1 Assess employment needs pending Brexit – whilst no employment law changes are envisaged in the short-term as a result of the EU Referendum decision, the impact Brexit may have on the movement of workers and skills/ staffing needs is of immediate concern to many employers and employees.
Action: Review staff data and identify EU nationals. Using this data, consider if they represent a high percentage or occupy key roles. Consider what reassurance and practical help you can offer, including forward-planning or support with residency applications. Also think about contingency staffing options.
2 Ensure the business is ready for closer scrutiny – many businesses with 31 December 2016 financial year-ends will be required to publish their first annual slavery and trafficking statement during 2017 (for practical guidance, read our briefing). Increasingly, HR is involved in cross-functional teams to prepare the business for modern slavery reporting. In addition, corporate reporting duties have been changing to include a focus on human rights, diversity and employee matters.
Action: Introduce or amend policies and procedures - such as ethics policies and whistleblowing procedures - and support the raising of awareness on modern slavery issues, particularly at top level. Watch for new developments extending reporting duties (read our briefing on corporate governance and HR).
3 Check for gender pay differences – larger private and voluntary sector employers and public sector bodies in England need to prepare for disclosure of pay differences between male and female employees. Internal review will be needed during 2017 to meet the legal requirements.
Action: Review existing pay practices across the organisation to identify gender pay differences. Consider how this information will be presented –possibly volunteering additional background info, to give greater context.
4 Are you balancing risk v opportunity with staffing need and the gig economy? – novel working models will continue to present opportunities for both employers and employees in terms of flexible working relationships. However, whilst frequently supporting business expansion, these are also testing the boundaries of employment law status, as emerging cases demonstrate.
Action: Employers currently engaging contractors or planning to expand their workforce through new working arrangements reliant upon selfemployed/ contractor status (such as offered by companies like Uber), should weigh-up carefully any risks of potential employment liabilities and costs.
5 Watch for changes to strike ballot requirements and other Trade Union Act changes – during 2017, new thresholds for voter-turnout and support during strike ballots will be introduced, along with increased notice requirements, tighter supervision of picketing and, potentially, facility time and cost reporting - primarily in the public sector (read our briefings here and here).
Action: Ensure you understand the changes and how they apply to your organisation, given that they are expected to alter negotiation dynamics during disputes and may lead to alternative forms of protest.
6 Prepare to risk-manage tribunal reporting – a new online database of employment tribunal decisions will become operational in early 2017, providing public access to claim details.
Action: Be prepared to head off potential negative press and reporting of claims and increased reliance by staff undergoing disciplinary or grievance procedures on the details disclosed, to support their arguments.
7 Review skills needs and training requirements – from April 2017, larger employers will be subject to an apprenticeship levy equivalent to 0.5% of their pay bill. However, all employers will have greater access to apprenticeship funding to improve skill levels (see our levy flowchart here).
Action: Think about whether and how apprenticeships might offer a financially viable training option to extend/ replace existing offering, all the way up to graduate recruitment programmes.
8 Assess exposure to holiday pay claims – the UK Supreme Court will decide very soon whether to hear an appeal on the issue of how holiday pay should be calculated. For employers at risk of claims, progress of this litigation is significant.
Action: Ensure potential liability for unpaid holiday has been assessed. If the appeal proceeds, consider deferring any decisions on payment until a final decision is known (likely to be many months away).
9 Plan ahead for two major changes in 2018 – although a year away, employers would be well-advised to plan as early as possible for two particularly significant changes in 2018: the EU General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and changes to tax provisions affecting termination payments.
Action: The GDPR will change substantially how employers collate and handle data, requiring many cultural, as well as policy changes. Review should start now. Likewise, the pending tax changes will impact employer tax liability and employee-expectation and should be planned for well in advance of anticipated departures.
10 Diary note – look out for future Eversheds’ e-briefings on other employment developments during 2017, including the changing face of worker status, shared parental leave for grandparents and key cases concerning issues such as whistleblowing and criminal record checks.