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.

What’s Changing in Employment Law?

Every year in April, a number of changes are made to Employment Law. As a manager or an employer, it is really important that you know about these changes and how they might affect your staff and your business. If you missed our recent workshop, where we talked through many of the changes, here is a summary of those that affect how much you pay your staff and when.

National Minimum Wage – from 1 April 2017 these have increased as follows:

  • Workers aged 25 and over – £7.50
  • Workers 21 to 24 – £7.05
  • Workers 18 to 20 – £5.60
  • School age to 18 – £4.05
  • Apprentices under 19 or in their first year – £3.50

If you need to review your pay rates, you should identify eligible workers and check the new rates which are now applicable. Work out the gross pay received during the pay reference period, including bonuses and commission but not overtime or tips. Calculate the number of hours worked, excluding rest breaks and travel to work. You will then need to pay any arrears immediately and increase the worker’s pay to the minimum wage level or higher. Make sure that you keep records of changes in pay, as it your responsibility, as the employer, to prove payment. HMRC have the right to check at any time, to ask to see records and to order payment of arrears.

Statutory Redundancy Rates – the maximum week’s pay for the purposes of calculating a statutory redundancy payment increased to £489 on 6 April 2017. The maximum number of years of employment that can be taken into account is 20. From 6 April 2017, the maximum statutory redundancy payment that an employee will be able receive is £14,670.

Statutory Maternity Pay – from 2 April 2017, statutory maternity pay after the first six weeks of maternity leave increased to £140.98 (or 90% of average weekly earnings if this figure is less than the statutory rate.) The lower earnings limit also increases to £113 in April 2017.

Statutory Paternity Pay – Statutory paternity pay increased to £140.98 (or 90% of average weekly earnings if this figure is less than the statutory rate) on 2 April 2017. The lower earnings limit also increased to £113 in April 2017. Paternity pay is available to a person of either sex in an adoption situation, and to the spouse, civil partner or partner of either sex of the biological mother of a child.

Shared Parental Leave – Statutory shared parental pay increased to £140.98 (or 90% of average weekly earnings if this figure is less than the statutory rate), on 2 April 2017. The lower earnings limit also increased to £113 in April 2017. The shared parental leave and pay depends on the amount of maternity leave and pay that the mother takes, and the amount of shared parental leave and pay that the other parent takes. Shared parental leave and pay is also available in an adoption situation. Each parent claims shared parental leave and pay from his or her own employer. Parents must satisfy individual eligibility requirements and joint eligibility requirements.

Statutory Sick Pay – the rate of statutory sick pay increased to £89.35 a week on 6 April 2017. The lower earnings limit also increased to £113 in April 2017. If the employee’s average earnings before deductions, such as tax and national insurance, are equal to or more than the lower earnings limit (currently £112), they will be entitled to £88.45 a week. Although the rate of statutory sick pay normally increases on 6 April, the rate did not rise on 6 April 2016. This rate has therefore applied since 6 April 2015.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting – from 6 April 2017, companies and employers in the private and voluntary sectors with 250 or more employees are required to publish gender pay gaps. These must be published annually on the organisation’s website and uploaded to a Government-sponsored website.

Apprentice Levy – on 6 April 2017, this levy was introduced, to be paid via PAYE. The levy will be 0.5% of an employer’s pay bill, although employers will receive an allowance of £15,000 to offset against payments. It applies to employers with a pay bill over £3 million. The Digital Apprenticeship Service will distribute funds raised by the levy. The levy is being used to fund the cost of apprenticeship training and assessment through co-investment, up to 90% of agreed price. Employers with 50 or fewer employees can receive 100% of the cost if they take on apprentices aged 16-18 (or 19-24 who have previously been in care, in local authority education or on a health and care plan.)

A number of other changes are being made to Employment Law this spring, which we’ll cover in some of our blog posts, which you can read here. If there are any issues that you would like to know more about, please contact us for a confidential chat. Call us on 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

How Can You Improve Employee Performance for Free?

Employee performance is something that I am asked about on a regular basis. How do you manage it? What’s the best way to improve it? To help answer these questions and any specific ones that you have, I am running a free webinar at 11am on Wednesday 31 May 2017. It will last for around one hour, to give you plenty of time to ask any questions that you have. Book your place online now so that you don’t miss out. Click here to reserve your place.

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

What Impact Will Brexit Have on Employment Law?

Although much UK employment law is derived from EU law, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is unlikely in itself to have an immediate impact on employment law as most EU Directives are implemented in the UK by regulations or Acts of Parliament. It will be for Parliament to decide whether to retain, amend or repeal domestic legislation.

It is possible that the UK will be required to continue to implement elements of EU legislation as a condition of a negotiated trade deal between the UK and EU.

Many areas of domestic law that are derived from EU law have been heavily influenced by decisions of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), for example working time, TUPE and discrimination law. ECJ decisions will continue to apply in the UK until the Government or the UK courts determine otherwise.

What impact will Brexit have on EU nationals currently working in the UK?

It is not yet known what rules on immigration and free movement of people will be in place following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. However, employers can reassure employees who are EU nationals that there will be no immediate change in their right to live and work in the UK. The same is true of nationals of the other countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) (Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein) and of Switzerland.

EEA and Swiss nationals who have lived in the UK for five years or more as a “qualified person” have acquired the right to permanent residence. A qualified person is someone who is working, studying, self-employed, self-sufficient or looking for work. A person who has qualified for permanent residence can apply for a document certifying this.

The UK will have a period of up to two years within which to negotiate the terms of its withdrawal. The rights of EU nationals to come to the UK to live and work in the future will be a key element of the negotiations. It is likely that EU nationals who are already living in the UK will be afforded special status, with reciprocal arrangements for UK nationals living in EU countries.

One option for an immigration framework, in the absence of a negotiated deal allowing freedom of movement between the UK and the EU, is that the current points-based system that applies to workers from countries outside of the EEA could be extended to EEA nationals. For most employers, the main route for employing foreign workers under this system is by sponsoring skilled workers, where they can show that there is a shortage of suitably qualified applicants within the resident labour market. There is scope for a points-based system to be extended to allow the employment of non-skilled workers as well as skilled workers.

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.

 

Information Source: XpertHR

The Latest Legal Changes to Employment

Every year around April and October, changes are made to Employment Law that will affect some, if not all of your employees. In April we ran one of our popular Employment Law update workshops, to tell our clients and contacts what they need to know. If you missed it, here’s a summary of what we covered.

More changes will be happening later this year, so we’re running our autumn event on 18 October 2016 and we’ll send you a reminder nearer the time. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the latest changes and what you need to do about them, do get in touch.

Here are some of the issues we discussed at the recent workshop:

Statutory Rates – these usually change, but this year, statutory family-related pay and sick pay rates were frozen.

Postponing a Tribunal – under rule 30A of the Employment Tribunals Regulations 2013 for proceedings presented on or after 6 April 2016, changes have been made, in order to limit the number of postponements and adjournments that can be granted in a single case in the employment tribunal and introduce a deadline after which applications for a postponement will not be allowed. Employment tribunals must also consider making an award for costs where postponements are granted at late notice.

National Living Wage – this applies to all employees over 25 years of age. The new rate from 1 April 2016 is £7.20 per hour, and is expected to increase to £9 per hour from April 2020. Also from 1 April 2016, the penalty was set at 200% for the total underpayment, for each employee who has been underpaid. 300,000 employees will benefit from this increase, with employers needing to find an estimated £3 billion by 2020. The Government intends to align when the national minimum wage and national living wage rates are amended, to be April for both with effect from April 2017. It has asked the Low Pay Commission to recommend the rate of the national living wage and the national minimum wage for April 2017 and to provide an indicative rate of the national living wage for April 2018. The Commission is due to report back on its findings in October 2016.

Zero Hours Contracts – legislation came into force on 11 January 2016, which states that individuals on a zero hours’ contract must not be unfairly dismissed or subjected to a detriment for breaching an exclusivity clause.

National Insurance for under 25s – employer NICs have been abolished for apprentices under the age of 25. As part of the Government’s drive to encourage employers to create more apprenticeships for young people, from 6 April 2016, employers will not pay employer national insurance contributions for apprentices aged under 25.

New State Pension – a single-tier state pension was introduced on 6 April 2016, replacing the previous basic state pension and additional state pension. Employer-provided pension schemes will no longer be able to contract out of the state pension and receive a national insurance rebate. This means that, where an employer provides a previously contracted-out scheme, its employer and employee national insurance contribution liability will increase. Employers should ensure that employees are aware that there may be an impact on their pay.

The Gender Pay Gap – these new regulations will apply from 1 October 2016, for all private-sector and voluntary-sector employers with 250+ employees. Companies will be required to publish the gender pay gap as it is in the pay period in which 30 April 2017 falls.

If you think that your company and your employees will be affected by any of these changes, please do get in touch for a confidential chat. Call 0118 940 3032 or email sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

Staff Accuse B&Q of Using the National Living Wage as an ‘Excuse’ to Cut Pay and Benefits

Employers are being warned to avoid kneejerk moves when introducing measures to offset increased wage costs.

A petition drafted by a B&Q manager, accusing the DIY retailer of slashing employee benefits in an effort to offset the costs of the national living wage (NLW), has so far attracted more than 120,000 signatures. As an employer you could face a similar negative reaction if you attempt to alter terms and conditions as a result of the law to increase salaries for your lowest paid staff. The £7.20 an hour wage came into force on Friday 1 April.

As part of the change, the B&Q employees say that the retailer has suggested time-and-a-half pay for working Sundays and double time for working bank holidays; a restructuring of allowances for employees working in parts of the UK where the cost of living is higher; and the removal of a summer and winter bonus, which equates to 6% of annual salary.

The petition says that B&Q staff are required to accept the new terms and conditions of employment, or face losing their job.

“Big businesses like B&Q are using the NLW as an excuse to cut overall pay and rewards for the people who need it the most,” the petition reads.

B&Q denies that the changes to terms and conditions are as a result of the NLW, stating that a review of its pay and reward framework was launched “long before” the new wage was announced.

A B&Q spokesman said: “Our aim is to reward all of our people fairly so that employees who are doing the same job receive the same pay. That isn’t the case at the moment, as some have been benefitting from allowances for a long time when others have not, and that can’t continue.”

A survey from the Federation of Small Business found that 54% of SMEs believe they have been negatively impacted by the 50p an hour increase in pay, and will put off hiring new staff as a result. 41% will cut staff hours, while 26% plan to erode pay differentials by freezing or cutting the wages of higher paid staff.

According to analysis by the FT, employers are actively are actively considering increasing the number of self-employed individuals or apprentices – all of whom are exempt from the NLW – in their staffing mix.

But Esther Smith, employment partner at UK law firm TLT, warned that this could leave employers open to discrimination claims.

“Employers may, consciously or unconsciously, look to employ younger people to avoid the higher wage costs.  Also, if they operate zero hours’ contracts, they may elect to offer less work to those people over 25,” she said. “Both of these actions would expose the employer to age discrimination claims.”

Before you make any major decisions which could affect your business and your employees, get in touch by contacting us on 0118 940 3032 or emailing sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

Reporting the Gender Pay and Gender Bonus Gap Data

The draft Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2016 require employers, with more than 250 employees, to publish their first gender pay gap report by 30 April 2018, giving you up to 12 months from the pay period covered by the report to do this. The report must appear on your website, in English, in a manner that is accessible to all your employees and to the public. Once published it must remain there for at least three years.

Employers will have to publish the results, but not the raw data on which the calculations are based, for each of the benchmarks set out below:

  • The mean gender pay gap
  • The median gender pay gap
  • The mean bonus pay gap
  • The proportion of men and women receiving a bonus payment and
  • The number of men and women in each of the four pay bands.

Your report will have to include a written statement confirming that the information is accurate. This must be signed by a director, partner or member of your organisation’s governing body.

As an employer you will also be expected to upload the information to a government website, where the intention is to create a publicly available league table or database.

There will be no legal obligation on you to publish any form of commentary on the figures or to set out any actions that it may be taking to address the gender pay gap. However, ministers have made clear that the Government will strongly encourage you to do so.

You should be particularly aware of the potential damage to your reputation, especially among potential future employees, of failing to set the data in context or to provide an explanation. Where you can report a gender pay gap that is narrower than that generally seen in the wider economy, and/or within its industry, this could enhance your organisation in the eyes of both job applicants and existing employees. However, you cannot assume that a job applicant will automatically be aware that your gender pay gap is better than average. This needs to be spelled out.

If your company’s gender pay gap is wider that the average, additional explanation will help to protect your reputation. Is the gap wide because of the industry in which you operate or the types of roles that exist within it?  For example, women make up only 14.4% of all employees in science and technology occupations and represented just 15% of undergraduate entrants to engineering and technology courses in 2014/15. Employers with a large number of well-paid roles in these areas may struggle to recruit women to them.

Additionally, you may wish to use the opportunity to set out what you are doing to ensure that you recruit, develop, reward and promote women as well as men. This is particularly important if there are few mitigation factors to explain a wide pay gap within your organisation.

Need help with writing your first gender pay gap report? Get in touch to find out how we can help by contacting us on 0118 940 3032 or emailing sueferguson@optionshr.co.uk.

Modern Slavery Act 2015 – What Do You Need to Know?

Modern slavery refers to the institutions of slavery that continue to exist in the present day. Estimates of the number of slaves today range from around 21 million to 29 million. While the majority of slaves are found in developing countries, slavery also exists on a smaller scale in advanced democratic nations, for example the UK, where Home Office estimates suggest 10,000 to 13,000 victims.

In order to combat this situation, large commercial companies with a turnover of at least £36 million per year now have to prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year. The statement must set out the steps that the company has taken during that year to make sure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of its supply chains, or in any part of its own business. If the company has not taken any such steps, it must still publish a statement to that effect. The duty to produce a statement applies to financial years ending on or after 31 March 2016.

While this might not apply directly to your business – if your turnover is below £36 million – you might still want to know about it, when considering larger businesses to trade with.

While you might not have to produce a statement, you might like to produce one to show to potential clients.  There is no set template for a slavery and human trafficking statement yet, but we recommend that your statement covers issues such as your countries of operation and supply, the process by which your company assesses whether or not particular activities or countries are high risk in relation to slavery or human trafficking and which of your company’s activities are considered to be at high risk of slavery or human trafficking. The statement should also cover any training that your company requires your staff who are working in specific countries or with certain supply chain managers to complete, to make them aware of the issues of modern slavery and how to prevent it.

If you would like some help in putting together the most appropriate statement for your business, call us on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email us.

Zero Hours Update – the Latest Developments

A zero-hour contract is the name given to a type of contract, where an employer has the discretion to vary employee’s working hours, usually anywhere from full-time to “zero hours”. The employer typically asserts that they have no obligation to provide work for the employee.

There have been a number of changes made to the rules governing these contracts in recent months and the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has published some guidelines for employers, suggesting the following:

  • Zero hour contracts are only appropriate in situations where an employee is engaged in seasonal work or a one-off event
  • When recruiting, you should clearly advertise the job as a zero hour contract and inform any applicant that hours are not guaranteed
  • You should include within the contract whether you deem the individual an ‘employee’ or a ‘worker’, what rights they are entitled to, how work will be offered to them, and how the contract can be terminated
  • As an employer you should give as much notice as possible when you can’t offer work
  • This is addition to the fact that exclusivity clauses have been prohibited since May 2015. There is more about this in a previous blog here.

In addition to this guidance, the BIS’s Exclusivity Terms in Zero Hour Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015 give more protection for employees on zero hours contracts. They will have a right not to be unfairly dismissed if the reason is that they have failed to comply with an exclusivity clause. There is no qualifying period of employment needed to bring such a claim. Zero hour workers have the right not to be subjected to detriment because of non-compliance with an exclusivity clause and if you breach these rights, a worker may issue a claim and seek a declaration or compensation.

What does this mean for you as an employer?

If you use zero hours contracts, then you should do the following:

  • Review your employment contracts
  • Audit your workforce to see if zero hours contracts are the appropriate contracts to use, in line with the BIS guidance.
  • Contact us if you need any help with sorting this out! Call us on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.

The Year Ahead – Expected Changes to Employment Law

In 2016, employers will see a number of key Employment Law changes. Here is a summary of those agreed so far, to help you prepare for how they might affect your business.

January 2016

Redress for workers punished for breaching exclusivity clause – Regulations came into force on 11 January 2016 to enable workers who suffer a detriment, or are dismissed as a result of breaching an exclusivity clause in a zero hours contract, to make a complaint to an employment tribunal.

March 2016

Gender pay reporting details revealed – Regulations must be introduced by 26 March 2016 that will require employers with 250 or more employees to publish information about their gender pay gaps.

April 2016

National living wage introduced – A new compulsory national living wage, which works as the top rate of the national minimum wage, will be introduced on 1 April 2016 for workers aged 25 and over.

Duty to prepare modern slavery statement takes effect – The duty to prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement (which has been in force since 29 October 2015) will apply in relation to financial years ending on or after 31 March 2016, for companies with a turnover of at least £36 million per year. This will begin to take effect for employers from 1 April 2016, depending on the timing of their financial year.

Penalty for failure to pay national minimum wage doubled – Draft Regulations double the penalty for non-payment of the national minimum wage and the national living wage for pay reference periods starting on or after 1 April 2016.

Statutory pay changes – The maximum amount of a week’s pay for the purposes of calculating statutory redundancy pay, and other awards such as the basic award for unfair dismissal, is likely to increase on 6 April 2016. The weekly rates of statutory sick pay, maternity pay, paternity pay, adoption pay and shared parental pay will not increase for 2016/17.

October 2016

National minimum wage – This may rise on 1 October 2016, subject to the prevailing economic conditions and the Low Pay Commission’s report, which is due to be delivered to the Government in February 2016.

There are many other changes that are yet to be confirmed, including the Trade Union Bill coming into force, a cap on public-sector exit payments being introduced and new rules on apprenticeships. We’ll bring you news of all these and other changes as they are confirmed. If you have any questions about these changes and how they affect your employees and your business, do get in touch by calling 0118 940 3032 or by clicking here to email us. We will be running our next Employment Law Update workshop on 12 April 2016. Click here for details and online booking.