November 2015 Employment Law Update


Autumn Statement: Employment matters

i) A consultation regarding current tax treatment where the employer provides accommodation

ii) New legislation is expected in April 2016 to restrict tax relief for travel and subsistence expenses for workers engaged through intermediary companies.

iii) Simplification of employee share scheme rules.

  1. The new single-tier state pension, comes into effect from 6 April 2016 and will be set at £155.65. This coincides with the end of the current system of contracting out of the state second
  2. The minimum contribution timetable has been extended for Pension Auto-enrolment. Minimum contribution requirements apply where a UK employer intends to use its own defined contribution   pension scheme to comply with new automatic enrolment duties. These are currently being phased in over six years and the date the next two increases in contribution levels apply from has been extended by six months. The alignment of the increases to the start of the tax year is intended to simplify the administration of automatic enrolment.
  3. Pensions tax relief consultation: In the July 2015 Budget the government launched a consultation on the system of pensions tax relief and the response will be published in the 2016 Budget.

National Minimum Wage: Prosecutions

Government statistics have revealed that, despite the wide naming and shaming powers, so far only two employers have been convicted for failing to pay the minimum wage. For example, in October 2015 alone 113 employers were listed as failing to comply with the rules: see here

Dress codes & the Human Rights Act

A recent European case has confirmed that public sector services can potentially decide not to renew an employee’s contract even where the decision was directly linked to a religious belief as the need for neutrality in public services can justify the interference with the worker’s right to manifest their own religious beliefs under the Human Rights Act.

In this case, a Muslim worker had been employed under a fixed term contract as a social assistant in a hospital in France. Although the worker had worn a headscarf during her interview and the entirety of her employment, her contract was not renewed as her refusal to remove the headscarf had breached of hospital’s neutral dress code rules and there had been some complaints from patients.

The worker tried on several occasions to have the decision not to renew her contract reversed in the lower French courts and eventually took the decision to The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) as a breach of her right to manifest her religious beliefs.

The ECHR dismissed the worker’s claim as the hospital’s decision not to renew her contract had the legitimate aim of protecting the rights and freedoms of others. The ECHR also found that public service users’ had the right to receive services free from discrimination and that the worker had not adhered to the hospital’s strict dress code.

The ECHR held that the worker had known that she was expected to conform to a neutral dress code for a public service hospital whilst she was working there and the non-renewal of her contract for failure to comply was justified. This decision may mean that workers may no longer be able to automatically rely on Article 9 in order to alter an enforceable dress code at a public sector workplace in order to fit their religious beliefs, which could result in more cases of this kind and all employers should be aware of these issues in connection with dress code policies.

GUIDANCE: recruitment and retention of transgender staff

The Government Equalities Office has published a new guide for employers on Recruitment and Retention of Transgender Staff, which you can see here

If you are responsible for HR matters within your business (or interested in employment law discussion), please contact us to attend the monthly HR Network sessions run by Julie Taylor from GL and Michelle Bailey from People Essentials. The next Newbury meeting is on Monday 9 November at 5pm and the same time in Maidenhead on Monday 7 December 2015.


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