Do You Know What the Latest Employment Law Changes Are?

April is the time of year when certain employment law changes come into effect. It’s important to ensure that your business is up to date with legislation. This can be difficult, especially if you don’t have an HR department. Highlighted here are some current and soon to be implemented changes that might affect your business.

Pensions and Auto-Enrolment Minimum Contributions

It’s important to remind your staff that this month, there will be a mandatory increase in contributions. Employers will need to contribute a minimum of 2%, and employees 3%, providing a total minimum contribution of 5% per month.

Statutory Rates

Most years, the Department for Work and Pensions proposes new rates for statutory payment in line with the Consumer Price Index. This year, 2018, the rates are as follows:

  • Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) – paid at a rate of 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings for the first six weeks, the remaining 33 weeks are paid at the statutory rate (or at 90%, whichever is lower). From 1 April 2018, the statutory rate increased from £140.98 to £145.18 per week.
  • Statutory Paternity Pay (SPP), Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) – will also increase from £140.98 to £145.18 per week.
  • Maternity Allowance – payable for those who don’t qualify for SMP payment, this will also increase to £145.18 per week.
  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – as from 6 April, the rate will increase from £89.35 to £92.05 per week. You can offer more if you have a company sick pay scheme, but you cannot offer less.

The amount that your employees must earn to be entitled to these rates is also increasing from £113 to £116 per week. Employees earning less than this will not be eligible.

National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates

As from 1 April 2018, the minimum hourly rates have increased slightly to the following:

  • NLW for employees aged 25 and over increased from £7.50 to £7.83
  • NMW for those aged 21-24 increased from £7.05 to £7.38
  • NMW for those aged 18-20 increased from £5.60 to £5.90
  • NMW for those ages 16-17 increased from £4.05 to £4.20
  • NMW for apprentices aged under 19, or over 19 but in their first year of apprenticeship, increased from £3.50 to £3.70

Changes to Tax on Payments in Lieu of Notice (PILONs)

As from 6 April 2018, an element of all payments received in connection with a termination of employment are chargeable to income tax as general earnings. Whereas previously, if you didn’t have a contractual right to make a PILON, any payment made in respect of an employee’s notice entitlement was regarded as ‘damages for breach of contract’ with the first £30,000 paid tax-free, with no NICs due. For further information on this, click here.

Employment Tribunal Maximum Awards and Limits

With immediate effect, the maximum amount of a week’s pay to calculate the basic award for unfair dismissal or a redundancy payment increases to £508. The maximum amount of the compensatory award for unfair dismissal increases to £83,682.

And finally, GDPR!

With all the publicity and hype around this topic, you are probably aware that the new GDPR – General Data Protection Regulations – come into effect on 25 May. To find out more about this from an HR point of view, read my newsletter here.

If you need advice on how any of the above relates to your business specifically, I’d be delighted to help. Do call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

Our Guide to Employment Law Changes – 1 October 2014

On 23 October we’ll running our next Employment Law Update workshop. This half day session is aimed at business owners and managers who need to keep up to speed with the changes, to make sure they stay legal. We’ll go through all the new changes and give you the opportunity to find out how they might affect your business.

There are still some places available, so to join us at Hennerton Golf Club in Wargrave, Berkshire for just £15 +VAT, click here.

Here are a few of the changes we’ll be looking at.

Antenatal rights for fathers and partners

Working fathers will have the choice to take unpaid time off to attend up to two antenatal appointments with a pregnant partner. These rights will be available for employees who are in “qualifying relationships”, which means they:

  • are the expected child’s father
  • are the pregnant woman’s husband or civil partner
  • live with the woman in an enduring family relationship and are not a relative
  • are one of a same-sex couple who is to be treated as the child’s parent under the assisted reproduction provisions
  • are the potential applicant for a parental order in relation to a child who is expected to be born to a surrogate mother.

From 1 October both employees are permitted to take time off to attend the same appointment. However you may refuse to grant an employee time off where it is “reasonable” to do so. But you must tread carefully as employees can bring a tribunal claim against you for unreasonably refusing time off. You should adopt a clear policy of how such requests will be dealt with and the parameters for refusal.

Employment tribunals must order equal pay audits

Greater sanctions are to come into force to ensure that employers are carrying out equal pay audits. As part of a new tougher regime, employers who are found in breach of equal pay legislation can be ordered by the Employment Tribunals to carry out an equal pay audit and make the results of that audit public. If the Tribunal determines that you have unreasonably failed to comply with its obligations, it can impose a fine of up to £5,000 at each hearing, in order to address your non-compliance.

Reservists better protected against unfair dismissal

To encourage more new recruits to sign up as a reservist of the armed forces, the Government is making signing up more attractive to people who worry that enlisting might cause problems with their job and career. From 1 October 2014, the statutory qualifying period for unfair dismissal will be removed in the case of a dismissal connected with an employee’s membership of the Reserve Forces. However, reservists will still have to prove that it was unfair to dismiss them because of their absences from work – they will not be treated as automatically unfairly dismissed.

The changes will apply to employees whose effective date of termination falls after 1 October 2014. Prior to these changes, reservists were at a considerable disadvantage when pursuing a claim for unfair dismissal as a period of call-up could not count towards the two year qualifying period needed to bring a claim.

The government is also reducing the financial burden on reservists’ employers.Small and medium-sized employers will now be able to claim £500 per month (pro-rated for part-months and part-time employees working fewer than 35 hours per week) from the Ministry of Defence during periods when a reservist employee is absent on military service.  Employers will also be able to claim up to £110 a day for additional salary costs incurred in providing cover for the absent reservist.

Increase in national minimum wage

Following the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission the Government has implemented the following increases to the national minimum wage which take effect from 1 October 2014: the standard rate for those aged 21 and above will increase from £6.31 to £6.50 an hour; the rate for those aged 18-20 will increase from £5.03 to £5.13 an hour; and the rate for those above the compulsory school but aged under 18 will increase from £3.72 to £3.79 an hour.

There’s a lot more happening, so to keep ahead of the changes and to find out more about these ones, join us on our workshop on 23 October 2014.

 

How Do You Get More From Your Staff? Part Two

In a recent blog we looked at the importance of managing performance as a way of getting more from your staff, without dramatically increasing your costs.

Here are some top tips you can actually put into action, to get more from your people:

  • Provide a stimulating working environment that encourages members of staff to contribute to the progress of your business.
  • Encourage your staff to reach their full potential by providing opportunities to develop their skills through training and development, as well as coaching in the soft skills needed to be an excellent team member.
  • Carry out formal performance reviews on a regular basis, setting clear objectives and achievable targets; don’t wait for annual appraisals.
  • Build good relationships by providing regular informal feedback and guidance; allow your staff to air their concerns within an environment of trust and honesty.
  • Deal with issues as soon as they arise – don’t wait for them to become problems.
  • Offer a clear career path, to encourage employees to be the best they can be and stay with you for the long term.

How do you get more from your people? What have you done that has worked – or not worked? Leave a reply below.

If you still have questions about how to improve the performance of your team, come to our next workshop on 22 November 2012 near Henley. Places are free but limited, so click here for full details.

Misconduct

Despite every effort, even the best run business may encounter problems of misconduct from time to time.

Misconduct can range from a minor incidence of unsatisfactory behaviour to an act of violence, theft or malicious damage.  However, the one thing they all have in common is that if handled incorrectly they could not only damage your reputation but leave facing the prospect expensive unfair dismissal claims and employment tribunals.

It is often easier to deal with a minor incidence of misconduct informally by simply explaining to the employee why their behaviour has been deemed unsatisfactory and seeking agreement/agree steps to ensure it does not continue or recur.  However, if this does not have the desired result, or closer investigation reveals that the problem is bigger than initially thought, then it might be necessary to invoke a more formal approach. Most companies operate a 3-stage process: (1) written warning, (2) final written warning, (3) dismissal.

Avoidance is better than cure!  The key to protecting your business is to have in place a clear and fair disciplinary procedure that defines what behaviours you consider to be acts of misconduct relevant to the type of business you undertake and that this is communicated to every member of staff at the outset of employment.  The procedure should cover a range of circumstances, the different types of work performed by your employees, health and safety issues, risks to your business, timekeeping, use and care of company equipment, bullying/harassment, claiming expenses and use of email and internet.

Finally, whatever approach you take, always keep full and detailed records.  This is just as important for minor breaches as it is for acts of gross misconduct and will ensure that if the behaviour occurs or escalates you will find it easier to defend any subsequent claims of unfair dismissal and protect the reputation of your company.