Julian Hoskins provides this month's round-up of key employment law developments.

NATIONAL LIVING WAGE IN THE NEWS

The 'National Living Wage' (the 50 pence premium on the National Minimum Wage for workers over 25 years old) is less than a month old and is already making headlines.

Parliament debated the National Living Wage (NLW) earlier this month, with MPs highlighting that some employers are restructuring employees' benefit packages in order to compensate for the increased cost of the NLW. This practice has also been reported in the press – with new policies of Café Nero, Waitrose and B&Q being highlighted.

Meanwhile, the government has announced its intention to

  • increase the HMRC enforcement budget from £13 million in 2015-16, to £20 million in 2016-17; and
  • put pressure on companies to live up to the 'spirit' as well as the letter of the NLW legislation (Nick Boles MP, Hansard House of Commons debates 18 April 2016).

It therefore appears that the government will continue with its drive to focus on the enforcement of minimum wage regulations and, doubtless, will concentrate many of its efforts on 'low wage industries' such as construction and health and social care.

Meanwhile, the Department for Business Immigration and Skills (BIS) has published updated guidance on compliance with national minimum wage legislation, including the new rates and information on the National Living Wage. The new guidance is available here.

National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates change every October. National Living Wage rates change every April. The current hourly National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates, effective from 1 April 2016 are set out below.

Click here to view table.

The ‘apprentice’ rate is for apprentices aged 16 to 18 or aged 19 or over who are in their first year (all other apprentices are entitled to the minimum wage for their age).

For more information on implementing the National Living Wage, please click here. We are currently assisting clients with implementing NLW and NMW compliant remuneration structures and responding to HMRC enquiries into low wage workers. Please do contact me or your usual Bevan Brittan contact if you require assistance in this regard.

NEW IMMIGRATION SKILLS CHARGE

The government is planning to charge employers £1,000 a year for each migrant that they employ in skilled areas - reduced to £364 for small or charitable organisations and with an exemption for PhD-level jobs and international students switching from student visas to working visas. The new charge will be introduced in April 2017.   If you require further information, please do contact me or Ashley Norman, head of our Immigration Team.

DBS WORKFORCE GUIDANCE

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) has published a collection of guides to help identify the type of workforce that a DBS applicant will be working in, dependent on activity. Registered bodies or employers are required to add the workforce on the DBS application form. Forms that do not have the workforce provided will be rejected. Please click here for the full collection of DBS workforce guides. 

NEW EMPLOYMENT AGENCY REGULATIONS

New regulations coming into force on 8 May 2016 will amend the current Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations – originally these regulations were due to come into force on 6 April 2016 but have been delayed.

Please click here for the regulations in full.

The good news is that the main change reduces the regulatory requirements for employment agencies / businesses, as it will no longer be a legal requirement to agree terms and enter into a written contract with hirers before providing services. Furthermore, Regulation 23 will be amended to remove the requirement for an employment business / agency to check the suitability and capacity of any other employment agency or business with which they enter into an agreement.

However, the requirements for advertising for vacancies in Europe (i.e. in an EEA state other than the UK) have been tightened up slightly. The effect of this change is that generic advertising in the EEA will also be subject to the requirement to advertise in English in Great Britain as well. Previously, this requirement only applied to specific vacancies, defined as "GB vacancies".

EMPLOYMENT TRIBUNAL COULD HEAR COMPLAINTS ABOUT THE GMC

In an important decision for employers of staff with registration requirements, the Court of Appeal has provided a reminder that it is able to hear complaints about treatment by a qualification body – in this case, the General Medical Council (GMC).

In Michalak v General Medical Council and others (2016), a doctor brought successful claims for unfair dismissal, victimisation and discrimination against her employer. Separately, the GMC was asked to consider Dr Michalak's fitness to practice, but the employing Trust later admitted that there were no grounds for a referral to the GMC. Dr Michalak's registration remains in place. However, she brought a complaint that the GMC harassed and discriminated during its investigation and hearing. The complaint therefore related to the way in which the GMC conducted itself. The court distinguished this from situations where a member wishes to appeal against a decision by the GMC in relation to their professional registration - for example, where they have been suspended. In that case, there is a statutory route of appeal to the High Court as set out by relevant provisions in the Medical Act 1983.