Keep Updated with the latest Employment Law Changes – October 2019

During my most recent Employment Law workshop, we covered a number of HR specific issues that have recently been updated. As it’s important that you, as an employer, know about any employment law changes, here’s a summary of some of the most pertinent items. 

Even if you attended the event, this summary will help you to keep abreast of latest legislation. 

Leap Year Holidays – are employees entitled to an extra day?

As 2020 is a leap year, you may well be asked this question by your employees: 

  • Salaried employees are paid a set salary for the year, so unless their Employment Contract states that they can have an extra day’s pay (extremely unlikely), it doesn’t make any difference to what they’re paid.
  • However, an employee who is paid according to the hours they work, or the amount of work they do, will be entitled to be paid for that extra day if they have to work it. 

Vehicle Tracking and GDPR

Many organisations use tracking devices in their company vehicles to record behavioural information, such as speed and distance travelled. If this is necessary for your business, you need to ensure you’re legally compliant:

  • Draw up a Vehicle Tracking Policy that sets out the aims of the technology, clarifies the rules and procedures of usage, and explains how the data is used for your employees to understand.
  • Full transparency is needed for GDPR purposes, so this information should also be included in your Employee Privacy Statement.
  • Where personal use of the vehicles is permitted, a privacy button or similar technology should be installed to ensure that data is not collected outside business hours.
  • If you need specific help to create a Vehicle Tracking Policy for your organisation, please get in touch.

Redundancy Protection for Pregnant Employees and New Parents

The law will be extended and will double the current period of redundancy protection as follows:

  • So that it applies from the point at which an employee informs their employer that they are pregnant, whether this is done orally or in writing; and
  • For six months following the end of maternity leave.

For now, these are the important things to note as an employer:

  • An employee selected for redundancy during maternity leave is entitled to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy with you before other employees and without application or competitive interview.
  • Failure to offer the above renders the subsequent redundancy dismissal as automatically unfair.

Parental Bereavement Leave Entitlement 

From April 2020, statutory leave will be available to all employees who are ‘bereaved parents’ where they were the primary carers for a child under 18, however long they have worked with you. Other things you must consider are:

  • Entitlement focuses more on the responsibility of the ‘primary carer’ and less on the legal status of the carer to the child.
  • This includes non-traditional family structures, such as adoptive parents, people fostering to adopt, legal guardians and most foster parents. 
  • It also covers parents who suffer a stillbirth at 24 weeks or more into pregnancy.
  • Bereavement leave patterns are in units of a week, not days. A single block of two weeks or two separate one week blocks should be taken up to 56 weeks from the date of death.

Vegetarianism and the Equality Act 2010

An employment tribunal – Conisbee v Crossley Farms Ltd – recently held that vegetarianism is not a ‘philosophical belief’ under the Equality Act 2010. However, the tribunal did suggest that veganism is more likely to be protected under the Act as vegans: ‘do not accept the practice under any circumstances of eating meat, fish or dairy products, and have distinct concerns about the way animals are reared, the clear belief that killing and eating animals is contrary to a civilised society and also against climate control’

As an employer, it’s good practice to respect individual’s dietary choices and requirements. Ensure that work-related social events cater for your employees’ dietary needs, and encourage an atmosphere of acceptance. Don’t allow staff to mock their colleagues for their dietary choices.

IR35

From April 2020 private sector firms will have to check whether contractors need to pay income tax and national insurance contributions, moving the responsibility for conducting checks from the contractor to the hirer/end user business using their services.

Only companies which are not “small”, as defined by the Companies Act 2006, will be subject to the new off-payroll working rules. A small company must meet twoof the following qualifying conditions:

•  An annual turnover not more than £10.2m

•  A balance sheet total not more than £5.1m

•  No more than 50 employees.

For unincorporated organisations, those businesses whose turnover exceeds £10.2m in one calendar year must operate the rules.

The new rules will require the hirer/end user to provide an employment status determination and the reasons for that decision down the contractual chain to each party, in addition to directly to the worker.

A “status disagreement process” will be required to respond to representations from workers where there is a disagreement over determination. HMRC has promised guidance on how to fulfil the obligation to take reasonable care and how to implement a status disagreement process.

The HMRC Check Employment Status for Tax tool (CEST), is intended to help with status determinations, but still fails to win the confidence of its intended users, particularly in light of HMRC’s failure in tax tribunal cases to apply the status tests correctly.

There are many challenges to consider, such as identifying those PSC’s, not taking a blanket approach, and being prepared to deal with appeals. For more information on the complexities of IR35 and how it could affect your business, do get in touch.

If you would like to discuss any of the above employment law items, or have any other issues you need help with, do call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

What Do You Do if an Employee is Convicted of a Crime?

What would you do if you discovered an employee had been convicted of a criminal offence? Often, the first instinct is to dismiss them immediately. However, this could actually get you into more trouble than your employee!  

Even if the employee is sent to jail, you can’t necessarily mean you can dismiss him or her without a full investigation. A court of Law may deem it reasonable that you hold the job open for their return, if they are only on a short-term sentence, and the offence is nothing to do with work. 

Discovering that one of your employees is a convicted criminal is a big concern. In these circumstances, I am often asked if they should be dismissed. 

As an employer, despite the circumstances, you still need to take care not to dismiss immediately. Additionally, if a convicted employee has over two years’ service, they still have the right to claim unfair dismissal. 

What about when an employee is charged with, or convicted of, a work-relatedcrime?

Along with the judiciary process being carried out, you also need to conduct your own investigation as an employer, before taking disciplinary action. You need to establish the facts of the case. The Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance proceduresmakes it clear that despite the fact that an employee has been charged with, or convicted of, a criminal offence, that in itself is not enough reason for disciplinary action. 

Carefully consider what effect the criminal charge or conviction has on your employee’s ability to do the job, as well as their relationship with you, managers, colleagues or customers. Disciplinary action is more likely to be appropriate if the offence is work related.

Case law tells us that even though an employee is charged with an offence, this on its own does not give reasonable grounds for dismissal. You, as the employer, are under a duty to obtain sufficient information through your own investigations to form a genuine and reasonable belief that the employee is guilty of the offence before deciding to dismiss.

Can I dismiss an employee on misconduct that occurred outside the workplace?

You could dismiss an employee on the grounds of misconduct that occurred outside the workplace provided that the conduct complained of is thought likely to affect the continued employment relationship. The Acas code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures states that where an employee is charged with, or convicted of, a criminal offence not related to work, this is not in itself a reason for disciplinary action. 

Again, you will need to carefully consider what effect the charge or conviction has on the employee’s suitability to do the job, as well as their relationship with managers, work colleagues and customers. The types of criminal offence that are most likely to affect the employment relationship are those involving dishonesty, violence and sexual offences. 

As the employer, you must establish the facts of the case and decide whether it is appropriate to commence the disciplinary procedure. The fairness of a dismissal in each case will depend on the nature of the individual’s job in relation to the type of offence.

Can I dismiss an employee because he or she is in prison?

If an employee is in prison, it may be fair for you to dismiss them because of his or her conduct, or because he or she is unable to perform the job. You will need to consider factors such as the nature of the offence, the length of the sentence, the nature of the employee’s job, the effect of the employee’s absence on the business, and the damage (if any) to your reputation.

Your employee’s conduct could potentially be a fair reason for dismissal if the offence he or she is convicted of relates to his or her job, or if your reputation is likely to be damaged by their conviction. In those cases (or anything similar), you should carry out an investigation and conduct a fair disciplinary procedure as far as possible in the employee’s absence. Once the findings are available, then you can give careful consideration and decide whether it would be reasonable to dismiss him or her.

If your employee is likely to be in prison for a long time, it may be fair to dismiss him or her on the grounds that he or she will be unable to perform the contract of employment. But you must carry out a fair procedure and act reasonably in dismissing the employee for that reason. 

However, if your employee is imprisoned for a short time for an offence unrelated to work, it is likely to be reasonable that you should hold the employee’s job open until he or she returns. 

Are You Up to Date with Employment Law?

On 12 October 2017 we ran our latest Employment Law update workshop, to take our clients and contacts through the latest changes.

Here are some of the issues that we discussed, that you might need to know about for your business and employees.

Female managers earn less than their male colleagues. Data has been released showing that female HR managers earn on average £4500 less than their male counterparts. That’s a gender pay gap of 10% for doing the same job. Across all management roles, female managers earn £12000 less than their male colleagues – a gap of 26.8%. The new gender pay gap reporting rules require all companies with more than 250 employees do disclose the difference between average male and female hourly pay by April 2018. According to certain sources, so far only 77 companies have published their data – out of 7850 that will have to.

A new corporate offence of failing to prevent tax evasion came into effect on 30 September 2017. The offence covers organisations that fail to prevent instances when their associates, including employees, agents and service providers facilitate tax evasion. Organisations may be criminally liable if:

  • their client committed tax fraud
  • one of their associates deliberately and dishonestly facilitated the fraud or
  • the organisation failed to prevent its associate from facilitating fraud.

Organisations can defend themselves by putting in place procedures such as risk assessments, due diligence assessments and fraud prevention policies and procedures.

Tribunal fees have been reversed. The Supreme Court has agreed that it is unlawful to charge tribunal fees, so they are no longer payable by a claimant on bringing an employment tribunal. All those claimants who have paid fees since they were introduced are to be reimbursed – that means that £32 million will be repaid!

Injury to feelings. The Vento Bands used to determine levels of compensation for injury to feelings in discrimination cases have been adjusted for claims issued on or after 11 September 2017 as follows:

  • Lower band – £800-£8400
  • Middle band – £8400-25200
  • Upper band – £25200-£42000 and exceptional cases over £42000.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR requires that personal data be processed according to many of the same principles as under the current Data Protection Act 1998. The GDPR also has new requirements:

  • that restrict the use of consent as a justification for processing data
  • on demonstrating compliance through the documentation of data processing activities
  • on adopting organisational measures for data protection such and policies and practices, and
  • on providing more information to employees and job applicants on the purpose and legal grounds for collecting their data and their rights in relation to their personal data.

There is still much to find out about GDPR and how it will affect your business, so we’ll cover this in more detail at our next workshop in 2018.

In the meantime, if you need any more advice on any of these topics, please do get in touch by calling 0118 940 3032 or emailing me here.

General Election 2017 Employment Policies

Britain returns to the polls on 8 June 2017, but what do each of the main political parties propose for employment policy?

The Conservative Party

Described by Theresa May as the “greatest expansion in workers’ rights by any Conservative government in history”, the Conservative party manifesto promises:

  • to retain UK worker rights, post-Brexit
  • to continue the Taylor review into employment status and introduce better protections for ‘gig’ economy workers
  • to protect worker pensions better, by giving pension schemes and the Pension Regulator more powers, to prevent mergers or takeovers which may threaten pension scheme solvency, in extreme cases, and giving the Pensions Regulator the power to severely financially punish those who have mismanaged pension funds and left them under-resourced
  • working parents 30 hours of free childcare for three and four year olds, and more programmes to help people return to work after a career break. The Conservative party also aims to encourage more workplaces to offer flexible working and more parents to use Shared Parental Leave
  • to give workers a statutory right to a year’s unpaid leave to care for a relative and to grant a two-week period of paid leave for parents whose child has died
  • to give workers the right to request leave for training
  • to provide targeted support for 18-24 year olds to get them into work
  • to allow larger organisations to pass Apprenticeship Levy funds to smaller organisations in their supply chain
  • to extend pay gap reporting for large employers, to cover race
  • to extend the Equality Act to cover discrimination on grounds of mental health, even if this is of short term duration and would not usually qualify as disability discrimination
  • to get one million more disabled people into employment in the next ten years and give employers support to increase flexible working and digital technology to enable this. Those who have specific disabilities and who are seeking work, are being promised tailored support
  • to incentivise employers to take on people who may otherwise find it difficult to find paid work, e.g. those with a spent criminal conviction, by giving employers a year’s holiday from employer’s National Insurance Contributions
  • to require listed companies to take into account employees’ interests at board level by allowing employees to request information about the future direction of the company they work for, within sensible limits
  • to strengthen shareholders’ voting powers on executive pay and to require listed companies to publish pay ratios between executives and other staff
  • to increase the National Living Wage to 60% of median wages by 2020 and “in line with average earnings by 2022”
  • to double the Immigration Skills Charge to £2,000 a year, for companies employing migrant workers, to encourage businesses to train UK staff.

The Labour Party

The Labour Party’s proposals for employment policy aim to end the “rigged economy” and are largely contained in its 20 point plan. A summary of this and other employment policy pledges include:

  • banning zero-hours contracts, unpaid internships and umbrella companies and give those employees contractually entitled to short hours, but who regularly work more, a right after 12 weeks to a contract reflecting the longer hours regularly worked
  • abolishing the Swedish derogation loophole in respect of the Agency Worker Regulations, which currently allows an employer not to pay agency workers equally, under certain circumstances. Employment agencies and end user employers would be jointly responsible for enforcing agency worker rights
  • granting equal rights to all workers (not just employees) from the first day of employment, and shifting the burden of proof for employment status, so it is assumed a worker is an employee unless the employer can prove otherwise
  • raising the minimum wage to the same level as the living wage, which is expected to be at least £10 per hour by 2020 and apply to all workers over 18, not just those over 25
  • ending the 1% pay cap on public-sector pay and ensuring public workers receive pay rises in line with inflation
  • introducing maximum pay ratios of 20:1 in the public sector and for companies bidding for public contracts
  • introducing an “excessive pay levy” on salaries above £330,000. The Labour Party promises it will not raise income tax for those earning less than £80,000 but they would lower the threshold for the 45p additional rate to £80,000 and reintroduce the 50p income tax rate on earnings above £123,000maintaining the apprenticeship levy, but with more flexibility for employers on how the levy is used. The Labour Party will ring-fence more than £400 million from the levy, for small businesses and will require annual reporting on apprenticeships to ensure high quality. Targets would also be set to increase apprenticeships for the disabled and other disadvantaged groups
  • abolishing the 2014 amendments to the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, which narrowed the protection of employees, during a takeover of a business
  • extending paid paternity leave to four weeks and maternity pay would be extended to 12 months
  • abolishing Employment Tribunal fees
  • repealing the Trade Union Act, and introducing collective bargaining on worker rights through unions in all different sectors. The Labour Party is committed to guaranteeing unions the right to access workplaces and would only award public contracts to companies that recognise trade unions
  • introducing legislation to make sure employers recruiting from abroad do not undercut UK staff
  • introducing 4 new public holidays, in addition to the 8 current bank holidays, to mark all 4 national patron saints’ days
  • protecting the “triple lock” on state pensions, so that they rise in line with wages, inflation, or by 2.5% – whichever is highest. The Labour Party will also amend the Takeover Code to make sure businesses have a plan to protect pensions and workers
  • making redundancy more complex for employers, in line with European redundancy models, with particular focus on ensuring redundancy against women is not unfair;
  • conducting a public inquiry into blacklisting
  • providing equalities representatives with statutory rights
  • bringing back protection against third-party harassment
  • creating a civil enforcement system to make sure organisations comply with gender pay auditing, introducing ethnicity pay gap reporting and creating a Ministry of labour to ensure that all rights are enforced
  • all existing EU law rights being preserved following Brexit. The Labour Party has also pledged that rights for EU nationals living in Britain and reciprocal rights for UK citizens living in the EU will be protected. The Labour Party has acknowledged though, that free movement of workers is unlikely to be possible, once the UK leaves the EU.

The Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats’ proposed employment policies include:

  • abolishing the public sector pay cap and Employment Tribunal fees
  • creating a ‘good employer’ kitemark, covering areas such as paying a living wage, avoiding unpaid internships and using name-blind recruitment (the latter of which would be mandatory for public sector employers)
  • running an independent review into setting a genuine living wage for all sectors
  • requiring large employers to publish the number of staff earning less than a living wage and pay ratios between top and median pay
  • introducing pay gap reporting in relation to gender, race and sexual orientation
  • encouraging large listed employers to give employees the right to request shares and changing company law to allow German-style two-tier boards, including employees
  • aiming to double the number of businesses hiring apprentices and the Liberal Democrats will support the growth of sector-led national colleges for vocational education
  • making sure that apprenticeship levy monies are all spent on training
  • updating employment rights to better suit modern working practices, including the gig economy
  • introducing a right for those on zero-hours contracts to request a fixed contract, and possibly introducing a right to request more regular working patterns, after a qualification period
  • making flexible working, paternity and shared parental leave a right from day one of employment and encouraging more employers to offer flexible working;
  • introducing an additional month of shared parental leave;
  • extending free childcare places to all two year olds to assist working parents
  • extending the Access to Work programme aimed at getting disabled people back into work
  • campaigning to keep the UK in the Single Market, preserving freedom of movement within the EU and failing that, campaigning for the UK to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and to make sure employment rights stemming from the EU are not undermined
  • a 1% rise in income tax, to ring-fence an extra £6 billion of funding per year for the NHS.

The Green Party

  • The Green Party believes that “the introduction of a minimum wage of £10 by 2020 is a necessary step towards tackling inequality and poverty”
  • the Green Party would also abolish zero hours contracts and would work towards a four day working week (maximum of 35 hours)
  • the Green Party proposes that 40% of all company boards should be women, to assist in ending the gender pay gap
  • the Green Party would introduce a ‘wealth tax’ for the highest 1% of earners and introduce a higher rate of corporation tax for large business. The cap on employee national insurance contributions would also be removed by a Green Party government.

The UK Independence Party

  • UKIP has said it will cut net migration to zero within 5 years by implementing a visa system for skilled workers and students and banning migration for unskilled and low-skilled workers.

The Scottish National Party

  • The SNP have said that it will expand free childcare to cover 1,140 hours per year by 2022, (around 25 hours per working week) and make sure all those staff helping to deliver this target are paid at least the living wage
  • The SNP would not allow public procurement contracts to be awarded to companies engaging in blacklisting or exploitative zero-hours contracts.

Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru’s policies relating to workers include:

  • training and recruiting 1,000 more doctors and 5,000 more nurses for the Welsh NHS, over the next decade
  • Welsh-specific visas
  • free full-time nursery places for all 3 year olds, to help working parents;
  • introducing a “real, independently verified living wage”
  • protecting up to 200,000 jobs by maintaining trade with Europe, and guaranteeing the rights of Europeans currently living and working in Wales, post Brexit.

There are clearly a lot of differences between the employment policies of the main political parties and the way in which your business will operate may well be very different depending on the result of the General Election. We will update you with the actual policies being introduced by the next government after the General Election, as and when they are officially announced. In the meantime, if you have any questions about employment law or policy, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Two-Thirds of Small Businesses Risk Being Fined Through Lack of HR Resources

A recent report shows that time-poor small businesses are struggling with the burden of HR administration, leaving themselves at risk.

Only 25% of small business owners polled feel up to speed on matters to do with employee rights and employer regulations. As little as 37% of SME (small-to-medium sized enterprise) owners have a good understanding on all matters to do with employee rights and employer regulations and keep updated on regulatory changes on an ongoing basis.

New research from Jobandtalent has uncovered a worrying lack of understanding around employment regulations amongst small businesses in the UK. A lack of HR resources and expertise is leading to risky hiring practices in this market, the report finds.

The report follows the release of official data from the pensions regulator, which revealed that the number of employers being fined up to £10,000 a day for not complying with the new regulations on workplace pensions, has shot up by 300% in three months.

The survey of 500 SME owners was carried out by OnePoll and was commissioned by Jobandtalent, an online job marketplace, which matches SMEs with local talent. The research found that owners of SMEs are most at risk due to a lack of dedicated HR expertise or resource.

According to the Jobandtalent survey, a quarter of SME owners admitted that while they understand current regulation, they struggle to keep up with changes. Worryingly, 12% felt they have limited to no understanding of present employment regulations – let alone changes in the future. This represents a clear risk to the business.

When questioned about the hiring process and time to hire new talent, two-thirds (67%) of the 500 SME owners questioned revealed that they do not have anyone dedicated to finding talent and hiring or HR. Of those businesses, the vast majority (77%) answered that the responsibility for hiring fell to the business owner.

Is your business at risk, because you don’t have time to keep up with all the changes? Don’t take the risk – if you have a question about HR or Employment Law, contact us now and we talk about what you need to do. Call us on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

Are You Ready for the Next Employment Law Changes in April 2017?

Reserve your place on our next workshop here.

What are the next changes that will be made to Employment Law and how will they affect your business and your staff?

On 30 March 2017 we will hold the next of our regular Employment Law Update workshops. We do this twice a year, when the changes are approaching, so the next one will be in October 2017.  If you’re a business owner or manager it’s important you understand how they affect you and your employees.

This workshop is your chance to ask your questions in a confidential, friendly session, which is always attended by people who, like you, are looking for ways to keep up to date. Share your issues and hear how other people deal with the issues you have to deal with in your business.

The workshop will be held at Hennerton Golf Club in Wargrave, Berkshire, at 9.30am for a 10am start, finishing at 1pm. The cost is just £20 +VAT and includes plenty of tea and coffee! Online booking is available now.

Someone who attended a previous workshop said:

“I thought the workshop would be full of other HR people who knew more than me – but it wasn’t like that at all. I learnt a great deal from the Employment Law update and it was really useful talking to other people to hear how they dealt with similar issues to me.”

Book your place online now and we look forward to seeing you on 30 March.

What Does Bullying at Work Look Like?

Bullying at work is behaviour that is:

  • threatening, aggressive or intimidating
  • abusive, insulting or offensive
  • cruel or vindictive or
  • humiliating, degrading or demeaning.

Bullying will inevitably erode the victim’s confidence and self-esteem. It normally relates to negative behaviours that are repeated and persistent, and deliberately targeted at a particular individual. Bullying is often an abuse of power, position or knowledge, and may be perpetrated by the victim’s manager, his or her peers or even by subordinates. The following table gives some examples of behaviour that could be perceived as bullying, depending on the circumstances.

Whatever form bullying at work might not take, it should not be tolerated at any level and must be dealt with immediately. If you are concerned about any of your employees being bullied, or you are being bullied yourself and need to speak to someone about it in confidence, call me straight away on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

The 12 Days of Christmas

On the first day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, a Contract in a pear tree. Make sure that you have up to date contracts for all your employees.

 

 

 

 

 

On the second day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, two boxing gloves. Don’t go picking a fight with your employees just because they don’t do what you want them to do. Learn to manage them properly!

 

 

 

 

On the third day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, three French Hens. If you have employees from Europe, keep an eye on our blog for news of how Brexit could affect your employees and your business.

 

 

 

 

On the fourth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, four dreaded words. “You have been fired!” Before you rush to sack anyone, check to make sure you have a good reason and make sure you do it properly.

 

 

 

 

 

On the fifth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, five golden things. Here are the five stages of HR that your business will go through.

 

 

 

 

 

On the sixth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, six staff-a-laying. Keep your employees delivering all those golden eggs, to the best of their ability, by looking for ways to develop them and their performance.

 

 

 

 

On the seventh day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, seven swans-a-swimming. If, like a swan, you’re all grace and elegance above water, while below you’re frantically paddling to keep afloat of all things HR, just get in touch to see how we can help.

 

 

 

 

On the eighth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, eight maids-a-milking. Except that these days, you have to let the men do the milking too, if they want to! You’re not allowed to discriminate. Acas can help you create a fair workplace.

 

 

 

 

On the ninth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, nine ladies dancing. And the men can dance too!

 

 

 

 

 

On the tenth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, ten lords (and ladies) leaping at the Christmas party. Make sure you lay down a few rules for proper behaviour, so that things don’t get out of hand.

 

 

 

 

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, eleven pipers piping. Make a big noise when your staff do a great job. Look for the best way to reward them.

 

 

 

 

 

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my HR Consultant gave to me, twelve drummers drumming. I keep drumming good HR practices into my clients’ businesses, to help them grow successful companies that are great places to work.

 

 

 

Merry Christmas …

And have a stress free New Year with lots of happy, productive employees!

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How Will the Apprenticeship Levy Affect Employers?

The apprenticeship levy, which the Government hopes will help create three million new apprentices by 2020, is due to come into force in 2017, with a view to creating millions of apprenticeships across the UK. The levy is expected to raise an estimated £3 billion by the end of this Parliament.

If your business has an annual payroll cost of less than £3 million, then you will not be required to pay the levy. If you have more than this, however, there will be a 0.5% tax on your payroll bill, which will be paid through PAYE.

The Government estimates that approximately 22,000 organisations will be required to pay the levy. Many smaller employers will be impacted as well as the large companies, as a workforce of 100 people and an average salary of just over £30,000 will take businesses over the threshold.

Employers that do not pay the levy will still be able to access government support for apprenticeships through the Digital Apprenticeship Service (DAS). Employers in England that pay the levy and provide apprenticeship training will receive a ‘top-up’ to a digital account. The training must be provided through an accredited provider and, at this point, it is presumed that HRMC will be responsible for enforcing the payment from the employer and ensuring payment to the training provider.

Some employers have voiced concerns over how funding will be distributed, as each course will need different periods of training time and different evaluation methods. For example, an apprenticeship in engineering may need 12 months, while some apprenticeships in sectors such as retail may need less time.

Potentially, it will be difficult to make a one-size-fits-all scheme translate into meaningful and empowering apprenticeships that benefit both employer and employee.

How Can You Use the Apprenticeship Levy?

Consider the areas in your business where training is most needed, to ensure that the apprenticeship levy works in favour of your organisation. It is possible that many employers will not recoup the levy that they pay, and will therefore simply see it as another employment tax.

What Should Employers Do to Prepare?

One of the key parts of preparation for employers is ensuring that you have the financial capability to pay the levy.

Start to think more broadly than the immediate view of an ‘apprenticeship’ as something for young starters. Consider what training your business has put off because of the possible cost, and ascertain what could be done as an apprenticeship so that you can get the best value.

If you’re not sure how best to prepare for the Apprenticeship Levy, or you’d like some advice taking on an apprentice, contact us by calling 0118 940 3032 or emailing sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

Top Five Employment Law Cases in 2016 (So Far!)

Here are the top five employment law cases of 2016 so far, some of which have fairly far reaching implications.

Commission and holiday pay – Lock and another v British Gas Trading Ltd (No.2) (EAT)

This Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) agreed with the employment tribunal that the Working Time Regulations 1998 can be interpreted to require employers to include a worker’s commission payments in the calculation of his or her holiday pay.

The case went to the Court of Appeal and was heard on 11 July 2016. The Court of Appeal judgment is awaited.

Childcare vouchers during maternity leave – Peninsula Business Services Ltd v Donaldson (EAT)

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) advice has traditionally been that it is unlawful for an employer to make the suspension of childcare vouchers scheme membership during maternity leave a prerequisite of joining.

Official HMRC guidance stated that “non-cash benefits, such as childcare vouchers that can be used only by the employee and are not transferable…must continue to be provided during ordinary maternity leave and additional maternity leave”.

Peninsula’s childcare vouchers scheme was the subject of a legal challenge because its scheme requires employees to agree to suspend their membership during maternity leave.

An employment tribunal decision that Peninsula’s childcare vouchers scheme was discriminatory was overturned by the EAT. The EAT found that employers that make deductions from an employee’s salary in return for childcare vouchers do not have to continue to provide the vouchers during maternity leave.

Monitoring employees’ social media – Barbulescu v Romania (ECHR)

In this Romanian case, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) examined the scope of employees’ right to a private life in relation to social media activity.

An engineer who was dismissed for using Yahoo Messenger to chat with his family, as well as professional contacts, challenged his employer’s actions as a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

However, the ECHR held that the employer’s actions were justified because it was seeking to verify that the employee was using his work computer and social media account for work purposes only.

This case will now go to the ECHR’s Grand Chamber. The hearing is scheduled to take place on 30 November 2016.

Misconduct dismissal for “pulling a sickie” – Metroline West Ltd v Ajaj (EAT)

The EAT affirmed that an employee who makes up, or exaggerates the effects of, an injury or illness to take fraudulent sick leave is fundamentally breaching the implied term of trust and confidence and can be dismissed for misconduct.

This case reiterates for employers that “pulling a sickie” is a misconduct, rather than a capability, issue. This means that a dismissal for fraudulent sick leave must be based on reasonable grounds, following a reasonable investigation.

Reasonable adjustments for disabled people – Carreras v United First Partners Research (EAT)

When considering the duty to make reasonable adjustments, employers need to pay particular attention to disabled workers’ hours of work.

In this case, the disabled employee believed that he was disadvantaged because there was an expectation in his workplace that employees work late, even though there was no strict requirement to do so.

In upholding the reasonable adjustments claim, the EAT held that working late does not have to be presented as an instruction to cause a disadvantage.

In practice, workplaces can put pressure on employees to conform, even if there is no written rule or direct management instruction.

If you think any of these issues could affect your business, do get in touch with us. Call us on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

On 18 October 2016 we’ll be running our next Employment Law Update workshop, to bring you right up to speed on any changes that might affect your business. You can book your place online here.

 

Source: XpertHR