2015 has already seen the introduction of potentially significant changes for HR professionals, most notably the introduction of Shared Parental Leave. On 1 October, further changes are coming into force.

National Minimum Wage (NMW) – rate increases

From 1 October, the new hourly rates apply:
Standard adult (workers aged 21 and over): GBP 6.70
Youth development (workers aged 18-20): GBP 5.30
Young workers (workers aged 16-17): GBP 3.87

Of greater significance for employers, however, is the introduction of the National Living Wage (NLW) in April 2016 which will apply to workers aged 25 and over, and will effectively replace the existing NMW for these workers.

The living wage is based on the amount an individual needs to earn to cover the basic costs of living. The hourly rate is higher than the NMW and at the moment it is an informal benchmark which employers choose to pay on a voluntary basis.

The NMW rules will also apply to the NLW, and the Government plans to introduce stricter penalties for employers which do not comply.

Sikh exemption from wearing safety helmetsFor over 25 years, Sikh men have been exempt from wearing safety helmets on construction sites if they are wearing a turban.  From October, this exemption will extend to all workplaces, such as factories, warehouses and transportation, with some limited exceptions - mainly restricted to military and emergency services roles. Employers may need to adapt their health and safety and dress code policies to reflect this change.

Tribunal recommendations in discrimination casesFrom October, Tribunals will no longer have the power to make recommendations in discrimination claims in relation to as employer’s wider workforce, for example that an employer should retrain staff or introduce a diversity policy, although they can still make recommendations that benefit the individual claimant. However, given that tribunals rarely exercised that power, this change will not have a significant impact.

Finally, an additional employment law change is also on the horizon:

Modern slavery statementsThe requirement that businesses with an annual turnover of at least GBP 36 million will have to publish an annual 'slavery and human trafficking' statement on their website is expected to come into force in October 2015.

The statement must set out what action the business has taken to ensure that modern slavery is not occurring in its business or, crucially, anywhere in its supply chains. The Government has yet to publish its guidance which should clarify the level of investigation a company is expected to carry out. For now, those companies which satisfy the turnover threshold (and particularly those with interests in the third world) should start looking at their supply chains, training and inspection systems and policies, to check whether these will stand up to scrutiny.