New employment provisions effective from today
I kept the headline deliberately broad, in an effort to entice you to read on….but in reality, you, like many, may feel that the first provisions of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 to come into effect (via today’s commencement order are something of a damp squib. Nonetheless, to keep us all up to date, here they are:-
- Ban on use of exclusivity clause in zero hours contracts (s153). Lots of confusion here, since BIS issued a press release two months ago saying the ban was already in force, and had to climb down following eagle eyed pressure largely orchestrated via Twitter. Zero hours contracts became, of course, the nearest thing we had to a zeitgeist moment for employment law during the election campaign, and whilst no-one would argue that their abuse is unacceptable, it remains to be seen whether the steps being taken to address those concerns will actually make any difference. They’re certainly unlikely to do so as yet, since no anti avoidance provisions have yet been effected – the provision at the moment simply gives in principle protection where workers suffer a detriment on the grounds that they have worked elsewhere;
- Increase in maximum penalty for underpayment of the national minimum wage (s152) – now assessed per worker rather than per employer notice. At £20,000 a pop, this is potentially (and rightly) serious – but again, we wait to see whether in practice this will actually have much effect;
- Provision for regulations to be made to prevent discrimination against NHS applicants who have made protected disclosures (s149). Consultation on this is awaited;
- Provision for regulations to be made to redefine the meaning of a ‘small business’ (currently fewer than 50 employees) and a ‘micro business’ (currently fewer than 10 employees, in both cases with specified financial thresholds) (s33 and 34).
That’s your lot for now. We’ll wait to see whether tomorrow’s Queen’s Speech and the second budget on 8 July bring anything further – but it remains realistically Europe and a potential reform to the law on industrial action which are likely to be the main features of the government’s focus in this area this term.