It is time to start thinking about the March Budget and what new initiatives, or, dare I type it, cut-backs will be announced, and what impact it will have on employment and business going forward.
Unfortunately, my enthusiasm disappeared like a deflated balloon with the news that experts predict the budget will be a watered down affair, with most political parties having already spelled out their policies in the run up to the May election – two months after the Budget is announced.
And yet, we know that, soon after the Budget, on the 5th April, the following new employment initiatives will come into force:
Extension of Parental Leave: the right to unpaid leave to parents of any child under the age of 18 years.
- Statutory adoption: leave will no longer have the 26-week qualifying period and adoption pay will be brought in line with maternity pay, which will be 90% of normal earning for the first six weeks.
- New statutory pay rates: for maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave will increase to £139.58 per week
- Surrogate parents will become eligible for adoption leave
- Statutory sick pay (SSP) rate will increase to £88.45 per week
- New limit for redundancy pay: the limit for a week’s pay when calculating redundancy pay will increase to £475.
So what’s happening?
When it comes to forecasting possible changes to employment law, after 5th April, it is best to look at the policies put forward by the leading political parties, and then edge your bets on who is most likely to win election in May. Here is a rundown of employment related policies by party:
- A promise to reach a minimum wage of £7 (currently £6.50)
- Ending the use of exclusive zero-hour contracts
- Dismantling the illegal trafficking of workers
- Reforming the rules on strike action
o Criminalising certain types of picketing
o Introducing a 50% minimum voting limit for a strike to be considered lawful
o Instigating 14 days notice before unions take industrial action
- Increased fines for employers who fail to pay minimum wage, plus the increase in National Minimum Wage to £8 an hour by 2020
- Abolishing tribunal fees
- Dismantling barriers for parents returning to work, including 25 hours of free childcare from 3 to 4 year olds and the promotion of flexible working opportunities.
- Obligation for companies to publish details of average pay to promote equal pay
- Tackling unscrupulous employment agencies
- Making it a criminal offence to pay migrant workers less than the minimum age and poor working conditions
- Increasing National Minimum Wage for apprentices
- Ensuring companies disclose equal pay information
- Increasing the frequency of inspections of employers to ensure they are complying with employment legislation
- Increasing paternity leave to four weeks