Season’s greetings Philip, we hope that you have got all of your Christmas shopping done and are ready to celebrate the Yuletide. Our December newsletter is not only an update on this month’s employment law and HR news but will also include a round up the year. We would also like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I know what you’re thinking, but unfortunately this isn’t an employment law themed panel show hosted by Jimmy Carr over the Christmas Holidays. Joe Pasquale expressed an interest but this was swiftly rejected by PJH Law due to creative differences. It is however an opportunity to look back on some of the bigger changes and events that have happened this year.

January – To kick off the year we examined the case of Ched Evans and ex-offenders, to highlight some of the issues employers face when employing ex-offenders or when one of their staff faces a criminal conviction.

February – Vape had a very successful 2014, it won the prestigious Oxford Dictionary Word of the Year award, joining illustrious alumni such as selfie and the smiley emoji. However, it wasn’t until 2015 that E-cigarettes became a HR issue. The case of Accent Catering v Insley showed us the need to adapt our smoking policy to include e-cigarettes.

March – Celebrity meltdown month saw Jeremy Clarkson assault a colleague and become embroiled inSteakgate, an issue that is still yet to be resolved but shows the importance of treating all staff equally in disciplinary proceedings. Elsewhere, Zayn Malik taught us the dangers of work related stress.

April – Quarter two kicked off with the introduction of Shared Parental Leave. Whilst only 2% of employer have reported a significant take up there has been interest expressed in over 1/3 of work places meaning the policy could be something of a slow burner that will grow steadily over time, also look out forGrandparental leave in the near future. Furthermore maternity and sick pay will be frozen in 2016. The current weekly rate of statutory maternity pay and other parental payments is £139.58, or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings.

May – Something of a slow news month but there was an Early Conciliation update highlighting the importance of taking the process seriously. Parties who don’t adhere to the rules run the risk of having their claims struck out.

June – Fresh from their election victory the Conservatives made good on an election promise by announcing an EU referendum in 2017. We examined the impacts of an EU exit and this is an issue that is sure to heat up in the future.

July – The backdated holiday claims deadline passed meaning any employer who has been paying the correct amount of holiday pay should now face no risk of any holiday pay related claims. However, the appeal for Lock v British Gas was heard last week, the judgement is due early next year and could result in further changes to holiday pay calculations. Something to watch out for.

August – The start of the football season saw the start of the Chelsea FC/Eva Carneiro scandal. This is set to be a high profile sex discrimination/constructive dismissal case. It is a classic example of equal treatment amongst employees and seems to have contributed to Chelsea’s sharp decline in form (HOORAY!!!).

September – The introduction of the Modern Slavery Act which affects any businesses with turnover exceeding £36m. The Act requires companies to publish a report in a visible place on their website stating what measures, if any, they are taking to eliminate slavery.

October – Zero hours contracts guidance was introduced. It set out if and when zero hours contracts should be used and also followed up the banning of exclusivity clauses in May. Any company looking to take on zero hours staff should express this clearly and also have a policy on late cancellations of work.

November – An ACAS report about workplace bullyingsuggested that bullying was on the rise. Bullying can take many forms but the key to avoiding it is having a well-trained management team that create a working environment that does not condone or allow bullying. If bullying issues do arise then a clear policy is needed.

December – To round off the year here is some Living Wage news. As it is coming into force on 1st April 2016 we thought it would be best to prepare everyone following the publishing of the National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2016.

Some of you may already know that the National Living Wage will be £7.20 and will apply to employees over the age of 25. Any employees under this age are presumably not living and are in fact reanimated zombies. The wage rate for under 25 employees will be as follows.

–   £6.70 for a worker who is aged 21 years or over (but under 25);

–   £5.30 for a worker who is aged 18 years or over (but under 21 years);

–   £3.87 for a worker who is aged under 18 years; and

–   £3.30 for an apprentice.

Any company found not paying will face double the current fine for breaching minimum wage regulations. Many employers have reported that to curb the cost of the living wage they will take lower profits, reduce overtime, increase productivity make redundancies and in some cases raise prices.

The living wage is estimated to rise to £9 by 2020, however, the government’s calculation of £7.20 is significantly lower than the scientific Living Wage Foundation estimate of £8.25 (£9.40 in London). Therefore expect further rises to the living wage in the near future. Further reading can be found here.