With effect from 1 October 2015 certain provisions affecting UK employment law under the Deregulation Act 2015, come into force. The changes are:
- The removal of the power of employment tribunals to make wider recommendations in successful discrimination cases. With effect from 1 October tribunals can only make recommendations relating to the individual complainant. The UK Government’s view was that employers often make changes to their practices and procedures following a tribunal’s decision without the requirement for a formal recommendation and indeed, in practice, wider recommendations were rarely made. Section 124(3)(a) Equality Act 2010 remains in force, permitting tribunals to make specific recommendations in relation to the claimant.
- The right for Sikhs to wear turbans (instead of safety helmets) will be expanded to all workplaces. Until 1 October, Sikhs have been exempt from wearing safety helmets on construction sites. This will be extended to all workplaces and will apply to Sikhs who wear a turban and who choose to exercise their right to exemption. The amendment does not remove the requirement for an employer to assess the risk to his employees, nor to make available any protective equipment, including head protection, considered to be necessary following the risk assessment. The decision not to wear appropriate head protection in accordance with the exemption is to be made by the turban-wearing Sikh individual. Certain exceptions will apply. The individual will not be able to rely on the exemption where he is providing, or is training to provide, an urgent response to hazardous occupational situations, such as fire or riots, or is a member of Her Majesty’s Forces taking part in or training for a military operation, where the wearing of a safety helmet is considered necessary to protect the Sikh from a risk of injury.
- Self-employed people become exempt from health & safety laws where their work activities pose no potential risk of harm to others, subject to various exceptions.
In addition to the changes under the Deregulation Act, there is a change to the national minimum wage rate, with an increase in the adult rate from £6.50 to £6.70, the development rate (18-20 year olds) from £5.13 to £5.30 per hour, the Young Workers rate (16-17 year olds) from £3.79 to £3.87 per hour and the Apprentice rate from £2.73 to £3.30 per hour.
Another change of interest to employers is in relation to modern slavery statements. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 (section 54) will require commercial organisations carrying on business in the UK with a turnover of £36 million or more to deliver an annual statement that sets out what steps they have taken to combat slavery and human trafficking within their business or their supply chains. If they have not taken any steps at all, this must also be stated. This is expected to be brought into force in October 2015. The Government has indicated that there will be transitional provisions to give businesses sufficient time to prepare for these new obligations.