Every October brings new employment law changes, and 2015 is certainly no different. While the Government’s proposals to toughen the rules on industrial action have been headline news this summer, we should not overlook the legal changes that are just around the corner.
Fiona Cuming sets out six employment law changes employers need to prepare for this autumn.
Legal update 2015/16: An A to Z of changes for employers
1. Modern slavery statements
Slavery may have been abolished in the 19th century, but modern slavery exists in the form of forced or compulsory labour, servitude or human trafficking.
From October 2015, employers with an annual turnover of £36 million or more will have to publish a modern slavery statement each year. These employers must state the steps they have taken to prevent modern slavery existing in any part of their business or supply chain.
The Government has yet to publish its guidance, but in the meantime, preparation is key. Businesses should check their supply chains, operational structures and risk management processes to ensure they will be ready for this employment law change.
- What duties will employers have under the “transparency in supply chains” provisions of the Modern Slavery Act 2015?
- Mandatory annual modern slavery statement required by large employers
2. Sikh safety helmet exemption extended to all workplaces
The exemption of turban-wearing Sikhs from wearing a safety helmet on construction sites is to be extended to all workplaces from 1 October 2015. This employment law change means that Sikhs will be able to wear a turban, and not a safety helmet, in workplaces like warehouses, factories and vehicles involved in transportation.
There are some limited cases where Sikh workers will still need to wear head protection, but these are mainly restricted to those working in emergency response or members of the armed forces.
- Employment law manual: Religion or belief discrimination
- Model personal protective equipment policy and procedure
3. National minimum wage increases
Employment law changes October 2015
Summaries of all pending employment laws and regulations, with effective dates are available in the XpertHR legal timetable.
This annual employment law change sees the national minimum wage hourly rate increase from £6.50 to £6.70 for adults from 1 October. The rates also increase for young workers and apprentices.
- Employment law manual: The national minimum wage
- Model letter informing worker of increase in the national minimum wage
- Model letter informing worker of a pay increase due to reaching a higher age band of the national minimum wage
- Letter providing model national minimum wage statement
- National minimum wage rates
4. Tribunals lose power to make wider recommendations
From 1 October, tribunals no longer have any power to make recommendations that go beyond an employee’s own circumstances in a discrimination claim. In practice, the power to make recommendations for the benefit of a wider workforce was rarely used.
5. Ban on smoking in cars with children
Under the smoke-free legislation, company vehicles must be smoke free unless the vehicle is mainly used for an employee’s private purposes. From 1 October, drivers of private cars in England will now be banned from smoking in them if they are carrying children under 18 as passengers.
This move follows a similar ban in Wales, with Scotland also in the process of introducing one.
Employers will need to consider revising their smoking and company car policies, as employees using a company car for family purposes will be affected by the new law.
6. Referrals under the new Fit for Work service
The Government’s new Fit for Work service (FFW) should be fully operational by autumn. The aim of the service is to help employees return to work following a sickness absence. Occupational health advice can be obtained through the FFW website and telephone helpline. Employers will soon be able to refer an employee for a free occupational health assessment when the employee has been absent from work for at least four weeks. Employers in Scotland can already make referrals.
- What is the Fit for Work service?
- Do employees under a FFW return-to-work plan still need to provide their employer with a fit note?
- Is it mandatory for employers to follow the recommendations in a return-to-work plan provided by FFW?
- Do employees have to give their consent for a referral to FFW to be made?
- Can employers use their own occupational health advisers instead of FFW?
- Sample return-to-work plans from the FFW service
- Model policy on FFW referrals for employees on long-term sickness absence
- Model letter explaining to managers and occupational health the role of FFW
Updated 30 September 2015. Originally published on 1 September 2015.