Not since 1996 has a Tory government been had the power to make changes to UK employment law, and there has not been a time in recent memory when so many vital issues underway that could alter the direction of employment law. Here is an general overview of several of the key changes that will shape employment law in 2016, which employers and employees alike should be aware of.
A revelation of the difference in pay between men and women in the workplace has long been planned and will finally be made available to the public in 2016. From March 26th UK businesses with a staff of 250 employees or more will have to release such information in the public domain along with data showing the difference between bonus payments for each gender.
Although it has been technically illegal to pay women less than men as far back as 1970 when changes were made to employment law, without such a law being strictly enforced businesses have been able to get away with paying less to their female workforce. It is hoped that the public revelation of such information will stop women from being underpaid.
Employers will likely be fully briefed regarding the exact details of what to expect before such information need be revealed.
The National Living Wage
One major change that will occur in UK employment law is the National Living Wage which will be made law on April 1st. This wage gives employees aged 25 and over the right to hold a ‘living wage’, a payment acting as a new top rate on the national minimum wage. This wage will total £7.20, but workers under 25 will not qualify as the minimum wage rate will still apply to them.
Those employers who are found to have not paid their employees the national living wage will receive a penalty twice as severe as what they would previously have been given.
There will also be major developments made in 2016 for the benefit of working parents, such as the plan to provide 30 hours of free childcare to parents with children aged 3-4. The full details of how this change will be implemented is expected later in the year.
Grandparents will also be benefited during 2016 thanks to new legislation that allows them to share parental leave benefits if they are actively caring for a child while working. Details of this change are yet to be finalised.
The Trade Union Bill
The Trade Union Bill 2015 is in the process of being sanctioned by Parliament and should come be be ushered into law in April. This bill is intended to a controversial measure that seeks to place greater pressure on trade unions to reconsider taking strike action; a decision no doubt generated by the increasing number of public sectors that have undertaken strike action in recent years.
The main change involved with this legislation is a new voting system that decreases the likelihood of a strike occurring across those sectors with a greater likelihood of altering the daily routine of of the country when on strike, such as the health and transport industries.
Under the new system 50% of all staff eligible for striking will have to vote on favour of this decision for such a plan to legally go ahead. Furthermore, there must also now be a four month time limit for an action like this to take affect all votes have been cast. A longer notice period for employers is also now required before staff can take strike action.
Another Trade Union Bill change that will assist employers are plans that seek to give a business the right to hire agency workers who will cover the working shifts left by staff who have taken strike action.
A significant change that could be introduced to employment law this year is for termination payments to be taxed. The Office for Tax Simplification has outlined a plan that could make all terminations taxable under UK law; a major change from the current legislation which only allows termination payments under £30,000 to be tax free.
The Immigration Bill
UK law may also be changed this year in the form of the immigration bill; a change that will seek to punish employers who are proven to have illegally hired foreign workers. This bill extends to all employers in the public sector who are found to have hired employees that are unable to speak fluent English. An new tax known as the ‘immigration skills charge’ may also be handed down to employers who are dependent on hiring foreign labour.