Employment laws effective from 1 October 2015

Written on 2 Oct 2015

A number of employment laws came into force from 1 October 2015, including new national minimum wage (“NMW”) rates, employment tribunals (“ET”) losing their power to make wider recommendations and Sikhs now being allowed to wear turbans in the workplace without facing the prospect of disciplinary action.

New NMW rates now apply

Following recommendations from the Low Pay Commission, the hourly rates of NMW are now:

  • £6.70 for workers aged 21 and over.
  • £5.30 for workers aged between 18 and 20.
  • £3.87 for workers under 18 but above the compulsory school age who are not apprentices.
  • £3.30 for apprentices.

Please note that the NMW is different from the much publicised Government National Living Wage which is due to come into force in April 2016 and will set a new minimum wage, initially of £7.20 an hour, for workers aged 25 and over.

Removal of power to make “wider recommendations” in successful discrimination claims 

The Equality Act allowed the ET to make a “wider recommendation”, an appropriate recommendation on the steps a respondent should take to reduce the effect of discrimination which went beyond a claimant’s individual case. However, this power was rarely used.

From 1 October 2015, the Deregulation Act 2015 has removed this power. The power for an ET to make recommendations relating to the claimant remains.

Sikhs can now wear turbans in the workplace 

A clause introduced in the Deregulation Act 2015 provides that Sikhs in Britain will, in almost all workplaces, be legally entitled to wear a turban as opposed to a safety helmet and as such no longer face the prospect of disciplinary action if they fail to comply with an employer’s requirement in this respect. Under existing laws Sikhs were only exempt from wearing a safety helmet on construction sites.

 An official statement from the Government states that “turban-wearing Sikhs will now have the right to choose not to wear head protection and will be exempt from legal requirements to wear a safety helmet in the majority or workplaces.” For more detail please click here.

Other developments

Employers should also take appropriate steps in relation to any disclosure obligation they may have going forward under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (see here for more details). We are still awaiting Government guidance.

Please also note that the Government’s new Fit for Work scheme is now fully operational to allow employer referral where an employee has been off sick for four weeks or more. Please click here for the Fit for Work website and here for our earlier note on the new scheme.

For future key dates please click here for our Essential HR Calendar. For information on the various Government consultations on other developments of interest to employers which have recently closed or are still open, please click here.