Crucial employment law changes to look out for in 2019

2018 was a busy year in terms of employment law – is your school on top of all of the changes that are kicking-in this year? Peninsula operations director and HR expert, Alan Price, gives an overview of the changes happening in 2019

From gender pay gap reporting to widespread claims of workplace sexual harassment, 2018 was a busy year in employment law.
Although employers may hope for a quieter 2019, it’s looking likely that there will be a number of issues that will be prevalent throughout the year, amid the ongoing uncertainty of Brexit. Picking up on just one of those issues – here are some changes to look out for if you’re involved in the recruitment and retention of support staff.
Increase in NMW rates
Having been announced as part of the 2018 Budget, both the national living wage (NLW) and national minimum wage(NMW) rates will increase in April 2019:

  • the NLW minimum hourly rate for workers aged 25 and over will increase from £7.83 to £8.21;
  • the NMW rate for workers aged between 21-24 will increase from £7.38 to £7.70 an hour;
  • the rate for 18-20 year olds will increase from £5.90 to £6.15 an hour;
  • those over compulsory school age but not yet 18 will receive an hourly increase from £4.20 to £4.35.

The minimum rate for apprentices will also increase from £3.70 an hour to £3.90 an hour, providing the apprentice is under the age of 19, or 19 and over but in the first year of their current apprenticeship.
Settled status for EU nationals
European workers currently living in the UK will be able to apply for settled status in 2019, allowing them to remain indefinitely in the UK following the end of the Brexit transition period in 2021. To be granted settled status, individuals must be able to prove they have been living in the UK for five years by the date of application. Those who do not meet this requirement can apply for temporary status, allowing them to remain until they have accrued enough residency to be granted settled status.
Auto-enrolment contributions
From April 2019, the minimum contributions for auto-enrolment pension schemes will increase for both employers and employees. Currently, employers must contribute a minimum of 2% of an eligible worker’s pre-tax salary to their pension pot, with the individual contributing 3% themselves. However, under the new requirements, employers and employees will now have to contribute a minimum of 3% and 5% respectively. Employers are reminded to allow appropriate time to consult with staff before making any changes to their pension contribution schemes.
Changes to the way employers issue payslips will also come into force on 6 April 2019 as, from this date onwards, the legal right to a payslip will be extended to include those who are recognised as ‘workers’. Employers will also be obliged to include the total number of hours worked on payslips for employees whose wages vary depending on how much time they have worked. It is important that employers work with their payroll departments to ensure the correct procedure is in place ahead of April’s deadline.
Micro-chipping employees
If recent news stories are to be believed, the act of micro-chipping employees may become more common in the UK workplace during 2019. The UK legal system has not yet been challenged in relation to this; however, it will be interesting to see how a court decides to rule on the micro-chipping of staff, given the potential invasion of privacy and GDPR implications involved.
Non-disclosure agreements
The government has brought forward a review into the use of non-disclosure agreements in the workplace, with a response expected this year. These agreements, otherwise known as ‘gagging clauses’, were originally used to protect intellectual property when employees moved from one company to another; however, recent media coverage has highlighted the fact that they are often used to silence claims of harassment and bullying. Whilst these agreements remain legal, the government’s response may go some way to deciding how they can be used in the future.
Supermarket equal pay claims
At some point in 2019 we are expecting to receive decisions on separate tribunal cases on the issue of equal pay involving Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s. Leigh Day are representing the employees in each of these cases and are seeking compensation for predominately female shop workers who feel they are, unfairly, paid less than predominately male warehouse staff, despite carrying out a similar role. These cases will provide more clarity on the issue of equal pay and, depending on the result, may pave the way for further claims from staff working in other sectors.
Whilst there are sure to be other new developments introduced throughout the year, employers would do well to keep a close eye on these particular topics and put plans in place to ensure they comply with any new requirements.
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