1st October 2015 sees a number of changes to employment law coming into force. Not all these changes have been widely publicised, so if this is the first you’ve heard of them, you’ll need to give careful consideration to the impact they could have on your business:
Increase in National Minimum Wage rates
The National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2015 will increase the hourly rates for all workers who are paid the minimum wage. The main rate will go up from £6.50 to £6.70, whilst the youth rates rises from £5.13 to £5.30. Workers aged 16 or 17 will receive £3.87 instead of £3.79, and apprentices will enjoy a 21% increase, taking their hourly rate to £3.30 from £2.73. The accommodation offset rate is also going up from £5.08 to £5.35.
Employment Tribunals lose some of their powers
As of 1st October the Deregulation Act 2015 removes the power for Employment Tribunals to make wider recommendations (i.e. recommendations that would benefit other people as well as the Claimant) in discrimination cases. These powers were originally introduced under the Equality Act 2010 with the aim of benefiting the wider workforce, but in practice were rarely used.
Tribunals will still be able to make recommendations, but these will be limited to steps that the employer should take in relation to the Claimant only.
Smoking ban in cars carrying minors
The Smoke-free (Private Vehicles) Regulations 2015 will make it illegal for anyone to smoke in a private car carrying anyone under the age of 18. It will also be against the law to allow smoking to take place when minors are present.
The rules, which apply to private cars driven in England, have been introduced to protect young people against the health risks associated with passive smoking. Wales already has similar legislation in place and Scotland will follow suit in the near future.
From an employer’s viewpoint, the new law means that smoking and company car policies will need to be reviewed where employees are allowed to use company cars for family purposes.
Sikh safety helmet exemption extended
An amendment to the Deregulation Act 2015 will mean that turban-wearing Sikhs will be exempt from having to wear safety helmets at any workplace, not just on construction sites. This means that Sikhs who wear a turban will no longer be required to wear safety helmets in environments such as warehouses and factories, or whilst driving for work.
There are still a few situations where Sikhs will still be required to wear a safety helmet, such as emergency response environments and the armed forces.
Anti-slavery and human trafficking statement
From 1 October 2015 companies with a turnover in excess of £36 million will be obliged to publish a slavery and human trafficking statement each financial year. Falling under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, the new requirement will require employers to explain the steps they have taken to make sure no slavery or human trafficking exists within their companies or anywhere in their supply chains.
The statement must be available on the company’s website, or if there is no website, made available on request. The Government is expected to publish guidance around preparing the statements in the near future. In the meantime, large businesses are encouraged to examine their operating procedures and supply chain practices in readiness for the new legislation.
Referrals under Fit for Work
The Government’s new Fit for Work (FFW) service should be fully up and running this autumn. The free service is designed to make it easier for employees who’ve been off sick for more than four weeks to return to work. Occupational health advice will be available online and by telephone, and employers will be able to refer eligible staff for free occupational health assessments on their return to work.
Need employment law advice? Contact the expert team at Integra Legal today for advice and information on any aspect of employment law. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 0115 987 6790 or 0203 478 1260.