for these rules is yet to be announced.
Reforms to trade union law
Key changes to trade union law, made via the Trade Union Act 2016, will come into force soon. Most of the changes relate to industrial action, such as the introduction of new voting thresholds.
Tax-free childcare schemes
Starting in early 2017, the government will pay 20% of annual childcare costs (capped at £2,000 per child) for families where both parents work, and each earns less than £100,00 per annum. The minimum weekly income must also equate to 16 hours at national minimum wage rate.
Here at Lucy Bristow, we make sure we stay up-to-date with the latest news and legislation affecting employment law in the UK – so if you’re seeking expert advice, get in touch to see how we can help.