Employment Law Update - Quick Fire! - February 2017

Published: 15/02/2017

Tribunal judgments now online!

The Ministry of Justice has launched an online database of employment tribunal decisions, which will be updated with all new judgments when they are handed down. It also includes some older judgments dating back to 2015 and 2016, which had not been previously anticipated. The site is reportedly still in the ‘beta’ stage of testing, with decisions still being uploaded. It is not yet clear how many previous decisions will be added and how far back they will go.

Tribunal decisions have already been publically accessible on application to the central register (located in Bury St Edmunds) but this is the first time that all judgments will be available online and fully searchable. This may result in an increased risk of adverse publicity for employers, particularly in cases where the judge is critical of the employer’s actions and in cases that involve particularly salacious witness evidence. The database is accessible here: https://www.gov.uk/employment-tribunal-decisions

National Minimum Wage – new rates

The draft National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2017
were published on 1 February 2017, setting out the new rates of the
national minimum wage coming into force on 1 April 2017:

  • The national living wage (workers aged 25 and over) increases from £7.20 to £7.50.
  • The standard adult rate (workers between 21 and 24) increases from £6.95 to £7.05.
  • The development rate (workers between 18 and 20) increases from £5.55 to £5.60.
  • The young workers rate (workers aged 16 and 17 who are not apprentices) increases from £4.00 to £4.05.
  • The apprentices rate increases from £3.40 to £3.50.
New rates of the NMW previously took effect from 1 October each year; this is the first
year that increases to all rates (including the national living wage) will be aligned from
1 April.

New guidance on gender pay gap reporting

Acas and the Government Equalities Office (GEO) have jointly published new guidance on the duty to report on the gender pay gap, which takes effect from 6 April 2017.

The guidance is aimed at both private and voluntary sector employers with 250 or more employees. It will be updated to include the public sector reporting requirements once the final regulations for this have been approved.

The guidance provides a step-by-step guide to complying with the statutory requirements, including worked examples of how to carry out the necessary calculations. It encourages employers to publish a supporting narrative to explain why any gender pay gap is present and what actions the employer intends to take to close the gap.

The guidance states that the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has the power to enforce any failure to comply with the regulations, although the regulations themselves are entirely silent on the subject of enforcement and sanctions. A copy of the guidance is available here.

Trade Union Act 2016 in force from 1 March 2017

It has been confirmed that the main provisions of the Trade Union Act 2016, introducing new minimum threshold requirements for ballots and other new requirements for lawful industrial action, will take effect from 1 March 2017.

Separate regulations have been published on what constitutes “important public services” for the purposes of the new 40% ballot threshold under the Act. The Government has also published new guidance on these regulations.

Employment tribunal fees review published

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has finally published its long-awaited post-implementation review of the introduction of fees in the employment tribunals and EAT.

This review was originally expected to be published at the end of 2015. Many respondents who submitted evidence to the review, together with inquiries conducted separately by the House of Commons Select Committee and the Women and Equalities Select Committee, were highly critical of the impact of fees on access to justice.

Not unsurprisingly, however, the review has concluded that the fees regime is working well and broadly meeting its original objectives. The MoJ has decided that certain claims under the national insurance fund will be exempt from fees with immediate effect. It is also consulting further on proposals to widen access to the remission scheme.

UNISON’s appeal against the introduction of tribunal fees is due to be heard by the Supreme Court on 27 and 28 March 2017.

The content of this article is for general information only. For further information regarding any of our quick fire topics, please contact a member of Birketts' employment team. Law covered as at February 2017.

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