7 Changes to UK Employment Law

It is the time of year when we can expect various changes to employment law in the UK. The focus recently has been on the government’s intentions to make it more difficult for employees to strike and to toughen its stance on the employment of illegal workers. However there are some other more subtle changes that many will be unaware of. Here are some of the main changes that are coming into effect.

1. The National Minimum Wage
Following the recommendations of the low pay unit the adult national minimum wage will increase from £6.50 to £6.70 per hour. The hourly rate for 18 to 20 year olds increases to £5.30, and the rate for younger workers aged 16 to 17 increases to £3.87. The hourly rate for apprentices increases to £3.30. Don’t forget that the government’s national living wage comes into force next April 2016 but is only applicable to employees aged 25 and over. It will be interesting to see if this is challenged as unlawful age discrimination.

2. The introduction of modern slavery statements
There has been much concern and news coverage relating to compulsory labour and human trafficking. From 1 October 2015 all Employers with an annual turnover in excess of £36 million will now have to publish a modern slavery statement each year. The statement must include the steps taken by the Employer to prevent modern slavery existing in any part of the business or supply chain. No doubt the specific requirements will become clearer as time goes on, and there is sure to be case law on this as this area develops. If you have any doubts about your responsibilities then it is important to seek timely advice.

3. Safety helmet exemption for Sikh employees is widened
It has been the law for many years that Sikhs can be exempted from wearing a safety helmet on construction and building sites. This exemption is to be extended to all workplaces from 1 October 2015. In practice this means that members of the Sikh community can now wear a turban instead of safety headgear in factories, warehouses, and other manufacturing sites.

4. Smoking ban in cars with children
From 1 October 2015 it becomes unlawful to for the drivers of private cars to smoke cigarettes in a car with travelling children under 18. There are already laws making it unlawful to smoke in company vehicles however if the company car is also used for private purposes then the new laws need to be followed. It is advisable for Employers to update their smoking policies and disciplinary policies to take account of the new laws and any future violations. Quite how these new laws are going to be policed effectively is debatable.

5. The Employment Tribunal loses its power to make wider recommendations
From 1 October 2015 the employment tribunal no longer has any power to make any recommendations in any successful discrimination claims.

6. The new Fit for work service
A new Fit for work service is being implemented by the government with the aim of assisting employees return to work following a period of sickness absence. The new Fit for Work website also provides access to Occupational health advice and there is a telephone helpline. Ultimately the government aims to refer employees for an occupational health assessment free of charge where they have been on sickness absence for four weeks or more. No doubt we will hear more about this service from the government shortly.

7. Self –employed exempt from health and safety
From 1 October, self-employed individuals who do not employ, and whose work activities pose no potential risk to the health and safety of others, will be exempt from UK health and safety laws. There will however still remain a common law duty of care to others.

If you would like more information speak to our Employment Solicitor, Steven Eckett on 020 7998 7777 or email him at steven.eckett@bloomsbury-law.com.

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