UK Employment Law Changes October 2015

Wed 9th Sep 2015

See what’s coming up in the world of employment law with our summary of changes taking effect from October 2015, including national minimum wage increases, What lies ahead?

1. The National Minimum Wage Increase

The hourly rate of the national minimum wage is set to increase as follows:

  • Workers aged 16-17: from £3.79 to £3.87 per hour
  • Workers aged 18-20: from £5.13 to £5.30 per hour
  • Workers aged 21 and over: from £6.50 to £6.70 per hour
  • Apprentices under 19 or over 19 and in the first year of their apprenticeship: from £2.73 to £3.30 per hour.

Accordingly, if you are an employer you need to ensure that you pay your workers an hourly wage equivalent of at least the new rate from 1 October 2015.

2. Employers to publish modern slavery statements.

Unfortunately slavery still exists in today’s modern society and can be seen in the workplace in the form of compulsory labour and human trafficking.

All employers with an annual turnover of at least £36 million will be required to publish a slavery and human trafficking statement for each financial year, setting out the steps they have taken to prevent slavery or human trafficking from existing in their business or supply chains. The statement must be published on the employer’s website or, where the business does not have a website, it must provide a copy of the statement on request.

The Government is yet to produce statutory guidance on how to produce a slavery and human trafficking statement. In the meantime, employers should prepare by checking their existing risk management systems, how they undertake due diligence and their supply chain relationships to ensure that compulsory labour and human trafficking is not present.

3. Turban-wearing Sikhs will be exempt from having to wear safety helmets in all workplaces.

Turban-wearing Sikhs were previously exempt from the legal requirement to wear a safety helmet on construction sites. However, the exemption did not apply to other environments such as factories and warehouses.

This rule will now be extended from 1 October 2015 to include most workplaces, and applied to turban-wearing Sikhs who are either workers or visitors. There will still be some very limited exceptions where employers will be able to require Sikhs to wear safety helmets – these exceptions involve those working in the armed forces and emergency response situations.

Therefore, from 1 October 2015, employers should beware that imposing a requirement on a turban-wearing Sikh to wear safety head protection in the workplace will amount to discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

4. Employment tribunals lose power to make wider recommendations in discrimination cases.

Employment tribunals presently have the power to make recommendations for the benefit of the employer’s wider workforce, not just in relation to the individual claimant who made the discrimination claim. From 1 October 2015, the Tribunal’s powers to make wider recommendations is being limited to recommendations on the steps an employer should take to reduce the adverse effect of the discrimination in relation to the claimant only.

This should come as a relief to employers, who will now not be subject to the excessive recommendations of the Employment Tribunal which may cause an unnecessary burden on their business.

5. Ban on smoking in cars with children.

Smoking is already banned in public service and work vehicles, unless the vehicle is mainly used for an employee’s private purposes.

From October 2015, drivers of private vehicles will be banned from smoking in them if they are carrying anyone under the age of 18. Those failing to comply could face a £50 fixed penalty notice. Employers should therefore consider updating their smoking and company car policies respectively, so that employees who use a company car for private purposes will be prohibited from smoking in them whilst carrying a passenger under the age of 18.

6. Referrals under the new Fit for Work service.

This new service implemented by the Government aims to help staff return to work after an absence due to ill health. The service will provide employers and employees with access to work-related health advice. An employer can refer its employees who have been on sick leave for a period of 4 weeks for a free occupational health assessment. This scheme will inevitably be helpful to both employers and employees who can be supported and advised on how to return to work.