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Don’t look back in anger, you heard us say!

Don’t look back in anger, you heard us say!

Posted on 21/01/2016 by Tim Craig

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As 2016 gets underway we think it’s important that we all reflect on the critical changes and developments to employment law that came into effect in 2015. And in trying to make things a little easier for you, we’ve highlighted what we think were the main issues to ensure you’ve got your bases covered.

So let’s start in March when the new ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures came into force. One minor change was to reflect an employee’s absolute right to request their choice of Trade Union representative or workplace colleague to accompany them, provided of course that the request is in itself reasonable.

Onto April and perhaps the biggest challenge of the year with Shared Parental Leave becoming available to parents of children born or placed for adoption on or after 5th April 2015. This new law means that parents now have the opportunity to share Parental Leave entitlements between them and take leave in blocks separated by periods of work. There are eligibility criteria but parents on Shared Parental Leave are entitled to Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) for up to 39 weeks so the implications of this new law must be clearly understood.

If you engage with staff working under zero hours contracts, then developments in May should have been on your radar. Exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts were scrapped, meaning that employers are no longer able to restrict workers from working for another employer, which should lead to the fairer treatment of staff operating this way across the UK. Further information is available from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

July was a busy month. The Government commenced a consultation on closing the Gender Pay Gap by seeking views on a proposed requirement for larger private and voluntary sector employers to publish gender pay information. One to keep an eye on we think. Also in July, the first budget by the new Conservative government saw changes to the new National Living Wage. Set to come into force in April 2016, this new wage rate gives employees who are 25 and over a new minimum pay rate of £7.20 an hour. And as this is set to rise to £9 per hour by 2020, this will have a massive impact on small businesses across the country.

In September the Fit for Work service, that offers assistance to employees who have been or are likely to be absent from work for a period of four weeks or more, was rolled out. This big change means that employers who have staff on long-term sick can now use a new government scheme to assess whether, when and how they can get them back into the workplace. It’s ideal for those employers worrying about how to manage staff with a long-term illness, as it allows them to take direct action to move things forward.

On 1st October an increase in the National Minimum Wage from £6.50 to £6.70 per hour was announced and will be in force until the National Living Wage is introduced in April 2016. The current rates can be viewed here.

In November, the Gender Pay Gap was back on the agenda as the government announced plans to extend the requirement to publish gender pay gap information to the public sector.

So all in all a busy year and as we look ahead to 2016, we must mention Auto Enrolment – a term you may have heard about in 2015. Whilst automatic enrolment into workplace pensions has been rolling out across the UK since 2012, it is only now that 1.8 million small and micro employers need to act. In a phased process over the next three years, employers will have to enrol their eligible staff into a pension scheme.

We’re not in the business of frightening people, but Auto Enrolment is a big deal for small and micro employers as failure to enrol employees into a qualifying pension by the staging date set by the Pensions Regulator will result in fines from £50 to £10,000 per day, dependent on the size of business.

For further information about any of the issues above, including the challenges of Auto Enrolment, then please contact us on 0843 504 4653.

Please note: the content of this article is for information only and is not intended to be construed as legal advice and should not be treated as a substitute for specific advice. Kirsty Craig Associates accepts no responsibility for any third party content to which this article refers.