Saracens Blog

Employment Law Roundup: Legislative Changes Made In 2015 and What You Need to Know for 2016

The beginning of January is traditionally a time for business owners and HR teams to plan for the year ahead. We all know that, ideally, these plans should have been in place six months ago. Here at Saracens Solicitors, we live in the real world. We know that most successful companies are usually too busy trying to meet end of year targets to give much more than a passing thought to the year ahead.

The New Year is the perfect time to update your employment law knowledge and strategise how your organisation’s policies and procedures need to change in order to comply with the latest regulations. The reason? Well let’s face it, most of us love the ritual of planning how to make a new year successful in the first week or so after ‘Auld Lang Syne’ has been sung, the weather is still cold and the office is still (reasonably) quiet and peaceful.

To help you with your planning, we’ve created two easy to follow information tables below. One outlining the changes to employment law that came about during 2015 and another illustrating the changes that are due to take place in 2016.

If you would like a PDF version of these information tables to print off and keep as a handy guide, please email info@saracenssolicitors.co.uk.

Employment law changes that took place in 2015 to remember

Date of the change in law The change in law that took place What you need to remember
December 2014 The Fit for Work Scheme was introduced. Fit for Work provides employers with access to work related health advice to better manage sickness absence and allows the employer of an employee who has been off work (or is likely to be) for four or more weeks due to illness, the ability to offer a free an occupational health assessment referral.

As of 1 January 2015, employers can also claim up to £500 tax relief per annum for medical treatment of an employee which has been recommended under the scheme.

8 January 2015 Curtailment of time limits to bring claims for backdated holiday pay and deductions from wages introduced by The Deductions from Wages (Limitation) Regulations 2014. A worker now has a limit of two years in which to claim back unlawful deductions from his / her wages where the deductions relate to any fee, bonus, commission or holiday pay and the claim is made after 1 July 2015. Prior to this, there was no time limit.
5 March 2015 Amendments to the tax-free childcare scheme introduced by the Childcare Payments (Eligibility) Regulations 2015. New employees now have 14 days to apply for a childcare account in anticipation of starting work (up from seven days). Revisions were also made to the rules determining the minimum earnings threshold for self-employed individuals.
10 March 2015 New offence under the Data Protection Act 1998. It is now an offence for an employer to require an employee or prospective employee to make an enforced subject access request. This normally involves the individual making subject access requests to obtain information about their convictions and cautions for their prospective employer. Employers could now face criminal charges for such behaviour.
11 March 2015 Clarity on an employees’ right to choose who accompanies them to a disciplinary or grievance hearing made by The Code of Practice (Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures) Order 2015 Whilst section 10 of Employment Relations Act 1999 provides that employees are free to decide who can accompany them to a grievance or disciplinary hearing as long as the person falls within the defined category of companions (either a fellow worker, a trade union representative, or an official employed by a trade union), there is no obligation on employer to inform employees of their right. This new order requires employers to make this right clear to employees and oblige reasonably to such requests.
1 April 2015 Pensions – automatic enrolment requirements by employers simplified with the Occupational and Personal Pension Schemes (Automatic Enrolment) (Amendment) Regulations 2015. The automatic enrolment of new employees has been simplified by reducing the information and administrative requirements on employers. Further these regulations create four exceptions to the duty on employers’ auto-enrolment duty.
5 April 2015 Parental leave limitation extended under amendments to the Maternity and Parental Leave etc. (Amendment) Regulations 2014. Parental leave can now be taken at any time up to a child’s 18th birthday.
5 April 2015 Shared Parental Leave and Statutory Parental Pay Provided the eligibility criteria are met, parents of newly born or newly adopted babies, and in some cases a mother and her partner, are allowed to share up to 50 weeks of parental leave and up to 37 weeks of statutory pay between them, taking that leave concurrently and/or alternately.
6 April 2015 Rates frozen for Statutory Maternity Pay, Ordinary and Additional Statutory Paternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay and Statutory Shared Parental Pay introduced by Welfare Benefits Up-rating Order 2015. All rates have been frozen for the year 2016/17.
6 April 2015 Changes to salary thresholds and the cooling off period under the Immigration Rules Cooling off period – a cooling-off period will not apply where an applicant had entry clearance or leave to remain within the last 12 months granted following the issue of a Certificate of Sponsorship for three months or less. This will assist businesses who want the flexibility to bring in key staff for short-term periods.Salary thresholds – general salary thresholds applying to Tier 2 visas have been increased by 1.2%. For example, the Tier 2 (General), high-earner threshold has been raised from £153,500 to £155,300.
6 April 2015 Increases to the compensation limits awarded by the Employment Tribunal, introduced by Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2015. For causes to action falling on or after 6 April 2015, the maximum amount of a week’s pay (used for calculating various awards including statutory redundancy payments and unfair dismissal basic awards) increased to £475 per week (from £464), the maximum unfair dismissal compensatory award increased to £78,335 (from £76,574) with the maximum basic award increased to £14,250 (from £13,920).
6 April 2015 Statutory sick pay increase under the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Order 2015. The rate of statutory sick pay has increased to £88.45 per week from £87.55.
6 April 2015 Increase to maternity allowance introduced by Welfare Benefits Up-rating Order 2015. The maternity allowance rate has increased to £139.58 per week from £138.18.
6 April 2015 Changes to tax credits under the Tax Credits (Claims and Notifications) (Amendment) Regulations 2015. To minimise the possibility of dual entitlement to ‘tax-free childcare’ and tax credits the amendments provide that:• where tax credit claims are made within the entitlement period pursuant to the Childcare Payments Act 2014, backdating provisions will not apply. As a result, a tax credit claim will be made on the date it is received at the appropriate tax credits office
• where tax credit claims are made within 31 days of the entitlement period, backdating provisions will apply, as long as backdating periods do not overlap with any day in the entitlement period.
6 April 2015 Changes to the qualifying earnings figures with regards pensions. Although the earnings trigger for pensions remains at £10,000, the lower limit of the ‘qualifying earnings’ band has increased from £5,772 to £5,824 and the upper limit of the qualifying earnings band has increased from £41,865 to £42,385.
26 May 2015 Amongst others, a restriction on ‘exclusivity’ clauses in zero hours contracts under Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 and the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 Any clause in a zero-hours contract that prohibits the employee from working for another employer is deemed unenforceable.
1 October 2015 Sikh religious requirements and safety helmets via the Deregulation Act 2015. With some exceptions, baptised Sikhs that are required to wear turbans do not have to wear safety helmets on construction sites, even if health and safety law would otherwise require non-Sikhs to do so.
1 October 2015 Increase to the National Minimum Wage The National Minimum Wage increased as follows:
• to £6.70 for workers 21 years and over
• £5.30 for workers 18-20 years
• £3.87 for workers aged 16-17 years
• The apprentice rate increased to £3.30
• Accommodation offset increased from £5.08 to £5.35.
29 October 2015 Modern Slavery Act 2015. Certain commercial organisations are now required to publish a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year in a bid to tackle modern day slavery.
Early 2016 Compulsory gender pay gap reporting Employers will have to make public any differences in pay between men and women within their organisation.
April 2016 National Living Wage All employers will have to pay employees over 25 years a minimum of £7.20 per hour (a 50p increase).
6 April 2016 Income tax: personal allowance and higher-rate threshold increase • The personal allowance for income tax will increase to £11,000 for 2016/17 and thereafter to £11,200 for 2017/18.
• The higher-rate tax threshold will increase to £43,000 for 2016/17 and thereafter to £43,600 for 2017/18.
6 April 2016 New minimum income required for migrants to settle in the UK. Migrants must earn a minimum of £35,000 to be able to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. If they earn under this amount they will be required to leave the country at the expiry of their visa.
6 April 2016 Changes to administrative requirements relating to payroll. The Income Tax (PAYE) (Amendment No 4) Regulations 2015 will give effect to the following changes introduced by the Finance Act 2015:
• Removal of the requirement for employers to report small business expenses paid to employees (whether deductible or not) on
6 April 2016 Changes to administrative requirements relating to payroll. The Income Tax (PAYE) (Amendment No 4) Regulations 2015 will give effect to the following changes introduced by the Finance Act 2015:
• Removal of the requirement for employers to report small business expenses paid to employees (whether deductible or not) on form P11D at the end of the tax year.
• They also introduce a scheme to authorise employers to voluntarily deduct tax from employees’ pay in respect of certain benefits in kind that they provide to their employees through PAYE (‘payrolling benefits’) from the 2016-17 tax year.
• Abolishment of the benefit in kind thresholds of £8,500 and requirement to report it in form P9D.
2016 Caste discrimination. Caste to be added as an aspect of race under the Equality Act 2010 as a ground of discrimination via the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013.
2016/2017 EU General Data Protection Regulation becomes applicable. If you have more than 250 employees you will need to appoint a Data Protection Officer. Privacy policies will need to be re-written into plain English and you will need processes and procedures to deal with data subject and data deletion requests.

Serious breaches of these regulations could cost organisations between €250,000 to €1,000,000 or 2% of global turnover.

Early 2017 The tax-free childcare scheme, introduced by the Childcare Payments Act 2014. Under the scheme, for each 80p a parent pays into a dedicated online account, the Government tops it up with a further 20p, capped at a maximum Government contribution of £2,000 a year for each child up to 1 September after the child’s 11th birthday / 16th birthday if disabled.

It is in your best commercial interests to keep up-to-date with the latest employment law changes and to ensure your organisation fully compliant with both domestic and EU regulations. Saracens Solicitors has the commercial acumen and expertise to guide you through the complexities of employment law. Our experienced employment team will explain both the law and your position in a straight-forward, professional manner and advise you on the best steps to take, how and when.
To further discuss any of the issues raised in this blog, please phone our office on 020 3588 3500 to make an appointment.



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