Are you expecting employment law to be a bit quieter in 2018? If so, think again.

New changes are set to hit UK businesses hard. And don’t forget, some of 2017’s big issues are still having a huge impact. But don’t panic, read on to get a head start.

Tribunal claims to skyrocket

In July 2017, employment tribunal fees were abolished. Now, claims against employers are rising fast. In fact, there were 64% more single tribunal claims in July-September 2017 (compared to the same quarter in 2016 when employees had to pay fees).

Stop and think: do you have riskier employment practices? Do you ignore some staff rights? If so, be aware that there’s no barrier to stop current or ex-employees taking you to a tribunal—even if they’re chancing their luck. So what can you do? Simple:

Keep correct documentation, follow good practices, and act fairly to reduce the risk of a claim.

GDPR – The General Data Protection Regulations

You may have heard about this one. If not, you should know that it’s the biggest ever shake-up of the data protection laws. It takes effect on 25th May 2018 and will have a massive impact on your HR and employment law processes, with maximum fines of €20 million or 4% of your annual global turnover.

GDPR gives people more rights and more say in how companies use their data, and adds a raft of obligations on people who process data—like business owners and employers. So, you need to assess how you process staff data, ensure you have a legal basis to do it, and make sure it’s secure.

Once GDPR comes into force, employee consent for you to process data will only be valid if it’s informed, specific and unambiguous. Plus, they’ll be able to withdraw their consent at any time.

Minimum wage enforcement

The government’s focus on identifying businesses that underpay the minimum wage will continue. In December 2017, it named and shamed the highest number of underpaid workers so far.

So, no matter the size of your business or your sector, evaluate your pay practices to ensure workers get at least the legal minimum wage. Also, be aware of the rate increases set to take effect in April 2018 and increase wages where appropriate.

Meanwhile, if you’re in the care sector, you can voluntarily participate in the social care compliance scheme. After entering, review whether you’ve underpaid staff who carry out sleep-in shifts.

If you have underpaid and let HMRC know, you’ll face no action. You have until the end of 2018 to enter the scheme.

Employment status

Correctly determining the status of staff will continue to be a complex issue in 2018.

Many more employers are likely to face a tribunal claim as people seek confirmation of their employment rights. So, if you wrongly classify your staff, you could face a big financial penalty.

Early this year, the government will release their response to the Taylor review, called Modern Working Practices. It will reveal if they’re going to take steps to clarify status tests or make the law clearer.

Pensions and auto-enrolment

This year, all employers regardless of their size will have to auto-enrol eligible workers into a workplace pension.

Be aware of who you class in your workforce as an eligible worker and ensure they have a suitable pension scheme. Also, minimum employer contributions will increase from 1% to 2% in April 2018.

The extension of the auto-enrolment schemes comes at the same time as the Pensions Regulator is stepping up their investigations and prosecutions of employers who fail to provide a pension scheme.