1. Get ready for the Living Wage

From 1st April 2016 the new compulsory national living wage comes into effect for all UK workers aged 25 years and above.  Initially the living wage will be set at £7.20 an hour (based on a 37.5 hour week, this is a full time annual salary of £14,040) with a target of reaching more than £9 an hour by 2020.  SMEs will need to plan ahead with budgets to make sure financials are in place.

2. Auto Enrolment (now called Workplace Pension) is here…….still?

With over 5 million workers already enrolled onto a pension scheme, predictions suggest there are still another 5 million to go – involving 1.8 million UK businesses – between now and 2018.  If your business has not yet reached its staging date, make sure you do not ignore your duties under auto enrolment – get informed, communicate with your staff and make sure you have planned ahead.

3. Possible changes to Employment Tribunal fees

In 2016, the trade union UNISON will have one last go at challenging the introduction of fees for bringing an employment tribunal claim.  This time the case will be heard in the Supreme Court.  While the Court of Appeal rejected UNISON’s previous challenge, it did say that the decline in claims is “sufficiently startling” to merit a review to prevent individuals being priced out of bringing a claim.  There are also rumours circulating that some employers are not entirely happy with the current fee system either – watch this space.

4. Employee engagement is king

Increasingly, organisations are focusing on improving their employee engagement to drive better performance.  According to recent research from the US, employee engagement is strongly connected to a business’ financial success through productivity, profitability and customer engagement.  Stay focused on strong leadership, well trained people managers, clear communication of vision and values, team building and robust performance management processes. Note – the annual performance review’s days are numbered!

5. Zero hours contracts

Exclusivity clauses (preventing an employee working elsewhere) in zero hours contracts have been unenforceable since May 2015.  However, as of the 11th January, employees on zero hour arrangements will have the right not to be unfairly dismissed and not to be subjected to a detriment, for failing to comply with an exclusivity clause.  Employers who use zero hour contracts should seek legal advice.

6. Statutory rates are not for changing

There is no proposal to increase the statutory rates this year.  Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay will therefore remain at £139.58 per week.  Statutory sick pay will still be £88.45 per week and statutory redundancy pay will remain calculated on a maximum weekly salary of £450.

7. Strike action reform

This year will see the Trade Union Bill reforms that will affect the way trade unions carry out industrial action. These measures include: increasing the voting threshold to 50%; introducing a requirement that 40% of all those entitled to vote in the ballot vote in favour of industrial action in important public services; setting a four-month time limit for industrial action after the ballot; and increasing the amount of notice to be given to an employer of strike action.

8. New reference rules for the employers in the financial sector

From March 2016, new rules, introduced by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA), will require employers to obtain and provide specific disclosures in relation to employment references for certain specified roles in the financial sector.  The new rules require employers to request regulatory references going back six years from current or former employers of candidates applying for certain roles, regardless of whether or not the current or previous employer is a regulated entity.  Employers in the financial sector will have to familiarise themselves with these new duties to ensure compliance.

9. Whistleblowing in the financial sector

From September, the new FCA and PRA policy statements on whistleblowing in banks, building societies, credit unions, PRA-designated investment firms and insurers will require relevant firms to:

  • Put in place internal whistleblowing arrangements and tell their employees about them;
  • Make it clear in settlement agreements that nothing prevents an employee from making a protected disclosure;
  • Appoint a senior manager as their whistleblowers’ champion (from 7 March 2016);
  • Present a report on whistleblowing to the board at least annually

 10.   Ch, ch, ch, ch Changes!

2016 marks some significant changes in the UK workforce.  Firstly, some 3.5 million Baby Boomers will retire this year.  Secondly, the first wave of Generation Z will enter the workforce.  Third, it’s estimated that one-fourth of millennial employees will take on management roles.  Is your company prepared for these changes in the workforce? If you want to attract and retain fresh talent you will need to recruit digital natives and ensure that your induction is supported through mobile and social platforms.