The last piece of Christmas cake is sitting forlornly on the kitchen table and the bin is over flowing with the debris of Christmas wrapping and half eaten mince pies - even the cat has left home - definitely the time for this employment lawyer to head back into the office and ponder what is coming up in 2016, in no particular order....
First on the agenda on 11th January is the formal prohibition of exclusivity clauses within contracts for zero hours employees and workers. Any employer deciding to dismiss or otherwise penalise an employee for a failure to comply with an exclusivity clause by having the temerity to take a job some where else will find themselves liable to the nasty experience of an Employment Tribunal Claim. Sounds positively progressive until you realise that the inclusion of " exclusivity contracts" is by no means widespread and this provision will however have no impact on the far greater use( and alleged misuse) of zero hours contracts generally.
Money or, more precisely, protecting the public purse will remain a high profile issue in 2016. With effect from 1 April 2016, a cap will be enforced on public sector exit payments of 95k. This is not an insignificant sum. It is however one which may be fairly regularly breached when you consider that included within the calculation of 95k are redundancy payments, enhancements to provide early unreduced pensions and the costs of other "non financial benefits" such as paid additional leave. Post termination returners will also be penalised by way of claw back if they return to the same area of work within a short period of time. Watch out for a number of exits in the early part of the year. The definition of public sector may also prove interesting covering some but apparently not all public servants. MP's watch out.
Christmas is a time for tradition as we consider the stories of Christmas past. Employment law too has it's own accepted practices and understandings notably the tax free status of the 30k ex gratia severence payment. However just as Dickens has morphed in to Dickensian over the 2015 break so this particular practice may also be about to change. It could be cynical and distinctly unseasonal to suggest that the sudden interest, and HMRC consultation exercise, is motivated by anything other than a desire to recover the tax. Either way, the consultation period having completed, it seems likely that new regulations will be issued in 2016 to "clarify" the position. The detail is awaited. What seems certain is that any future concession will be limited to the truly " redundant" as opposed to the merely unwanted.
Immigration seems likely to remain a contentious issue in 2016, tinged with the feeling in certain quarters, that not all employers are doing their bit. October 2016 seems likely to be the earliest implementation date for the measures contained in the Immigration Bill 2015-16. When implemented, these could prove draconian, as they extend the criminal liability to cover employers who have reasonable cause to believe (as opposed to actually know) that they are employing an employee who is an illegal worker coupled with a increased sanction of up to 5 years imprisonment. As a further disincentive, Government will also have the power to introduce "an immigration skills charge" on employers sponsoring workers from outside Europe. The importance of pre employment checks can surely never have been greater.
And finally some issues will reoccur with the frequency of the unwanted Christmas gift - in this case - the seemingly endless hand wringing about the continuing gender pay gap. Consultation finished in the Summer of 2015 and draft regulations are expected in the first half of 2016. Specific action, and in particular, enforcement seems however likely to be postponed again. Maybe next year ?...
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