Employment News Roundup

Tax-free childcare begins

The Childcare Voucher scheme has now closed to new entrants and been replaced by the new Government Tax-Free Childcare scheme, which is now fully open to all eligible families. The scheme is in fact unrelated to the tax system, although the upshot is that it will save parents up to 20% on childcare costs. Parents will pay into an online account and the Government will top it up by 20 pence for every £1 (up to £10,000 per child) that the parent pays in. However, not all families are eligible. For example, if one parent is not working, neither parent will be eligible for tax-free childcare, and this is also the case if families are in receipt of universal tax credit.

Unite’s Pay Claim Generator

The union, Unite, has launched a new online tool to enable its members to negotiate better pay packages with their employers. The Pay Claim Generator will provide union members with their organisation’s latest financial data to enable them to work out whether their employer can afford wage increases. It will also allow workers to monitor pay offered by other organisations in similar sectors and locations.

Tribunal compensation limits

There will be an increase in the compensation limits and minimum awards that are payable under employment legislation from 6 April 2018 onwards.

The maximum compensatory award payable for unfair dismissal will rise from £80,541 to £83,682 and the limit on a week’s pay (for the likes of statutory redundancy pay calculations and basic awards in unfair dismissal claims) will rise from £489 to £508.

The fight for equality one hundred years on…

Exactly one hundred years on from women obtaining the right to vote, it would seem that progress towards gender equality still has a way to go. This is the opinion of the Fawcett Society, a charity that campaigns for gender equality and women’s rights, which has been examining whether the UK’s sex discrimination laws are fit for purpose.

The Society has published a report that makes a number of recommendations. It includes the reintroduction of equal pay questionnaires in employment tribunal proceedings; injury to feelings awards for equal pay claims; and mandatory equal pay audits for employers of 250 people or more. In addition, it recommends extending the protection afforded to pregnant women and those on maternity leave, which currently ends on the last day of maternity leave.

In light of the fact that an estimated 54,000 pregnant women and working mothers are made redundant or pressured to leave their jobs each year, the recommendation of the Society is that the protection should be extended by a further six months. So too the limitation period for bringing a discrimination claim related to pregnancy or maternity ̶ from three months to six months  ̶ as well as extensions to the length of paternity leave and eligibility for statutory maternity, paternity and shared parental pay.

The Government reviews Taylor

In brief, the Government has published its response to the Taylor Review, and has, among other things, accepted Matthew Taylor’s opinion that there’s a lack of clarity over employment status. It rejected, however, Mr Taylor’s suggestion that a fourth category of worker, that of “dependent contractor” be introduced.

Four consultations have been implemented simultaneously setting out what action the Government proposes taking, one of which asks for views on the proposed codification of employment status and whether or not the age old tests ̶ mutuality of obligation, control and personal service ̶ are still relevant to today’s working practices. The consultation also considers whether more precise and objective tests ̶ such as the length of the engagement, the percentage of an individual’s income that comes from one employer, and where the work is done ̶ might be a better way of determining status. Food for thought….

Fit for nothing?

The Fit for Work service will end in England and Wales on 31 March 2018 and in Scotland on 31 May 2018 due to low referral rates. In fact, referrals for assessment ceased as of December 2017. However, the website does state that the advice and guidance elements of Fit For Work remain in place, including the freephone advice line, access to case managers and inline resources. But for how long?

DBS checks refreshed

In January 2018, a new procedure for obtaining a basic criminal records check in England and Wales was introduced. The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) has launched a new online application form for a basic disclosure certificate. They are now available directly from DBS rather than Disclosure Scotland, as had previously been the case, and should result in a faster turnaround time for certificates.

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