As we approach a new financial year, the raft of new employment legislation set out by the government comes into effect en masse, as well the introduction of new measures set out for the rest of 2017 and beyond. Whilst these updates cover a broad range of matters that won’t be relevant to all of us, we do all have a legal obligation to make sure that we are up to date with all the changes and ensure they are reflected in employment contracts, handbooks and general working practices. Here we take a quick look at some of the employment law reforms heading our way:
Early 2017: Tax-free childcare scheme comes into force
In families where both parents work and each parent earns less than £100,000 per year (and a minimum weekly income equivalent to 16 hours at the rate of the National Living Wage), the Government will pay 20% of their yearly childcare costs (up to £2,000 for each child, or £4,000 if the child is disabled). The scheme applies to parents with children under 12, or under 17 if the child is disabled. It will be operated through online accounts and no involvement of employers is required.
April 2017: Minimum Wage Review
From April 2017, both the National Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage will be reviewed annually in April. It is expected that in April 2017 the NLW will increase to £7.50 per hour, from its current £7.20.
April 2017: Gender Pay Gap Reporting – Employers’ Duties Commence
Employers with 250 or more employees in the private and voluntary sectors must publish an annual report with details of their gender pay and bonus gap, with the first report to be published by 30 April 2018 (based on the pay period April 2017 to April 2018). Employers are required to publish:
- the overall mean and median difference between male and female pay across their workforce;
- how many men and women appear in each quartile of pay in their workforce;
- the mean and median difference between male and female bonuses; and
- the proportion of men and women who received bonuses.
April 2017: Apprenticeship Levy Implemented
Employers with an annual pay bill of more than £3 million will be required to spend 0.5% of their total pay bill on the apprenticeship levy. However, they could claim a ‘levy allowance’ of £15,000 per year. This means that the total amount will be 0.5% of the pay bill, minus £15,000.
April 2017: Increases to Statutory Pay Levels
Unlike last year when all statutory pay rates were frozen at the previous year’s rates, this year will see increases across the board to maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave (to £140.98 per week) as well as statutory sick pay (to £89.35 per week).
April 2017: Pensions Auto-Enrolment
The earnings trigger for when individuals are automatically enrolled into a pension scheme will remain at £10,000 for 2017/18. It is expected that the upper qualifying earnings limit will be increased to £45,000.
2018 and Beyond: Pensions, Parental Leave and Equality
In 2018 we can expect to see an increase to 5% minimum employee and 2% minimum employer pension auto-enrolment contributions which was originally due to come into force in 2017. Further rises to 8% and 3% respectively will now take effect in April 2019. Shared parental leave will be extended to include grandparents and the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 prescribes that the Government must add caste to the definition of “race” under the Equality Act 2010 at some point likely in 2018.
There is a range of other legislation regarding tax thresholds, immigration, pensions, whistle blowing and data protection that will come into effect throughout the course of 2017 and beyond and of course, we have little idea as yet as to the implications of Brexit and the unraveling of EU legislation within the UK legal framework that will undoubtedly have an impact on our employment laws.