The employment law measures indicated in the recent Queen’s Speech have now been drafted into the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill. There are some significant proposals within the Bill that will have a practical effect on employers, along with other technical suggestions in relation to the Employment Tribunal process.
Probably the most significant proposal in terms of employer’s dealings with their workers is in relation to zero hours contracts, and this is explained in more detail in a separate article in this issue. The Bill also proposes to make changes in the following areas:
• Whistleblowing: A power is provided within the Bill to require certain prescribed people to report each year on any whistleblowing disclosures that they have received, with a view to ensuring that disclosures are at least considered.
• National Minimum Wage Enforcement: The Bill proposes to increase the current fine attached to failure to pay the National Minimum Wage. At the moment, the maximum fine for non-compliance is £20,000 in relation to the entire underpayment. The proposed changes will attach the maximum £20,000 fine to each worker who has been underpaid, rather than a one-off fine.
• Failure to pay employment tribunal awards: In order to address the large amount of employers who fail to pay compensation awarded to a successful claimant at tribunal, the Government proposes that a financial penalty be attached to non-payment, to a maximum of £5000;
• Public sector exit payments: The Bill includes provision requiring high earner public sector employees who are made redundant to return some or all of their redundancy pay if they shortly return to a job in the same part of the public sector. The repayment provisions would apply when the employee earned at least £80,000 in their previous role, with a return period of 12 months;
• Employment tribunal hearing postponements: In order to reduce the delays in tribunal hearings caused by frequent postponement requests, the Bill allows a limit to be placed on the number of postponements/adjournments that a party may be granted.
The proposals will be debated in the House of Commons and no implementation dates for them above proposals, if passed, have yet been set.
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