2015 was a busy year in terms of employment law change, and 2016 promises to be just as significant. Case law has taken the limelight during the previous 12 months, but legislative change also featured prominently. Let’s take a look back on the major changes this year, and forward to 2016.
Changes in 2015
Wages claims: Due to the case law on holiday pay and overtime, the Government placed a restriction on all wages claim, meaning that employees can only claim arrears for the previous 2 years.
Leave for parents: 2015 saw the first parents taking shared parental leave, a right that is also open to those who adopt, who become parents via a surrogacy arrangement, or who are local authority prospective adopters. The criteria for taking statutory adoption leave was also relaxed, and entitlement to parental leave extended.
Zero hours contracts: Exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts were made unlawful, meaning that employers who engage people on these types of contract cannot prevent employees also working elsewhere. Rules on the enforcement of this ban will be released in 2016.
Modern slavery: Employers with an annual turnover of at least £36 million per year must publish a modern slavery statement each financial year, setting out the steps.
Travel time as working time: A recent decision from the Court of Justice of the European Union has found that where an employee does not have a fixed workplace, (e.g. roving salesmen etc) and instead their work involves travelling from client site to client site, that the time they spend traveling from home to their first appointment and then from their last appointment back home is ‘working time’ for the purposes of calculating rest breaks.
Changes ahead in 2016
National Living Wage: Employers will need to a review of all pay rates in order to ensure that from April 2016, all workers aged 25 or over receive, on average, at least £7.20 per hour.
Annual leave and commission: Earlier in 2015, the European Court of Justice decided that where a worker receives commission payments, their holiday pay must be increased to include an element representing commission. An Employment Tribunal in England applied this ruling in Lock v British Gas Trading, and decided that an employee should have received a higher level of holiday pay to reflect his commission. This decision was appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal who heard the claim in early December 2015. We await the decision, which is likely to come in the New Year.
Public sector exit payments: From 1st April 2016, employees working in the public sector will have to repay their termination payments when they return to a job in the same sub-sector within 12 months of leaving. This will only apply to employees who earn £100,000 or more.
Reform to trade union activity: Although not yet confirmed, it’s likely that the Trade Union Bill will be introduced in 2016, amending the rules on legal strikes and removing the ban on using agency workers to cover for workers who are on strike.
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