HR/Employment Law – What’s on the horizon for 2016?
A brief look at what is on the agenda from a HR/Employment law perspective for 2016.
Gender Pay Reporting Begins
Regulations must be introduced by 26th March 2016 which make it compulsory for organisations with 250 or more employees to publish information about the difference in pay (including bonus payments) between men and women. The detail of what this means for employers is yet to be published, including the particulars that they will need to provide and where the information should be published. We will report again when details are known.
National Living Wage Introduced / National Minimum Wage Penalties
1st April 2016 sees the introduction of the national living wage. This means that employers will need to pay staff aged 25 and over the national living wage, which will work as a new top rate of the national minimum wage. The national living wage is initially set at £7.20. (See Information Update 2015/17). The penalty for failure to pay staff the national minimum wage is set to double.
The weekly rate of statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay, statutory adoption pay and statutory shared parental pay would normally increase every year. This time due to a fall in the consumer prices index, the Government has announced there will be no annual increase for 2016/17. Similarly, there will be no change to Statutory sick pay.
Trade Union Law Amended
The Trade Union Bill reforms the law applying to trade unions before they take industrial action. As the Bill presently stands, the voting threshold would increase to 50% and a requirement that 40% of all those entitled to vote in the ballot vote in favour of industrial action be introduced in important public services. The Bill also sets a four-month time limit for industrial action after the ballot and would increase the amount of notice to be given to an employer of strike action.
New Rules to Protect Apprenticeships
The Government is also to ban organisations from using the term “apprenticeship” where it is applied to describe a scheme that is not a statutory apprenticeship, for example in a job advert.
There will also be an apprenticeship target for public-sector organisations.
Updated Laws on Employing Foreign Workers
The Immigration Bill makes various changes to the law applying to foreign workers, including: creating a new offence of illegal working; allowing immigration officials wide ranging powers to seize property, to seize earnings, to close down businesses, to enter and search properties; requiring all public-facing public-sector employees to speak English fluently; and introducing an immigration skills charge for employers that use foreign workers.
And hot off the press...
Unpaid Awards and Settlements – Penalty Notices
According to a written answer in Hansard, the Government had said it intends to bring in the new financial penalties on respondent employers who fail to pay an Employment Tribunal award from April 2016.
If, after receiving a ‘reminder warning letter’ the monies remain unpaid, then the employer will be subject to a penalty notice of 50% of the outstanding amount (minimum £100, maximum £5,000). This money will be payable to the Secretary of State and not the employee.
Some Case Law Judgments Expected in 2016.
A number of important HR/Employment law cases are to be heard in 2016, below are just a few that are worthy of note:
Holiday pay - British Gas Trading v Lock and another (EAT)
The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) heard the appeal in this important holiday pay case on 8th and 9th December 2015. The EAT considered the application to UK law of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), ruling that commission must be included in holiday pay calculations. The EAT judgment is awaited.
Redundancy consultation - United States of America v Nolan (Court of Appeal)
This involves the redundancy consultation obligations on the closure of a US army base. Jurisdictional issues have been considered by the UK Supreme Court, giving judgment that the obligations do apply in this particular case. The case now returns to the Court of Appeal to consider the timing of redundancy consultation.
Employment tribunal fees - R (on the application of Unison) v Lord Chancellor and another (Supreme Court)
In 2016, Unison will have one last go at challenging the introduction of fees for bringing an employment tribunal claim. This time the case will be heard in the Supreme Court.
Equal pay - Brierley and others v Asda Stores (employment tribunal)
In the claim against Asda, the claimants – both male and female – are seeking to compare their jobs in retail stores with the jobs of colleagues who work in distribution centres. There is a similar claim involving Sainsbury’s. These “work of equal value” claims are likely to be two of the highest profile employment cases in 2016.
Religious discrimination - Bougnaoui v Micropole Univers (ECJ)
This French reference to the ECJ, revolves around whether or not the need to adopt a “neutral appearance” with a client can be a genuine occupational requirement of a job. The background relates to an employee who wore an Islamic headscarf who was told by her French employer to remove it whilst visiting a client, after a customer complained about her appearance. The Muslim employee was dismissed after she refused.
Keeping you updated
As always, we will keep you up to date with developments, throughout the year, via our Information Updates.