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A Little Bit Of Legal Stuff

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Employment Law changes 1st October 2016

Traditionally October is the month when employment legislation changes are announced. This October is no exception; however some implementation dates are still to be confirmed.

National Minimum Wage Increases – The changes apply on 1 October 2016.

Workers aged under 25 but at least 21 rises to £6.95 per hour.

Workers aged at least 18 but under 21 rises to £5.55 per hour;

Workers aged under 18 who are no longer of compulsory school age goes up to £4.00 per hour. Apprentice rate increases to £3.40 per hour.

The national living wage, the national minimum wage rate for workers aged 25 or above, is unaffected.

It is thought that future changes to the national minimum wage and the national living wage will take place at the same time in April each year, from April 2017.

Remember employers can face a large fine if they don’t pay national minimum wage.

Gender pay gap reporting

Employers with 250 employees or more will be required to publish details on gender pay and gender bonus gap every year.

It is the total headcount that should be counted, not the number of full-time equivalent posts. So each employee should be counted regardless of the number of hours they work. Apprentices must also be included in the head count.

Pay information will need to be based on payments made over the employer’s pay period every April, beginning in April 2017.  Any bonus information will need to cover the preceding 12-month period, beginning with the 12 months leading up to April 2017.

Changes to apprenticeships 

To protect the term ‘apprenticeship’ training providers won’t be unable to describe a course as an ‘apprenticeship’ if the course or training is not a statutory apprenticeship.

Tax- free childcare scheme

The scheme will apply to parents with children aged under 12.

If both parents work and each parent earns less than £100,000 per year, and a minimum weekly income at least equivalent to 16 hours at the rate of the national minimum wage, the Government will pay 20% of their yearly childcare costs (capped at £2,000 for each child).

The scheme is due to be introduced early in 2017 but a date has not yet been confirmed.

Employers’ Duties (Implementation) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 – Implementation 1st October 2016.

The regulations amend the scheduled dates for the planned increases in the minimum level of contribution for pension’s auto-enrolment, to align the increases with the beginning of the tax year. The planned increase in October 2017, to 5% minimum contribution (2% employer), will now take effect in April 2018. The planned increase in October 2018, to 8% (3% employer), will take effect in April 2019.

Remember if you need help with the legal bits then give us a call 01980 622167 or email people@jmassociates.org

The legal bits may be boring but getting it wrong can be very costly.  Purchase a HR Healthcheck from us and will review your current HR policies, employee handbook and employment contract. This will ensure your HR foundations are firm and not about to crumble around you!


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Medical Health Questionnaires Jacqui Mann

Ban On Pre-Employment Health Questionnaires

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The ban on Pre-Employment Health Questionnaires came into effect in October 2010 with the introduction of the Equality Act. This makes it illegal to ask a candidate to complete a health questionnaire before an offer of employment has been made.

I understand the reasons behind the ban. It is to ensure that everyone is properly considered to see if they can carry out the role, and not ruled out because of issues arising from their health. However I believe that this has serious consequences for some sectors.

The pre-employment ban also prevents you from asking the candidate questions to establish how many days of sickness absence they have accrued during previous employment prior to them being made a job offer. It also prevents you from asking these questions in a reference if an employment offer has not been made.

You may only ask about disability or health, before the offer of a job is made, where the question relates to a person’s ability to carry out a function that is intrinsic to that job. Where a disability or health-related question would determine whether a person can carry out this function with reasonable adjustments in place, then such a question is allowed. Download 41 Things Every Employer Needs To Know About Staff.

I recommend that you review your job descriptions to ensure that the “intrinsic functions” are specifically identified and where possible separated from other less important duties. You can then ask the candidates the following question.

‘Do you have any health condition which is likely to affect your ability to undertake the intrinsic functions of the job contained in the job description?’

The guidance from Equality & Human Rights Commission states that ‘intrinsic’ equates to ‘absolutely fundamental’.

You can ask people to complete a health questionnaire after you have made a job offer. If you then discover they have a health issue you would need to consider what reasonable adjustments you could make or present a justifiable business case as to why you could no longer employ the individual. This would involve asking for medical consent from the employee to contact their GP, and arranging a visit to an Occupational Health Advisor to give a professional opinion on whether the employee is fit for the role.   This of course can take a long time and is costly to the business owner. Unfortunately as the law stands if you don’t follow this procedure you could find yourself facing a claim of direct discrimination because of disability.

We don’t currently have information on what a court will class as intrinsic to the role. This will not be known until the first case goes to court and we see how the tribunals view the situation. Don’t forget to get your download here.


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Abolition of Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS)

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From 6 April 2014 any employer who pays Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) will not be able to claim under the Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS) for any SSP due after 6 April 2014. As an employer you will still be required to pay SSP.

 

The Government will be introducing later in the year, no date yet, a new service which will provide free occupational health advice and support for employees, employers and GPs to help people with a health condition to stay in or return to work. The Government expects that any financial losses experienced by businesses as a result of the end of the PTS will more than likely be offset by the reduction in lost working days that the new Health and Work Service will bring.

The new Health and Work Service will be funded through the abolition of the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS).

The new scheme will be made available to companies in England, Scotland and Wales with workers who have been absent due to illness, or are expected to be absent, for longer than four weeks.

The new Health & Work Service:

  • Referrals can be made either by the employer or by the employee’s GP. The service will not be compulsory, so employees will be able to refuse to be assessed or to follow any recommended treatment or course of action.
  • Employers, employees and GPs will be able to access advice through a phone line and a website.
  • Following an assessment, employees will receive a return to work plan with recommendations to help them to return to work more quickly and will provide information on how to get appropriate help and advice.

Sickness absence has a major impact on your business particularly because it is normally unforeseen and therefore cannot be planned for in advance. If your business is going to be affected by the abolition of the PTS then you need to really tighten up on absence in your business. Often sickness absence is allowed to continue because the manager does not deal with the problem as soon as it occurs. There may be various reasons for this but often it’s because they are unsure of how to deal with situation.

What you need to do:

  • Have a clear policy in place
  • Deal with all absences as soon as they occur.
  • Ensure staff understand the absence reporting procedures and the potential consequences for failing to report absence correctly.
  • Carry out return to work interviews
  • Train managers on how to deal with absence

Don’t leave it too late before you deal with the situation and if you’re unsure then seek help from people who can guide you through the process.

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Redundancy consultation period will be halved

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The Government have announced plans to reduce the current 90 day minimum period, before large-scale redundancies can take place to 45 days. This controversial announcement has prompted Unions to accuse the Government of making it easier to sack staff.

At present, companies must consult with staff for a minimum of 30 days before making more than 20 staff redundant, or 90 days when 100 or more jobs are at risk.

The changes form part of the government’s commitment to review employment law to support business and concentrate on growth.

Draft regulations will be laid in the New Year and the changes are expected to be made with effect from 6 April 2013.


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