Neil Buck: Key employment law changes in April

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April is a fairly busy time for business owners. Not only are you required to tie up any loose ends from the previous financial year, but you also need to make sure that you’re fully prepared for the employment law changes that could impact your business.

This is a time when new changes come into force, so you need to know what they are, get prepared and decide whether you need to take action.

Here’s what you need to know:

National minimum/ living wage rates increase

On 1st April, the national minimum /living wage rates will increase.

National Living Wage rate:

  • For workers aged 25 or above, it rises to £7.50 p.h. (30p increase)

National Minimum Wage rates:

  • Adult Rate: workers aged under 25 but at least 21 rises to £7.05 p.h. (10p increase)
  • Development Rate: workers aged at least 18 but under 21 rises to £5.60 p.h. (5p increase);
  • Young Workers rate: workers aged under 18 who are no longer of compulsory school age rises to £4.05 p.h. (5p increase); and
  • Apprentice rate:  increases to £3.50 p.h. (10p increase)

Now is a worthwhile time to ensure that you’re compliant, and that your payroll processes are in order (especially if you will soon be having to set up an auto-enrolment pension scheme).

Don’t forget you need to write to your employees informing them of any pay increase that applies to them.

Statutory redundancy pay increases

From 6th April, if you have to make employees redundant, then you must pay those with two years’ service a sum based on their length of service, weekly pay, and age. Remember you need to follow a fair procedure to get to that point though.

The weekly pay is subject to a maximum amount, and this will rise from £479 to £489. No business owner wants to think that they may have to face this situation, but it pays to be prepared and know your responsibilities.

The weekly pay increase will also apply to other things such as the basic and compensatory award amounts in unfair dismissal cases, so the unfair dismissal basic award increases to £14,670 — same as the maximum statutory redundancy payment, and the compensatory award increases to £80,541 (or a years salary, whichever is lower).

Maternity Pay, Paternity Pay, Adoption Pay, Shared Parental Pay increases

The applicable statutory rate element for these rights will be increasing to £140.98 per week

Statutory Sick Pay increases

If you pay the statutory rate for any sickness absence you need to be aware that this rate will increase to £89.35 per week.

Statutory Guarantee Payments

If you have to lay people off temporarily for a full day then the statutory rate increasing to £135 (£27 per day for a maximum 5 days in a 3 month period).

Gender pay gap reporting comes into force

If you employ 250 or more employees, then this applies to you.

You will be required to report on your gender pay gap, including any bonuses that you might use to reward your staff.

You’ll have a period of 12 months to publish this information on your own website, and upload the details to a government website.

As such, you need to make sure that you have mechanisms in place to collect the necessary facts and figures.

The immigration skills charge will be introduced

Do you sponsor skilled workers under tier two of the immigration points-based system? If so, you will be required to pay a sponsorship levy of £1,000 per year for each certificate of sponsorship – or £364 if you’re a smaller business or charity.

There are certain exemptions that apply, so if your business hires skilled immigrants, it pays to seek out tailored advice.

Apprenticeship levy on large employers introduced

Employers with an annual payroll of more than £3 million will be required to pay a 0.5% levy on their total pay bill starting on April 6.

Large employers will be able to access levied amounts, plus a government top-up of 10%, to fund apprenticeships from accredited training providers.

Smaller organisations that are not required to pay the levy will also be able to receive funding for accredited apprenticeships by contributing 10% towards the cost of an apprenticeship, with the government paying the remaining cost.

Salary-sacrifice schemes significantly restricted

Employers may need to reconsider their benefit offerings as tax savings through many salary-sacrifice schemes will be abolished from April 6.

Schemes related to pension savings (including pensions advice), childcare, cycle-to-work and ultra-low emission cars will not be affected.

Schemes in place prior to this April will be protected until April 2018, while arrangements related to cars, accommodation and school fees will be protected until April 2021.

April is a good time to carry out an audit of your policies and procedures, to make sure that you’re fulfilling your legal responsibilities.

In my experience the majority of employers, because they are understandably concentrating on running their core business most of time, tend to either forget or not be bothered to keep abreast of what’s going on in employment law (it can be pretty boring half the time, let’s be honest!).

But it’s nevertheless very important as it could come back to bite and cause damage in various ways if, for example, they then don’t pay the right rate or don’t do something they should be doing in law.

Regardless of the size of the organisation, as an employer, you have legal obligations to fulfill and you can bet your bottom dollar if you get it wrong the staff will inform you about it in some way quick sharp.

So, you need to be one step ahead and on your toes to all this stuff and that will give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you have it under control.