• A reminder that the new system of civil penalties for hiring illegal workers came into force on 29 February 2008. This introduces a maximum fine of £10,000 per illegal worker for negligent hiring and an unlimited fine or prison sentence for knowingly hiring illegal workers. Guidance for employers is available here.
  • From 6 April 2008 statutory sick pay will increase from £72.55 to £75.40 per week and the flat rate of statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay and statutory adoption pay will increase from £112.75 to £117.18 per week.
  • From 1 October 2008 the adult national minimum wage rate will rise from £5.52 to £5.73. The rate for 18-21 year olds will increase from £4.60 to £4.77, while the 16-17 year old rate will rise from £3.40 to £3.53.
  • MPs have voted in favour of the Temporary and Agency Workers (Equal Treatment) Bill at its second reading. The Private Member's Bill, which aims to give agency workers rights to equal treatment with comparable workers engaged directly, will now be considered in Committee. The Bill does not have the Government's support, but the Prime Minister has offered to set up an independent commission bringing together the TUC and CBI to consider how such workers could be given pay and conditions comparable with those of permanent workers.
  • The Employment Bill includes provisions enabling disputes to be resolved without a hearing by an employment judge sitting alone and the Explanatory Notes state that this new fast track is to be instituted for certain monetary disputes. The Government has now confirmed that it plans to use the fast track for claims concerning unlawful deductions from wages, breach of contract, redundancy pay, holiday pay and the national minimum wage. The Hansard statement is available here.
  • Ahead of the outcome of an independent review it has commissioned (see our e-bulletin 4 December 2007), the Government has indicated that any extension of the right to request flexible work to parents of children aged 6 and above is likely to be limited. The Financial Times has reported comments from John Hutton that the Government wishes to avoid a situation where employers are so overwhelmed with requests from newly eligible groups that they feel they have to say no to everyone.
  • In September 2006 we reported HMRC's decision that where an individual has been wrongly treated as self-employed rather than employed, tax paid directly by the individual cannot be set off against the employer's liability to pay retrospective income tax and national insurance, following the Special Commissioners' ruling in Demibourne v HMRC . HMRC stated that it was in discussions with tax professionals to find a solution to the difficulties posed by this new approach. On 27 February 2008 HMRC released a statement (via the Chartered Institute of Taxation's website) confirming that it intends to amend legislation to in effect permit set-off from 6 April 2008 – details are available here.