Here's a run down of the major employment law changes for the year that Carval's HR software users need to be aware of.
- Regulations giving zero hours workers the right not to be unfairly dismissed or subjected to a detriment for failing to comply with an exclusivity clause, and to claim compensation – came into force 11 January.
- The new National Living Wage of £7.20 per hour now applies to workers age 25 and over – from 1 April.
- The National Minimum Wage amendment regulations also double the financial penalties if employers are found to have paid less than the minimum – from 1 April.
- Statutory rates of maternity allowance and statutory maternity pay (SMP), statutory paternity pay (SPP), statutory adoption pay (SAP) and statutory sick pay (SPP) are usually increased in April each year but remain unchanged this year.
- Certain tribunal awards are increased, including the cap on the compensatory award to £78,962 and the limit on a week’s pay (for calculating redundancy and unfair dismissal awards) to £479 – from 6 April.
- Employers who fail to pay an employment tribunal award will have to pay a penalty – from 6 April.
- Public sector employees will be required to repay a tapering proportion of a ‘qualifying exit payment’ if they return to the public sector within a period of 12 months - was expected in April, but the regulations have yet to be finalised.
- Further changes to the rules and penalties for employing illegal workers came into force under the Immigration Act 2016 – from 12 July.
- A commencement order under the Equality Act allows regulations to be made soon on mandatory annual gender pay gap reporting. It will affect employers with 250 or more staff. Organisations will need to collect data from April 2017 for the first reports which must be published by end of April 2018.
- National Minimum Wage rates – were increased on 1st October: the standard adult rate for workers aged 21 and over to £6.95, the development rate for those aged 18-20 to £5.55, the young workers rate for those aged 16-17 to £4.00, and the apprentice rate to £3.40.
- A cap on exit payments for public sector workers was expected to be introduced before 1 October, but the regulations have not yet been finalised and plans for further curbs, and restrictions on the largest salaries in the sector, were announced in September.
Employment-related Acts and Bills
- The Scotland Bill became an Act in March. It devolves further powers to the Scottish Parliament, including financial powers and elements of the welfare system. Under the Act, the Scottish Parliament has announced its intention to abolish employment tribunal fees in Scotland.
- The Childcare Bill which became an Act in March applies to England and Wales only. The number of hours of free childcare for 3 and 4 year olds in working families is expected to be doubled from the current 15 hours to 30 hours from September 2017. Pilot programmes in some areas are expected to offer 30 hours of free childcare from September 2016
- The Trade Union Bill which became an Act in May allows the government to reform strike laws in Great Britain. Future regulations will bring the Act into force.
- The Enterprise Bill which became an Act in May includes provisions on apprenticeships and capping exit payments for public sector workers (see above).
- The Immigration Bill which became an Act in May contains more provisions on illegal working, the introduction of a skills charge and a new duty on public authorities to ensure that everyone who works for them in a customer-facing role speaks fluent English. Changes to the illegal working rules and certain other provisions came into force in July.