And finally a look forward to what’s happening in employment news for March
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has published an independent review of electronic balloting (e-balloting) for industrial action, led by Sir Ken Knight. This covers electronic and physical security, safeguarding against intimidation, and protecting anonymity. The review concludes that e-balloting should be tested in a non-statutory context to assess its reliability and to ensure that the technology is capable of withstanding cyber-attack, manipulation and hacking. It also recommends considering whether independent auditors should be used to provide assurance for the entire e-balloting process, particularly in disputes involving important public services. The Government has said that it will consult with experts from relevant organisations prior to responding to Sir Ken Knight’s recommendations.
The latest Ministry of Justice quarterly Employment Tribunal statistics for the period July to September 2017 indicate the effect of the abolition of Tribunal fees on 26 July 2017. The most significant development is that since the same period in 2016, the number of claims lodged by single applicants has increased by 64%. The number of claims lodged by multiple applicants has decreased by 15%. Also during this quarter, Employment Tribunals disposed of 10,165 claims, up 23% compared with the same period in 2016. This was driven by a 42% increase in multiple claim disposals, which make up two thirds of all disposals.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has published its 2017 review of automatic enrolment. This includes details of a number of proposed reforms including reducing the lower age threshold from 22 to 18; removing the lower earnings limit for calculating contributions, so that contributions are calculated from the first pound earned; and encouraging atypical workers and workers with multiple part-time jobs to opt in. These reforms are due to be introduced in the mid-2020s to ensure that employers have time to adapt to the increased costs involved, particularly taking into account the increases in statutory minimum contribution rates in April 2018 and April 2019. The DWP has also confirmed that the earnings trigger will be frozen at £10,000 for 2018/19, and the lower and upper ends of the qualifying earnings band will continue to be set in line with the national insurance contributions’ lower and upper earnings limits.
The Government has announced that due to low referral rates, the assessment services provided by the Fit for Work Service will end in England and Wales on 31 March 2018 and in Scotland on 31 May 2018. In practice, no new referrals have been accepted since 15 December 2017 but those cases currently in the system will continue to be dealt with until 31 March 2018. General health advice and support relating to sickness absence will still be available through the website and telephone helpline.
The Government Equalities Office has published a new toolkit which aims to help employers develop an action plan to close their gender pay gap and to monitor progress. Suggested actions include ensuring a diverse mix of candidates in recruitment, for example, by using gender-neutral language; advertising all jobs as flexible from day one unless there are good business reasons not to do so; designing every job as flexible by default; supporting parents; ensuring that remuneration policies are fair; and introducing annual equal pay audits to check for gender bias. The toolkit also stresses the importance of assigning responsibility for monitoring progress to a member of the senior leadership team.
The Treasury has published its response to the call for evidence on the taxation of employee expenses. In light of the contributions received, the Government has concluded that there is no need for fundamental reform, or for restrictions to the current tax relief for reimbursed and non-reimbursed expenses. However, several proposals to improve and simplify the expenses system for businesses and employees have been put forward. As announced in the Autumn Budget 2017, there will be further consultation on extending the scope of tax relief for work-related training costs; the requirement for employers to check receipts when reimbursing subsistence expenses will be removed from April 2019; potential improvements to the guidance on employee expenses will be explored; and the existing concessionary accommodation and subsistence overseas scale rates will be placed on a statutory basis from April 2019.
26 Feb 2018