New statutory rates that will apply from April 2020

The government has recently announced that rates for statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave pay and maternity allowance will increase to £151.20 per week. Any employee that earns less than this will continue to receive 90% of their average weekly earnings.

These rates usually take effect on the first Sunday of April, which this year is 5 April.

Also, from 6 April, the statutory sick pay rate will increase to £95.85 per week.

Rates for maternity allowance, statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave pay and SSP are going up.

Migration Advisory Committee recommends that post Brexit salary threshold should be reduced to £25,600

The Migration Advisory Committee has urged the government to reduce the salary threshold for skilled immigrants with a job offer to work in the UK from its current level of £30,000.

The government has not yet responded.

Sexual harassment victims asked to share their stories

The Government Equalities Office has launched a survey seeking the views of sexual harassment victims on laws designed to protect them.

The survey will go out to 12,200 people ‘from all walks of life’ and is designed to build a picture of how many people are affected, whether they were sexually harassed inside or outside of work and details of the harassment suffered.

The survey is part of a package of commitments to tackle sexual harassment at work, including a new statutory Code of Practice to help employers understand their legal responsibilities and a consultation on new plans to tackle harassment at work - including giving explicit legal protections to workers, such as waiters and shop assistants, against harassment from customers.

Information Commissioner amends guidance for complying with DSARs

The Information Commissioner’s office has amended its General Data Protection Regulation: Right of access guidance on the timescale for complying with a data subject access request where the controller asks for clarification from the data subject.

The start of the one month time period for compliance can’t be paused even where the data controller needs more information to enable them to respond. Similarly, the extended timescale for responding to complex or multiple DSARs can’t be paused.

This is an important change from the guidance published in 2018.

New Bill seeks to give women the right to know how much their male colleagues are paid

The House of Lords has introduced the Equal Pay Bill which, if enacted, will give women who suspect they are not getting equal pay the ‘right to know’ what a male colleague doing the same work is paid. As currently drafted, employers will only have 20 working days to respond to a request for information about a comparator’s pay and other terms. If they don’t provide it they can, ultimately, be debarred from defending a subsequent equal pay claim.

The Bill is supported by The Fawcett Society, whose research indicates that four in 10 aren't aware that they have a right to equal pay for work of equal value.

The Bill will have to be supported by the House of Commons before it can become law. Its progress can be chartered here. Even if the Bill becomes law, many of its provisions will be set out in separate Regulations.

New Bill seeks to ban unpaid work experience

The House of Lords has made a further attempt to prevent employers from exploiting individuals seeking work experience. It has introduced the Unpaid Work Experience (Prohibition) Bill, which if enacted, will mean that anyone who undertakes work experience for four weeks must receive the appropriate national minimum wage rate for their age.

The Bill has a long way to go before it becomes law. At the moment, it’s only had its first reading in the Lords. To track its progress click here.

A similar Bill was introduced in 2017 but, that failed due to lack of time.

New report suggests tougher penalties needed to deter employers from underpaying staff

Research published by the Resolution Foundation indicates that there has been an increase in the number of businesses underpaying the national minimum wage over the last two years, and that over 85% of them are getting away with it.

It anticipates that more workers will be underpaid as rates increase putting additional pressure on businesses that pay, at or, near the wage floor. 

To avoid this, it recommends that the government:

  • Introduces a single enforcement agency to improve intelligence sharing thereby increasing the chance underpaying businesses will be caught
  • Increases the penalties HMRC can impose and include a scale so that higher value breaches, or repeat offenders pay more
  • Makes more use of criminal prosecutions and director disqualifications (only 14 businesses have been prosecuted for non-payment over the last 20 years); and
  • Ensures that employment tribunals impose penalties for noncompliance.

To find out more, click here.

Aldi increases minimum pay for 33,000 employees to exceed real living wage

According to Employee Benefits, supermarket chain Aldi has increased hourly pay rates for its 33,000 employees.

From 1 February 2020, Aldi’s employees will earn a minimum hourly rate of £9.40, and £10.90 inside the M25.

Aldi’s new pay rates exceed the recommended real living wage rates of £9.30 nationally and £10.75 in London, set most recently in November 2019. Aldi is also one of the few UK supermarkets that pay staff during their scheduled breaks.

The pay increases also include a rise to £10.41 for employees who have worked at Aldi for three or more years, while those working in London will receive £11.15 after two years of service.

Co-op – latest supermarket to face equal pay claims

More than 400 employees have launched an equal pay claim against the Co-op supermarket chain.

The Co-op shop workers, mostly women, say they are being underpaid compared with warehouse workers, who are mostly men.

Staff from Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s have all brought similar claims.

Extra holiday given to non-smoking staff

A Swindon recruitment agency has recently introduced a scheme to incentivise staff to stop smoking. All non-smoking staff will get an additional four days’ holiday to compensate for paid smoking breaks staff take in addition to their formal rest breaks. The Managing Director says that the policy is supported by smokers and non-smokers.