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Living Wage From April 2017, the national living wage is £7.50 an hour for workers aged 25 and older. For workers aged 24 and under it's £7.05:  Aged 18-20 the new rates £5.60 per hour and the hourly rate all for employees aged 16-17 is £4.05 per hour. Apprenticeship hourly rate for under 19 year olds £3.50 and it is also that over 19 when it's your first year. For more detailed guidance contact The Pay & Work Rights Helpline: 0800 917 2368 or go to: livingwage.gov.uk

May we take this opportunity to remind you that since 1st October 2009, service charges, tips, gratuities and cover charges can no longer be used to make up national minimum wage pay. This means that all eligible workers must receive at least national minimum wage in base pay with any tips they receive being paid on top. The code applies to all tipping sectors including:

hotels and restaurants,

gambling and betting outlets,

hairdressing and other beauty therapy businesses,

taxi operations.

Unfair Dismissal Qualifying Period Extension:

Reforms preventing new employees from making claims for unfair dismissal within two years will give small employers more confidence to take on staff, business groups have said. Previously this was a one year period.

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) and the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have both welcomed the reforms, along with changes to the tribunal system designed to weed out “vexatious” claims.

From 6 April 2012, employees applying for a tribunal claim will also face an upfront charge of £250 and a further £1,000 fee if the claim is granted ― both refundable if successful. The Government has claimed the changes will reduce the number of unfair dismissal claims by 2,000 each year and save £9 million annually. There were 236,000 unfair dismissal claims brought to tribunal in 2010, with an average award to successful claimants of around £9,000.

Holiday Entitlement:

Do you know how much holiday to give your staff? - Free guide to employees' holiday entitlement

Your employees are legally entitled to paid holiday based on the hours that they work.

This free guide shows you how to calculate a worker's holiday entitlement and pay. It also explains notice requirements, how you may impose restrictions on when workers can take their holiday, and the relationship between annual leave and sick leave. As well as demonstrating how to pay leavers for any holiday they have not taken.

free guide

Pensions Update : 'Personal Accounts'

Personal Accounts are a new pension system for all workers in the UK that do not already have a suitable company pension scheme. It is a simple, universally available scheme, accumulating a fund of money during a worker's life which will be used to purchase a lifetime annuity at their retirement. Employers are now obliged to automatically enrol employees into a suitable work place pension. Employees will, however, retain the right to opt out.

Further information from the Personal Accounts Delivery Authority - www.padeliveryauthority.org.uk

File late, pay more:

Companies HouseFrom February 1st 2009, late filing penalties increased considerably.

This is to encourage annual accounts to be filed on time.

For example, what was £100 for being three months late, will cost £375. Also the time frames between penalty rises are shorter.

To find out more, visit www.companieshouse.gov.uk

Struggling Firms Flock to Receive Help Paying Tax Bills:

More than 20,000 small firms have used HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) Business Payment Support Service to defer their tax bills since it launched at the end of November 2008. Announced in the Pre–Budget Report, the service helps struggling firms by allowing them to set up an affordable tax payment timetable. Under the scheme, HMRC will not apply any late payment surcharges where a deferment has been made, although interest will continue to be charged on outstanding amounts. According to HMRC, more than £350 million of tax, including VAT, PAYE and National Insurance, has already been deferred. For more information about the Business Payment Support Service, visit the HMRC website – www.hmrc.gov.uk - or alternatively call the Business Payment Support Line on 0845 302 1435

Proposed Extension of the Flexible Working Rights:

The Government has confirmed it plans to extend the current Flexible Working Rights to parents with children up to the age of 16 years. It hopes that the changes to legislation will be passed quickly to allow the changes to happen from April 2009. The Government’s original report (Walsh Report) proposed a staged introduction of the new right, but it is expected the Government will propose that this change happens in one immediate stage. The existing Flexible Working Rights that apply to parents with a disabled child up to the age of 18 years will not be affected.

TUC and CBI Reach Agreement on Agency Workers:

The Government has agreed a deal between the TUC and the CBI over what rights Agency Workers will receive if a proposed Agency Workers Equal Treatment Directive is passed by the EU. Under the proposed deal Agency workers will be entitled to equal treatment after 12 weeks of working with an employer, this will apply to such things as annual leave, pay, sick pay etc.

This proposal still needs agreement with other EU countries, but the Government is hopeful that will soon be agreed and new legislation will be passed in the next session of Parliament.

www.wired-gov.net/wg/wg-news-1.nsf/lfi/161038

Case Law: Grievances Must State, Who? What? Where? When? Why?

In a case (Clyde House vs. McAulay) before the Scottish Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) an interesting point was clarified concerning the Statutory Dispute Resolution Procedures and what constitutes a grievance.

In this case Ms McAulay resigned claiming constructive unfair dismissal and disability discrimination. As required under the modified SDR procedures her solicitors wrote a “grievance letter” setting out a number of allegations. Her employer wrote back asking for clarification over what acts Ms McAulay was actually referring to. As they did not get any further clarification, her employer wrote back to indicate that they could not carry on with the grievance and hence this was an end to the matter.

An Employment Tribunal subsequently agreed that the grievance procedure had been followed by Ms McAulay and hence they allowed her case to go ahead and she won. The Employer appealed this to the EAT who in their judgement said, a grievance or a statement provided by an employee must contain the answers to the essential questions that one would expect to arise in a grievance, namely: 'Who? What? Where? When? Why?'" The fact these answers might arise in any future litigation did not reduce the primary need by a Tribunal to establish that the employee had complied with the required minimum requirements when making a grievance statement.

In this case, the letter only made assertions and it did not meet the basic requirements of a grievance, hence the Tribunal’s award was set aside and the case dismissed.

Editors note: This raises an important point with grievances that employers should always seek further clarification if they are unsure was is actually being complained about. If they do not get that further clarification it may mean subsequent Tribunal action cannot take place.

Case Law: Equal Pay Comparators

The EAT in an important case has overturned previous case law concerning how

Equal pay cases are determined. The EAT in (Walton Centre vs. Bewley) has held that a women’s successor in a job CANNOT be used as a proper comparator for the purposes of Equal Pay Act claims.

The EAT came to its decision on the basis that the intention of the 1970’s legislation was that the comparator should be contemporaneously employed and hence any successor in a job would be always be a hypothetical situation.

They also went on to determine if the equal Pay Act should be determined in accordance with EU law. They also formed the opinion that a successor could not be used as the comparator.

New Employment Laws:

From 29th February 2008 there was new penalties (criminal and civil) for employers who take on illegal workers. Employers of migrant workers whose right to work in the UK is not permanent will also have a new responsibility to make periodic checks on existing workers' entitlement to work in the UK, rather than simply checking status once before employment begins. The Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations will apply to retailers employing 50 or more employees from 6th April 2008, introducing new rights for employees to be informed about developments in the workplace on an ongoing basis. Also on 6th April 2008, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act came into force and it is important that retailers put health and safety measures at the top of their agendas in order to keep abreast of good practice.

The Employment Bill:

Less than four years after its introduction, there are plans to abolish the legislation that was supposed to encourage employers and workers to settle their differences without resorting to litigation. The Employment Bill proposes new guidance from ACAS, which is expected to place a greater focus on mediation as a means of resolving workplace disputes. The Government will also be revealing details of its plans for a big change to UK discrimination legislation with a new Equality Bill and there may be plans to revive legislation to give greater rights to agency workers.

Smoking Ban:

Smoking in all indoor public places was banned throughout the UK on 1st July 2007. Employers in charge of the premises could face a £2,500 fine if they fail to stop smokers. They could also be charged on the spot fines of £200 if they fail to display no-smoking signs, with the penalty increasing to £1,000 if the issue goes to court. The ban came into force in Wales on 2nd April 2007, in Northern Ireland on 30th April 2007. It was already in force in Scotland.

According to recent research, many businesses could fall foul of the law because they haven't followed the rules on 'No-Smoking' signs. Businesses need to check the finer detail of the regulations. The rules relating to smoke-free signs are very prescriptive and require businesses to have the correct size, wording, and logo, as well as to ensure that they are displayed in the right locations in smoke-free buildings and vehicles. Retailers that fail to have all of this in place could find themselves facing a fine from the enforcing authorities.

• Signs on entrances that can be accessed by members of the public must be A5 in size, or 70mm in diameter for a sign in smoke-free vehicles, and display the no-smoking logo of a burning cigarette in a red circle with a diagonal line through it.

• The sign must also include the wording, “No Smoking. It is against the law to smoke in these premises.”

• The words 'in these premises' can be substituted to make the sign more personal to the premises.

• A vehicle must display signage & be smoke free if it has a roof, is used by any member of the public or is used for work by more than one person.

Guidance on Free Draws and Prize Competitions:

The Gambling Commission has published guidance on the distinction between prize competitions and free draws on the one hand, and lotteries on the other. The Guidance covers the boundary between lotteries and a wide range of prize competitions, free draws and product promotions which accompany the purchase of goods or services.

 The publication of Prize competitions and free draws: the requirements of the Gambling Act 2005 sets out the Commission’s position so that those organising competitions and draws can ascertain what the Commission considers is needed to avoid breaches of the Gambling Act 2005 now it has come into effect (1 September 2007).

For further information see: www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk

Sickness Issues & SSP: Businesses lose a lot of money through sickness absence, not all of it medically justified

While many of the issues can be handled on the basis of give and take, there are times when clear policies and decisive action are needed.

This guide covers:

Statutory sick pay. Keeping sickness absence under control. Coping with long-term sickness. Dismissing sick employees.

Read: Sickness Issues and SSP

Business Planning Guide: Fewer than 25% of small businesses have a business plan

It is a widely held view that companies with a Business Plan are more successful and are more profitable.

Why not take 10 minutes out of your day and review your company plan?

Check out this quick guide for busy MDs and management teams of small and medium size businesses.

It's designed as an on-going business tool, not a set of projections to take to the bank manager.

Read: The Business Planning Guide

Age Discrimination: The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006

From 1 October 2006, new rules required the removal of bias on grounds of age in employment. This will include policies and practices relating to:

Recruitment, selection and promotion. Criteria for benefits. Providing training. Retirement and redundancy. Occupational pensions

Employers will not be allowed to:

Directly discriminate on grounds of age - e.g. where you do not employ or promote an individual because of their age. Indirectly discriminate on grounds of age - e.g. where you require a number of years' previous experience, which younger people are unlikely to have. Allow any harassment, bullying or victimisation on grounds of age either by the business or any employee.

How It Will Affect You:

As a Candidate - You will not be required to supply a date of birth or age on a CV, although you may be asked for this information in a Diversity Monitoring Form. You will not be turned down for a job because of your age. If you have the education, ability and skills required for the position you will have an equal opportunity as any other candidate. Job adverts will have to show a realistic number of years experience. It is not acceptable to ask for ten years experience when the job could be done by someone with less than five years experience.

As an Employer or Recruiter - You will need to remove all age related criteria from advertising. You will not be able to advertise with terms such as ‘young’, ‘mature’ or ‘older’. Even the term graduate should not be used as code for young and just out of university. Graduates are all ages and advertisements will need to attract candidates on their skills and ability. You should examine and remove any offending copy from all advertising especially if provided by clients or third parties. Clients will no longer specify that they are recruiting for a team within a specific age range or that the company profile is young. You will be responsible for any legal action that results from any applicant embarrassed or hurt by offending words. In the USA, where discrimination against workers on the grounds of age has been illegal for nearly 40 years, legal actions for age discrimination are one of the fastest growing areas of litigation.

As an Employee - You will receive the same benefits, training and promotion prospects as older or younger employees. You will not be victimised or harassed because of your age. You will not be subjected to teasing, tormenting and ridicule as a result of your age. All employees should be treated equally when setting work objectives or measuring levels of performance. It will be the responsibility of employers to ensure all employees are aware of the new law. No employee should make derogatory remarks about another employee’s age – terms such as ‘wet behind the ears’, ‘old codger’, ‘should have retired years ago’ and other such remarks are discriminatory and therefore after 1 October 2006 will be illegal.

Advertising on this site:

The use of age limits will be unlawful: e.g. 'over 25’. Indirect ageism, which is where people of a particular age group are disadvantaged, will also be unlawful: e.g. requiring 5 or 10 years experience. The law allows employers to refuse to recruit people within six months of their retirement age, or 65 if you don’t have one (correct at the time this was published, but may be subject to change as new legislation regarding retirement is also imminent). 

For full details on the new legislation CLICK HERE

Maternity & Parental Leave:

The Work and Families Act 2006 introduces new measures for maternity and parental leave from April 2007. This includes:

Extending maternity and adoption pay from six (26 weeks) to nine months (39 weeks) from April 2007. Allowing all pregnant women, no matter how long they have been in employment, to take up to one year off. Extending the right to request flexible working to carers of adults from April 2007. Giving fathers a new right to up to 26 weeks additional paternity leave, some of which could be paid if the mother returns to work.

As individual rights will vary, please check the following for further information:

Business Link - www.businesslink.gov.uk

Broadcasting Licences:

A recent change in the legislation now allows Phonographic Performance Ltd to charge a fee for radio and TV broadcasts, so retailers playing music in store need to have licences from both The Performing Rights Society (which collects for musicians and composers) and PPL (which collects for record companies and performers). For more information please see:

 www.ppluk.com

And finally - last but not least,

Employment Contracts:

A contract of employment exists as soon as an applicant accepts your offer of employment.

A clear, reasonable contract helps you to ensure that the employee understands what is expected, and to minimise the risk of disputes.

At the same time, you need to understand what your contractual obligations are, and what terms you can (and cannot) enforce. This guide outlines:

The basics of employment contracts.

The content of the written statement.

What else forms part of the contract.

Key issues to consider.

Read About Employment Contracts

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