The Small Business Enterprise and Employment Bill also received Royal Assent on 26 March, though commencement orders will be needed to bring the employment provisions into force.
The key employment-related changes concern gender pay reporting and zero-hours contracts.
- The Act provides that regulations must be introduced as soon as possible and within 12 months (ie, by 25 March 2016) requiring larger employers with 250 or more employees to publish details of their gender pay gap. The detail of what must be reported and where will be covered by regulations to be made by the new government after the election. Publication of this information may well increase the risk of equal pay claims or reputational damage and larger employers may wish to audit their position and consider taking action to address disparity ahead of the requirement coming into force.
- The Act also bans exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts, with the Government retaining power to make further provisions by regulation. The Government consulted on tackling avoidance and its response and draft regulations are available here. The draft regulations provide protection against detriment for zero hours workers if they work for someone else, impose financial penalties for employers seeking to avoid the ban, and extend protection to low income workers. Of course the direction of further progress in this area will depend on the outcome of the general election.
Other changes in the Act include financial penalties on employers for unpaid employment tribunal awards and settlements, increases to the penalty for underpayment of the national minimum wage, a new power to make regulations requiring “prescribed persons” to produce annual anonymised reports of whistleblowing disclosures, and provisions limiting the ability to postpone tribunal hearings.