Key employment law changes

As you may or may not be aware, each year in April the Government introduces new legislation in respect of employment rights and responsibilities.  Below is a summary of the key changes being implemented this month.

National Living Wage

From 1st April 2016, workers aged 25 and over are entitled to the ‘national living wage’ rate of £7.20 per hour – this is essentially a new ‘top rate’ of the national minimum wage.

NOTE FOR EMPLOYERS:

– The new rate is applicable from the first pay reference period commencing on or after 1st April 2016.

– Please ensure you check that employees’ pay is not brought below the new rate by any form of salary-sacrifice scheme.

Penalties for non-payment of the national minimum wage doubled

This has also taken effect from 1st April 2016 and the same enforcement provisions apply for failure to pay the national living wage.  Further details can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/measures-to-ensure-people-receive-fair-pay-announced.

Employer NICs and Apprentices

You may have noticed the Government’s recent campaign to entice employers to provide more apprenticeships – in their latest drive they have decided to abolish National Insurance Contributions for apprentices aged under 25.  These changes have been introduced with effect from 6th April 2016 and it is hoped they will incentivise employers to offer more apprenticeships going forwards.

Statutory family-related pay and sick pay

Employers will be surprised to note that there will be no increase to statutory adoption, maternity, paternity or shared parental pay rates this year, and statutory sick pay is similarly unchanged.  Details of the current applicable rates can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/statutory-pay.

However new limits for statutory redundancy pay and employment tribunal awards have been introduced from 6th April 2016, and are as follows:

right to request flexible working extended to most employees

Most employers are familiar with the procedure to be applied when dealing with flexible working applications which have been around, on a legislative basis, since 2003. Initially the right to request flexible was confined to the parents of children under six or of disabled children under 18.

In 2007 the right was extended to carers of adults and in 2011 to parents of children under 18. With effect from 30 June 2014 the right is extended to all employees who have 26 weeks’ continuous employment at the time the application is made. Only one application per year may be made.

As a result, now is a good time to recap the key elements of fairly handling a request for flexible working. The first thing to bear in mind is that the entitlement is to request flexible working rather than an entitlement to flexible working on request. Nonetheless, employers must take request for flexible working seriously. What does that mean in practice? If an application is refused then the employer may be required to justify the decision, both in terms of the steps taken to consider it and the substantive reason for rejection.

According to the ACAS draft guidelines valid reasons for rejection may include:

Burden of additional costs
Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
Inability to recruit additional staff
Detrimental impact on quality
Detrimental impact on performance
Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
Insufficient work for the periods the employee proposes to work
Planned structural change to the business

However, employers should bear in mind that it is not enough to give the reason; if called upon to do so the employer may be required to justify the reason.

family unfriendly?

McGrigors is one the leading UK-based law firms with offices in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Belfast, Aberdeen, Manchester, Qatar and Falkland Islands. It describes itself as one of the UK’s most dynamic law firms and reports in a recent press release that it has signed a commitment to widen access to the legal profession.

However, in a firm-wide memo issued on 13 September, staff were informed that it is commencing a consultation on paying bonuses to mothers who return to work and reducing pay for mothers who take a second maternity leave within 18 months from their last one.

It also plans to reduce long term sickness benefits.

consultation on modern workplaces – parental rights

The Government issued its BIS "Modern Workplaces Consultation" on 16 May 2011 . One of the topics covered is "Flexible Parental Leave". Consultation closes on 8 August 2011. In bare outline, the main elements in the “flexible parental leave” part of the proposals are : Initial leave rights (around the birth/adoption of a child): Maternity…