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Legislation tracker 2017 – what’s in force or coming up over the next few months?

2017 in Force

1 March 2017

Trade union reform

Changes to balloting rules for industrial action came into effect.

  • Strikes cannot be called unless 50% of those entitled to vote do so and a majority support strike action. In addition, if the proposed strike relates to “essential public services” (see definition below) at least 40% must vote in favour.
  • Unions must provide two weeks' notice of industrial action to employers.
  • New picketing rules which require the union to provide information to the police about picketing and ensure that an official supervises the picket.
  • Unions must provide more detailed information about the outcomes of ballots.

Essential public services are: health, fire, border security, education (of those aged under 17), transport, decommissioning nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel.

Note: Other changes under the Trade Unions Act 2016 are not yet in force. The government has consulted on whether to remove the prohibition against hiring agency staff to provide cover for striking workers. It is not yet known if or when this provision will come into force.

29 March 2017

Brexit – triggering of Article 50

The UK government has given formal notice of its intention to leave the EU.

1 April 2017

Increases to National Minimum Wage rates and Living Wage

Increases to the National Minimum Wage (NMW) will now take place in April each year, not October.

The National Living Wage increased to £7.50 from £7.20.

NMW will rise as follows:

  • Workers aged 21 to 24 - £7.05 from £6.95
  • Workers aged 18 to 20 - £5.60 from £5.55
  • Workers aged over compulsory school age under 18 - £4.05 from £4.00
  • Apprentices - £3.50 from £3.40

1 April 2017

Pension changes – auto enrolment

Employers with fewer than 50 workers are now subject to auto-enrolment. For those already there the three year re-enrolment exercises are now underway.

1 April 2017

Whistleblowing - annual reporting duties came into force

Prescribed persons provide workers with a mechanism to make a public interest disclosure to an independent body if they do not feel able to disclose to their employer. They are now required to make annual reports on whistleblowing disclosures made to them. The reporting period runs from 1 April to 31 March each year. The reports must be published online and must provide a summary of the action they have taken.

6 April 2017

Increases to the statutory rates for maternity, paternity, shared parental pay, adoption and sick pay

Statutory rates for everything other than sick pay increased from £139.58 to £140.98 or 90% of average earnings if lower, on 2 April.

Statutory sick pay increased from £88.45 to £89.35.

The lower earnings limit increased from £112 to £113.

6 April 2017

Increases in statutory payments and tribunal awards

The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissals taking effect from 6 April increased to £80,541.

A week’s pay (used to calculate statutory redundancy payments and the basic award in unfair dismissal claims) increased to £489 (gross).

6 April 2017

Changes to salary sacrifice schemes

Tax and NIC savings have been removed for all tangible benefits under a salary sacrifice arrangement with the exception of those relating to pensions (including advice), childcare, cycle to work and ultra-low emission cars (“ULEC”).

All arrangements in place before April 2017 will be protected for up to a year, and arrangements in place before April 2017 for cars, accommodation and school fees will be protected for up to four years.

6 April 2017

Gender pay reporting

Under new regulations, private and voluntary sector employers in England and Wales with at least 250 employees will be required to publish gender pay gap figures (in Scotland the duty applies to employers with 150 employees). “Employees” is widely defined and will include agency and other workers.

The first period for assessment is 5 April 2017 (or 31 March for public sector employers) but employers will have until 4 April 2018 (or 30 March 2018 in the public sector) to publish their first report. Thereafter employers will have to publish reports annually. The report must be published on a searchable UK website that is accessible to employees and the public.

Employers have to publish their data on a government website now available: https://gender-pay-gap.service.gov.uk/account/login/login?signin=b85821de638b7716354a7429b1350f3c

6 April 2017

Apprenticeship Levy

Employers with a pay bill of more than £3 million each year must register and pay an apprenticeship levy charged at a rate of 0.5% of their annual pay bill. An allowance of £15,000 is available to offset the levy.

Pay bill is based on the total amount of earnings subject to Class 1 secondary NICs.

Businesses that already operate levy systems will not be exempt and will be required to pay the levy.

6 April 2017

Immigration skills change

This charge was introduced under the Immigration Act 2016 and is payable by all employers who are registered sponsors for the points based system which is designed to discourage employers from recruiting from outside the EEA.

The skills charge will be per Certificate of Sponsorship per year and is set at £1,000 per worker. A reduced rate of £364 per Certificate of Sponsorship per year will apply to small or charitable sponsors.

11 July 2017

Employment practices, gig economy and zero hours workers

Matthew Taylor’s review into modern employment made wide ranging proposals to improve work.

More information is available here.

The government has welcomed the report but has not committed itself to implementing any of Taylor’s suggestions.

Proposed changes not yet in force

No date

Caste discrimination

The government is obliged to make caste discrimination unlawful under section 97 of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013. A consultation examining the best way to achieve this has been launched and this ended on 18 July 2017.

5 April 2018

Taxation of termination payments

All payments in lieu of notice will be treated as earnings and will be subject to tax and class 1NICs.

May 2018

Data protection

Significant changes will take effect through a new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Individuals will have increased right to access the data held on them and data breaches that impact on privacy must be notified to the ICO.

No date – originally expected to come into force in April 2016

Repayment of public sector exit payments

Qualifying individuals will be obliged to notify their new and previous employer where they propose to return to any part of the public sector (as an employee, self-employed contractor or office holder) after they have received a public sector exit payment within the previous 12 months.

Public sector exit payments include those paid for loss of employment, including enhanced redundancy payments, discretionary payments to buy out actuarial reductions to pensions and severance payments. It does not apply to payments in lieu of notice, contractual bonus payments or those made in connection with incapacity, or payments awarded to the individual by a court or tribunal.

Qualifying individuals are those who earned £80,000 or more within 12 months of receiving their exit payment.

Repayment will be tapered, so for example, an employee returning within two months of receiving an exit payment will repay more than an employee returning nine months after receiving the payment.

No date – originally expected to come into force after 1 October 2016

Exit payments

The government said it would introduce a £95,000 cap on exit payments made to public sector workers.

No date

Shared parental leave

The government said that it intends to extend shared parental leave and pay to working grandparents and simplify the existing procedural rules. No further details are available.

Published: 11 September 2017

Employment Law Update - September 2017

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Alan Lewis