On 12 May 2016, the Immigration Bill received Royal Assent and became the Immigration Act 2016.

The facts

The Act will give effect to a number of government commitments that are intended to support the growth of enterprise in the UK. The Act will be brought into force in stages on dates to be announced.

What does this mean for employers?

The new act:

  • Extends the existing criminal offence of knowingly employing an illegal migrant to apply where an employer has a reasonable cause to believe that a person is an illegal worker. Conviction on indictment for this offence will increase from two to five years.
  • Creates a new offence of illegal working which will enable the earnings of illegal workers to be seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
  • Creates a new post of Director of Labour Market Enforcement who will be tasked with over-seeing and co-ordinating enforcement of worker exploitation legislation by the three main bodies responsible.
  • Gives the Secretary of State the power to introduce an immigration skills charge on certain employers who sponsor skilled workers from outside of the European Economic Area.
  • Requires public authorities to ensure that public sector workers in customer-facing roles speak fluent English.

The Enterprise Act 2016

On 4 May 2016, the Enterprise Bill received Royal Assent and became the Enterprise Act 2016. 

The facts

The Act will give effect to a number of government commitments that are intended to curb illegal working and prevent the exploitation of migrant workers. Some of the Act (the first 3 bullet points below) will be brought into force on 12 July 2016, with the rest in stages on dates to be announced. The immigration skills charge is expected to be introduced in April 2017.

What does this mean for employers?

Provisions of particular interest to employers include:

  • Capping exit payments in the public sector.
  • Measures concerning apprenticeships such as regulating the use of the word "apprenticeship" to cover only government-accredited schemes, increasing the number of public sector apprenticeships on offer and establishing a new Institute for Apprenticeships.
  • Strengthening retail workers' rights in relation to Sunday working (although initial proposals to allow local authorities to extend Sunday trading hours were dropped during the progress of the Bill).

The Trade Union Act

On 4 May 2016, the Trade Union Bill received Royal Assent and became the Trade Union Act 2016. 

The facts

The Trade Union Act will amend the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. 

What does this mean for employers?

The amendments will increase ballot thresholds, introduce new information and timing requirements in relation to industrial action and impose legal requirements on unions for the supervision of picketing. In relation to the public sector, the Act will introduce regulation-making powers in relation to the abolition of check-off.