In the news

Adjustment to minimum wage

From 1 October 2016, the minimum wage hourly rate for 21-24 years olds will increase from £6.70 to £6.95. There will be no change to the National Living Wage.

Apprenticeship levy

From 6 April 2017, employers will have to pay the new apprenticeship levy, via PAYE, at a rate of 0.5% of their total gross pay bill (excluding benefits in kind). In effect, the levy will only be payable by those employers with an annual pay bill of over £3 million as each employer will receive £15,000 to offset the levy. The levy is being imposed in an effort to improve the quality of apprenticeships by providing additional funding for employers to enable them to take on apprentices and train them properly.

Transgender equality

The Women and Equalities Commons Select Committee made a number of recommendations on transgender equality to which the government has recently responded. It has agreed to review the Gender Recognition Act 2004 with a view to streamlining the gender recognition process as well as making official records non-gender specific where possible. However, the government rejected a recommendation to update the Equality Act 2010 by renaming the protected characteristic of 'gender reassignment' as 'gender identity'.

Modern Slavery Act

Recent research by a risk and compliance company found that only 8% of FTSE 500 companies have complied so far with section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act (MSA). This requires all organisations supplying goods or services in Britain, with a turnover of £36m or more, to produce a 'Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement' (SHT Statement) on their website within six months of the end of their financial year (31 March 2016 being the start date). The Statement must describe what the organisation has done in the last financial year to make sure that slavery and human trafficking is not happening either within their organisation or within their supply chain. The MSA is likely to be bolstered by the Modern Slavery (Transparency in Supply Chains) Bill, which recently received its second reading in the House of Lords. If passed, the Bill will require qualifying companies to publish their SHT Statement in their annual report as well as the home page of their website. There will be penalties for non-compliance and the list of all organisations legally required to comply will be made public. Those clients who qualify under the Act need to check the date by which they must comply and prepare a statement accordingly. Please get in touch if you need guidance on preparing your statement.

Illegal working in the construction sector

The government has announced a crackdown on illegal working with a particular focus on the construction sector. There are severe penalties for transgressors: employers face custodial sentences of up to five years if they have 'reasonable cause to believe' they are employing illegal workers; the premises of any business found to be employing illegal workers can be shut for up to 48 hours; and companies can be fined £20,000 for each illegal worker. The illegal workers themselves also face stiff sanctions including custodial sentences. To help companies, the government has issued guidance on how to spot false documents but if you have any concerns, please get in touch as we have specialists familiar with this particular issue.

Publication of gender pay gap information

It now seems unlikely that the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2016 will be implemented before April 2017. The legislation will require all companies with 250 employees or more to review their pay policies and publish information on the difference between average male and female pay. This delay will give clients longer to review all their pay policies, identify where there are gender pay anomalies, and consider how they can be addressed, well in advance of the regulations becoming law. This legislation has the potential to open a Pandora's Box of negative publicity and equal pay claims if companies do not address the implications of this legislation for their business.