1. Act now for modern slavery reporting – Commercial organisations with a £36m+ turnover, carrying out business in the UK (wherever incorporated) and supplying goods and services, must publish a modern slavery and trafficking statement where their year-end is after 30 March 2016.

Fee charging education providers with such a turnover are likely to be caught under the legislation.

Action: Assess risks and, where appropriate, put in place policies, training, due diligence processes and measure their effectiveness.

  1. Plan for National Living Wage – In April, the minimum wage for workers aged 25+ will increase to £7.20. Many employers are concerned about how they will absorb such a large increase in wage costs.

Action: Plan carefully if changes are being considered to employee terms. Consider how the NLW will affect existing pay scales and whether pay increases will be demanded/agreed at higher levels. Review existing commercial contracts if intending to push costs along a supply chain.

  1. Check if restructuring plans are affected by new redundancy pay rules – In April, new laws are expected that will mean that certain public sector workers cannot return to the same sector within 12 months of receiving an exit payment unless prepared to repay it. Later in 2016, large exit payments made to certain public sector workers will be capped at £95,000 in most cases. The tax treatment of termination payments could also be in line for a shake-up.

Action: Plan ahead. Careful thought must be given to all departures and their timing but staff are likely to be asking to leave early and approaching you with concerns over issues such as pension and redundancy entitlement.

  1. Assess impact of changes to pensions annual allowance – From 6 April 2016, individuals with taxable income above £150,000 per year (including on- employment income, such as dividends and rental income) are likely to have a reduced pensions annual allowance, which could be as low as £10,000.

Action: Assess impact on staff and decide on response. Implement changes to employment contracts, pension plan rules, systems and staff communications inform staff and consult, if necessary.

  1. If not already done, review holiday pay calculations and assess liabilities – Further rulings on holiday pay are expected next year in the Lock and Bear Scotland cases, both of which could clarify the law, or muddy the waters still further.

Action: Review holiday pay arrangements to assess potential liabilities, including the risk of claims for back pay. Consider whether to make changes now or wait for UK law to be further clarified.

  1. Prepare for new language fluency rules – New English language requirements for public sector workers in customer- facing roles are likely to be introduced by mid/late 2016. A customer facing role is defined as a person who as a regular and intrinsic part of their role is required to speak to members of the public in English and is therefore likely to include many roles within the Education Sector.

Action: Keep an eye out for the Code of Practice that  will accompany the new rules. Ensure language difficulties are identified during recruitment procedures and as part of performance management, taking care to avoid unlawful discrimination. Draw up a complaints policy and ensure those responsible for dealing with complaints have the skills to do so.

  1. Keep track of strike ballot and related changes – New industrial action laws including higher thresholds for strike ballots, will require at least 50% of members to vote and, for certain public services (proposed to include the education of those under 17), 40% to vote in favour of the action. Other changes include permitting agency workers to replace striking staff, a tighter control on picketing, longer advance notice of strikes, changes to the ballot voting paper, a need to re-ballot with ongoing disputes and greater scrutiny of facility time in the public sector. The changes are expected to be implemented by the summer of 2016.

Action: Employers anticipating strikes should be prepared for a change in union strategy when the changes are implemented: for example, fewer and more tactical ballots and the use of alternative forms of protest.