What is coming up in employment law in 2017?

Happy New Year! As the celebrations have now passed and it is back to work, let’s look at some employment law developments coming up in 2017.

Employment Tribunal Fees

Fees were introduced back in 2013 for all Employment Tribunal claims. However, the lawfulness of this was questioned and the latest hearing in the long running legal challenge by UNISON is expected to be heard in March 2017. Will the government have to do a U-turn on the introduction of the fees? Watch this space.

Apprenticeship Levy

For employers that have an annual wage bill of over £3million, a new 0.5% tax will be payable from April 2017. These additional funds are intended to be used by the government to contribute to the costs of apprenticeship training. Employers can claim back the tax they have paid if they use it for training of apprentices and there are even some additional monetary government top-ups too – an additional 10p will be paid by the government on every £1 paid by the employer. If you are hit by the new tax, consider whether apprentices can be used in your business so that you can recoup some of this additional cost.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting

New legislation concerning gender pay data is expected to come into force in April 2017. Essentially, employers will be required to report on the difference between male and female pay levels in their business. Only large employers (being those with 250 or more employees) will be compelled to do this, with the first report due by April 2018.

Minimum Wage

From 1 April 2017, the minimum wage rates will increase. For those aged 25 and over, they will need to be paid a minimum of £7.50 per hour (from £7.20). This is known as the “national living wage”. For those aged 21 to 24 (inclusive), the national minimum wage will be £7.05 per hour (up from £6.95) and for those aged 18 to 20 (inclusive), it will increase from £5.55 to £5.60 per hour. For younger workers, being 16 and 17 years olds, it will be £4.05 per hour (from £4.00) and for apprentices, £3.50 (up from £3.40).

Employment Status in the Gig Economy

Following the high profile case involving Uber drivers, some individuals previously considered as “self-employed” now have to be re-categorised as “workers”. This is an important distinction as it means that they benefit from things like holiday rights and minimum wage entitlements. However, the situation may not have been fully resolved as yet because Uber have indicated that they wish to appeal the decision. Continue to watch for any progress in this area.

Grandparental Leave

Mothers and their partners can share parental leave and pay under current legislation to care for their child. The government has confirmed that it plans to extend this right to shared leave and pay to include working grandparents too. This is expected to be implemented by 2018 so details should emerge this year. Given the relatively small uptake of men taking family leave, it will be interesting to see whether this right proves more popular with grandparents.

No corporate directors

Presently, a director of a company can be another company. However, there are plans to change this so that only individual people can be a board director. This change was expected to be brought in during October 2016 but that did not happen so it is presumably imminent. Companies will want to check their corporate structures to ensure they do not need to make any new appointments as a result of this expected change.

Whistleblowing

The code of practice for employers on whistleblowing is being reviewed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (“BEIS”, previously known as BIS). It is expected that a revised code will be published during 2017.

Brexit

At some point in the future we seem set to leave the European Union. How, when and what effect this will have on employment law remains to be seen but certainly it is an area to keep an eye on. Radical reforms early on seem very unlikely but there could perhaps be some tinkering around the edges, especially in view of unpopular European case law decisions.

To conclude…

Employment law continues to move fast as the business and political worlds change over time. Employers often grapple to keep up so hopefully the above serves as a useful pointer of the key things to look out for during this coming year.

This guide is for general information and interest only and should not be relied upon as providing specific legal advice. If you require any further information about the issues raised in this article please contact the author or call 0207 404 0606 and ask to speak to your usual Goodman Derrick contact.