April 2016: key employment law changes

United Kingdom

A number of employment law changes come into force in April. With the exception of the changes to the National Living Wage and public sector payments, all other changes come into force on 6th April 2016.

  • National Living Wage The National Living Wage (NLW) will come into force on 1st April 2016. For workers 25 and over, the initial rate will be £7.20, with plans to reach £9 by 2020. Non-payment of the NLW will result in a penalty of 200% of unpaid earnings, but reduced by half if paid to the employee within 14 days. Breaches are now ‘per worker’ as opposed to ‘per incident’.
  • Financial penalties for non-payment of Tribunal awards Section 150 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 comes into force, adding Part 2A into the Employment Tribunal Act 1996. This will bring about financial penalties in circumstances where employers fail to pay tribunal awards or settlement sums under the Acas COT3 procedure. The penalty, which is to be paid to the Secretary of State, is set to be 50% of the award due, at a maximum of £5,000. Again, the penalty will be halved if it and the unpaid sum are paid within 14 days.
  • Postponement of a Tribunal hearing A number of changes will come into force affecting requests to postpone a Tribunal hearing. These include: Limiting the number of postponement occasions to two per party per case. Exceptional circumstances may allow further postponements.A deadline for postponement requests of seven days before the hearing.Requiring a cost of preparation order to be considered where a successful application for a postponement is made less than seven days before a hearing.
  • Compensation limits in tribunal are set to increase As the limits stand currently, they will increase from £78,335 to £78,962 for unfair dismissal claims. One week’s pay, used to calculate statutory redundancy payments and unfair dismissal awards, is also set to increase from £475 to £479.
  • Statutory rates are frozen There are to be no changes to any statutory rate of maternity pay, paternity pay, shared parental pay which has been frozen at £139.58. Statutory sick pay has also been frozen at £88.45.
  • Immigration changes Recruitment agencies will now no longer be permitted to advertise for workers in other countries within the European Economic Area without advertising in Great Britain first or at the same time.
  • Public sector exit payments New rules are expected to come into force in April in England and Wales which will require public sector exit payments to be repaid by workers earning more than £80,000 if they are re-employed within the public sector within 12 months of receiving the payment. Exit payments are also to be capped at £95,000, although the date for implementation of this change is expected to be later in the year.