Key employment law developments affecting food and farming.

From 1 April 2016, the National Living Wage came into force, resulting in the increase of the minimum wage for workers aged 25 and over to £7.20 per hour. BIS has published a new booklet on how to calculate the minimum wage, what counts as pay, what hours need to be counted, and how the minimum wage is enforced.

There have also been new rates announced for the National Minimum Wage which will be effective from 1 October 2016, with the hourly rate for 21-24 year olds increasing to £6.95. The National Living Wage rate will not increase in October 2016.

The Immigration Bill 2015-2016 aims to curb illegal working and prevent the exploitation of low-skilled migrant workers by strengthening enforcement and imposing tougher sanctions on employers. In particular it will:

  • Extend the existing criminal offence of knowingly employing an illegal migrant to apply where an employer has ‘reasonable cause to believe’ that a person is an illegal worker. The maximum punishment is set to increase from two to five years’ imprisonment.
  • Introduce a new Immigration Skills Charge, from April 2017, requiring employers to pay £1,000 a year for each migrant they employ in skilled areas.

Employers should review their recruitment practices to ensure that they carry out “right to work” checks and keep the necessary records of having done the checks and copies of documentation.

From 1 February 2016, as part of the government’s ongoing reforms to the immigration system, right to rent checks have to be carried out by all private landlords in England. The purpose of these is to check that the tenants have a right to be in the UK. The penalty for landlords who are found to be renting a property to someone who is in the UK illegally is a fine of up to £3,000 per person.

A recent ruling by the Supreme Court has considered – and potentially broadened – the scope of vicarious liability, under which employers can be liable for acts of employees and other workers which are outside of the employer’s control (Cox v Ministry of Justice; Mohamud v Morrison Supermarkets plc). Our briefing on the implications of the decision can be found here.

“Employers should review their recruitment practices to ensure that they carry out “right to work” checks and keep the necessary records of having done the checks and copies of documentation.”