What to expect in employment law in 2016
2015 was a busy year for those involved in employment law: the introduction of Shared Parental Leave; the on-going saga over what should be included in holiday pay; and a clamp down on zero hours contracts are just a few of the issues we confronted. So what does 2016 look like?
National Living Wage (NLW)
In April, the new NLW will be introduced for workers aged 25 and over. The rate will be £7.20 per hour, a 50p premium on the NMW rate. The NMW rates for workers aged under 25 will remain the same until the annual review in October.
Statutory Rates of Pay
The statutory rates of pay have been frozen for 2015/16 at the current levels. This means that Statutory Maternity Pay and the other family leave payments will remain at £139.58 per week or 90% of earnings, if less. Statutory Sick Pay will remain at £88.45 per week.
Compulsory Gender Pay Reporting
The government is required to bring in Regulations requiring employers with 250 or more employees to publish information about their gender pay gap by March 2016. The government intends this to cover private, voluntary and public sector employers. The reporting will cover basic pay and bonus payments. What we don’t yet know is when this legislation will come into force. It is possible that reporting will be required by the end of 2016, but more likely that the reporting duties won’t apply until 2018. Either way, employers with 250 or more employees should be analysing their gender pay gap now.
Taxation of Termination Payments
The government is seeking to simplify the taxation of termination payments. Various options have been suggested, but nothing has been decided yet. What is clear is that the £30,000 tax free compensation payments are not going to stay.
Zero Hours Contracts
Following high profile cases in 2015, new legislation, came into force on 11 January 2016 providing a remedy for zero hours workers whose employers include exclusivity clauses in their contracts of employment. The Regulations will give such employees the right not to be unfairly dismissed or subjected to a detriment for failing to comply with an exclusivity clause.
Trade Union Bill
The Trade Union Bill is expected to receive royal assent ‘early’ in 2016. The key changes that this will introduce include:
- a requirement that 50% of trade union members entitled to vote do so;
- if the workers are involved in important public services, such as health, education, fire or transport, an additional requirement that 40% of those entitled to vote, vote in favour of industrial action;
- the removal of a ban on using agency workers during industrial action;
- an increase in the notice period for industrial action to 2 weeks and provision that the ballot mandate will expire after 4 months; and
- a requirement on unions to supervise picketing.
In addition to this we expect further decisions on holiday pay and whistleblowing and consultation on the introduction of grand parental leave. All in all 2016 looks set to be another busy year.