Self-employment and other workforce dilemmas….

You may well have seen recent headlines about people whose organisation told them that they were self-employed but actually ended up not being – for example the recent cases linked to Uber, Deliveroo and Pimlico Plumbers. So what are the differences between being self-employed and employed?  Or for that matter being a “worker”?

Admittedly this can be a complex area and if you are in doubt or are being challenged by someone who works for you, you are always best to get expert advice.

However, there are some guiding principles and questions to consider when determining what someone’s employment status is. (ie. are they an employee, a worker or self-employed?)

  • Employees

Being an employee tends to be the “normal” form of employment status for many people.  They are directly employed by an organisation via a contract of employment.  This contract of employment outlines their role, responsibilities and entitlements while working for the organisation.  Legally all employees must be issued with a contract of employment (also known as a “statement of particulars”) within 8 weeks of starting with an organisation.  Failure to do this can lead to a financial penalty for the employing organisation.

Typically an employee works directly for the organisation they are employed by, in one of their workplaces, uses their equipment / facilities and is managed (or “controlled”) by them on a day to day basis.  For example, Fred has a contract of employment issued by XCo.  It outlines that he works in the office of XCo and is line managed and told what work to do by Jo, who is also employed by XCo.  If Fred doesn’t attend work, he doesn’t have to send someone else in his place.  As an employee Fred has certain entitlements or rights, such as being paid, being eligible to take paid annual leave and the entitlement to some form of sick pay if he is too ill to attend work.  These are outlined in his contract of employment – so hence it is an important document to refer to to ensure that Fred is being treated correctly.

  • Workers

In the recent cases with Uber, Deliveroo and Pimlico Plumbers the people who challenged their employment status were deemed to be “workers”.  All employees are “workers” but workers are not employees, even though there is some common ground.

A “worker” is defined as “someone who carries out paid work for an organisation but is not bound by or employed by a contract of employment”.   A simple example could be – Jane comes in to do some work tasks for your organisation during the school holidays but she doesn’t have a contract of employment with you.  She may be working via an employment agency (as a “temp”) or perhaps works directly for you.  If Jane doesn’t attend work, she doesn’t have to send someone else in her place but if she works via an employment agency, they might send a replacement. As a worker Jane has certain statutory rights such as she must be paid the national living or minimum wage (dependent on her age), she has the right to the statutory minimum paid time off and cannot be discriminated against. However, as she is a “worker” and not an “employee” she has no entitlement to unfair dismissal protection, redundancy pay or the right to request flexible working.

Confused?  There is further guidance online on the Gov.uk website that you might find useful.

https://www.gov.uk/employment-status/worker

  • Self-employed / Contractors

There is, or should be, a real difference in how self-employed people or contractors work compared to people who are employees and workers.  The fact there wasn’t a clear difference in the cases of Uber et al is part of the reason that the Employment Tribunal / Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled as they did.

The terms “self-employed” or “contractor” do not particularly make a difference when trying to determine someone’s employment status.  What is important is the arrangements for how they are “engaged” to do a task, how the task is carried and by whom, and how the work is paid for.  If someone is truly self-employed there is no contract of employment but there will be a “contract for services”.  The “contract for services” defines what work is to be done but allows the person or people fulfilling it the freedom to decide how best to carry out the work.  It may also mean that one person is substituted for another in order to fulfil the work, perhaps because they have a certain skill or area of expertise that is needed for a part of the work.

Self-employed people work for themselves and do not have a line manager in the organisation they are working for.  They typically provide their own equipment, such as tools, a vehicle or IT equipment.  A self-employed person invoices the organisation they are carrying out work for and receives the full amount of invoiced.  They have to declare this income and pay the relevant tax and national insurance contributions directly to HMRC via their annual tax return. Again this is not an exhaustive or definitive list and further information can be found at:  https://www.gov.uk/employment-status/selfemployed-contractor

The big advantage for hiring organisations is that self-employed people do not have employment rights – so are not entitled to things such as the national living wage or holiday pay.  The hiring organisation also doesn’t have to pay for any employers’ tax contribution, employers’ national insurance contributions or employers’ pension contributions.  These various contributions total up to a significant financial saving for the hiring organisation, so hence why companies such as Uber used the self-employed model to reduce their costs.

This is an area that remains under scrutiny as the government believes it is missing out on significant tax revenue due to people misusing the current system.  The government has recently announced a number of reviews to look at the issue of self-employment, particularly as part of the “gig economy” and for the public sector, in more detail.  There are bound to be developments so watch this space………….

No more evening emails – a dream or reality?

French working life has been in the headlines again recently with the government passing legislation about the sending and use of work emails outside of “normal” working hours.  Much of the focus was on the belief that the French government was “banning” emails in the evening or at weekends, which isn’t actually true.

What the legislation is actually making French employers do is to come up with a jointly agreed (with the trade unions) policy about the use of work emails outside of “normal” business hours (whatever they may be).  That’s hardly the same thing as “no emails after 17.00”, but it is up to individual organisations to decide if they want to go that far or not.

It’s not just the French that have made such a bold statement about trying to clarify the boundaries between work and non-work time. A number of large multi-national organisations, many in the technology / IT sector, have decided to develop similar style policies in the hope that it will reduce employee burnout.  Which leads to two main questions – is it a good idea to have such a policy? – is it possible to implement it?

Is it a good idea?

I’m not a fan of having a policy for policy’s sake, however, it is always important to be very clear on what an organisation expects from its employees.  If employees don’t know and understand what is expected of them, how can they reasonably be expected to do or not do something?  Yes, there may be some obvious or implied things that employees shouldn’t do – for example, punching a colleague – but depending on what sort of culture your organisation has, certain behaviours might happen because no-one actively challenges or stops them.  This is where the clarity of written guidance is helpful – it is harder to say you didn’t know that you shouldn’t XXX if there is clear, written guidance saying that you shouldn’t.

There is a potential argument “for” and “against” having such a policy – such as……

FOR:  I worked for one organisation where it was common for the senior team to email each other at 3.00am with the expectation that people would reply.  These people weren’t in different time zones but were forced to be “always on” because their “boss” was and he expected it of them.  To my mind, this isn’t a healthy or sustainable way of doing business and it was certainly backed up by seeing the toll on some of the individuals. Allowing people some down time is vital if you expect them to stay healthy and effective – a policy or guidance could help to create some space for them to do this.

AGAINST:  Some people will say that they find they are most productive on an evening, perhaps when the kids are in bed, and use this time to good effect.  In fact they use this time to perhaps “make up” their working hours, as they have to fit in school runs, caring responsibilities etc. To stop them sending emails and working this way could well be counter-productive. Should you force “normal” 9.00 to 5.00 working on people who don’t want or can’t work that way?

One thing is for sure, I’m not suggesting that anyone “bans” sending evening or weekend emails – that is down to individual choice – but reducing or stopping the expectation that colleagues will respond is a different matter.  Expectations and clarity are key.

How could or should I implement an out of hours email policy?

As with many policies there is no one size fits all.  Yes, there should be some basic points in here (eg. what is and isn’t expected) but the actual detail of how your organisation wants its employees to work is down to you and them.

Some key questions to consider might include:

  • What does the organisation want this policy to achieve / deliver? (eg. better work / life balance) Are there other ways you could achieve this rather than writing a policy?
  • Why do you want to introduce this policy now?
  • What do your employees feel about this issue? Do they believe that action is needed?
  • What are the key things you will and won’t want employees to do? (be clear and concise)
  • Will this be a contractual or non-contractual policy? (this will affect how you implement it)

Drafting the policy and / or guidance will be key, as will be the communication and consultation with staff about it. You definitely need to engage staff early and make sure they are onside with this, or launching such a policy could end up being more trouble than it’s worth!

So will I be recommending that the organisations I work with adopt an out of hours email policy?  The short answer is “it depends”.  Some organisations are mature and flexible enough in how they work that such a policy would be extraneous and unwelcome.  For others though, the clarity would be helpful and important to support employee wellbeing so a policy could be very useful and well needed.

Happy 2017? Predictions for employers……

2016 was an eventful year and most people are now looking forward to a (hopefully) better 2017.  So, a few days into the year, what can employers look forward to over the next 12 months?

  • Brexit

After dominating the headlines in 2016, 2017 is also likely to be a year where Brexit is in the news.  Assuming that the government does what it has promised, then article 50 will be triggered in March 2017.  What Brexit will actually mean for employers and employees remains to be seen, but hopefully things will get clearer.  Updates to come, watch this space…….

  • Changes to work permits and the Immigration Act

This is hardly surprising given the current Brexit situation.  Some of the changes have already been announced and there will be doubtlessly more to come.

What we do know already is that employers sponsoring foreign workers with a tier 2 visa will be required to pay an “immigration skills charge” of £1,000 per worker (£364 for small employers and charities) from April 2017. The immigration skills charge will be in addition to current fees for visa applications.

In April 2017, the minimum salary threshold for “experienced workers” applying for a tier 2 visa will increase to £30,000.  New entrants to the job market, and some health and education staff will be exempted from the salary threshold until 2019.

  • Gender pay gap reporting

Or the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 to give them their full name, which will come in to force on 6 April 2017.  The government published updated guidance on these regulations a couple of days ago and has confirmed that all organisations with over 250 employees need to provide and report on gender pay gap information based on the date of 5 April 2017.  If you haven’t started planning for this, make it top of your new year “to do” list.

  • Apprenticeship levy

There has been much talk about the forthcoming apprenticeship levy and the potential opportunities it brings.  If you are an organisation with a payroll of more than £3m then from 6 April 2017 the levy will apply to you.  The Government has recently published updated guidance for employers on how the apprenticeship levy and the new funding system will work.

  • Salary sacrifice schemes – RIP

As stated in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement, there will be significant changes to what type of salary sacrifice schemes employers will be able to offer.  Some of the current items offered, such as gym membership, will be abolished from 6 April 2017.  If you haven’t already reviewed your employee benefits scheme, then now is the time.

  • Rises in the national living wage and national minimum wage

This was another announcement in the Autumn Statement.  Rather than having different dates when there are changes in the hourly rates for the national living wage and the national minimum wage, these have now been aligned.  So the next changes will be due on 1 April 2017 and the rates are set to rise.

  • Trade Union Act 2016

We are waiting to hear exactly when this legislation will come in to force but it will happen at some stage during 2017.

Under the rules, a successful vote for strike action will require a 50% minimum turnout and a majority vote in favour of industrial action.  Strike action in “important public services” will require a strike vote of 40% of all eligible voters.

  • Pensions……

There has been a lot in the news about pensions in 2016 – whether it be related to the demise of BHS or the rise in the “gig” economy.  There are already some known changes planned for 2017, such as the final phase of pension auto-enrolment to encompass all employers and the rise in the minimum employer contribution rate.  It is likely there well may be others….

We’re sure that there will be other developments during the year ahead, so keep your eye on this blog for more updates.  Happy New Year!

www.amelore.com

The impact of the Uber case and other recent employment law changes.

 

You may not normally pay a lot of attention to the world of employment law – after all that’s what HR professionals are for – but you may well have noticed the recent case about Uber in the media. So what does the recent case ruling mean for you and your business?

Put simply the Uber case was about whether the taxi drivers working via the Uber app are self-employed or actually work for Uber, so are classed as “workers”. Why does it matter?  Being a “worker” gives you a number of rights and protections under current UK employment law that you don’t get if you are self-employed.  Being a worker is a big advantage for the people driving for Uber as it now means that they are entitled to earn at least the National Living Wage (if they are aged 25 years +) or National Minimum Wage (if they are under 25), as well as being entitled to paid holiday and other benefits.  Up until now many Uber drivers had complained that they weren’t earning even the National Minimum Wage and were being treated as “slave labour”.  This is now set to change, pending an Appeal of the case by Uber.

A lot of businesses use self-employed people, be they consultants, skilled tradesman or technical experts.  This is particularly true of small businesses and new “start-ups” who don’t necessarily have the budget or need for staff all of the time.  However, neither you as a business owner, nor an individual, can just decide that you want someone to be self-employed – they have to meet certain criteria or conditions, which can be complex to interpret.    If you get it wrong, both the business and the individual are liable for some hefty penalties from HMRC. You can find more information about this here  but we also recommend that you get some appropriate professional advice on this if you are in any doubt – we can assist with this.

October is one of the two months when changes to employment law currently happen. This October (2016) has seen a few changes that, depending on the nature and size of your business, you may need to take action on. The main changes are:

  • Increase in the National Minimum Wage rates – effects all businesses and sectors

Effective from 1 October 2016 there has been an increase in all levels of the National Minimum Wage that you must pay to any workers or employees.  The new rates are:

Age 21 up to 25                      £6.95 per hour  (+ 25p)
Age 18 up to 21                      £5.55 per hour (+ 25p)
Under 18s                               £4.00 per hour (+17p)
Apprentices                            £3.40 per hour (+10p)

Workers / employees aged 25 years + are entitled to the National Living Wage which is currently £7.20 per hour and has not changed.

  • Modern Slavery statements – effects any business supplying goods and / or services with a turnover of £36m + per annum

The Modern Slavery Act was implemented earlier this year, and it’s first deadline for businesses to take action has just passed.  If you are a business  whose turnover is £35m + and whose financial year ended between 31 March and 30 April 2016, then your business should have published a “modern slavery statement”, signed by a Director, on your company website or have one prepared that you can issue on request.

Hereon in every organisation whose turnover (relating to goods and / or services) exceeds £35m per annum needs to publish their annual “modern slavery statement” within 6 months of the end of their financial year.  If your business hasn’t yet prepared your statement yet and are now or soon required to do so, please contact us for help and advice.

There are other changes on the horizon too, that we recommend that your business starts preparing for:

  • Mandatory gender pay gap reporting – reporting to start from April 2017, for publication in 2018 onwards

This will apply to any organisation that employs 250+ people.  The guidance on what is required in the reports is still being developed and is complex.  Large fines are likely to be issued for non-compliance. If you are a larger business and don’t already analyse and report on your gender pay differences / gap now is the time to start preparing to do so.  We have expertise in this area and are happy to help you prepare – please contact us.

  • Pension auto-enrolment updates – now scheduled for April 2018

This will apply to all businesses who employ at least one worker / employee.  This will see an increase to the minimum employer contribution rate, taking it to at least 2%, as well as an increase to the minimum employee contribution rate.  Given the amount that these increases will be an added employment cost to your business, we would recommend that you start your financial modelling now so you can see how this will affect your future workforce costs.

Company mergers – creating one big, happy family?

 

mergeIn my HR “life” back in the UK, I often found myself providing advice on managing change, whether it be restructuring, TUPE transfers or subtler cultural change.  I now find myself on the other side of things, as Happy Holidays and one of their former competitors, Smiley Holidays, have both been acquired by a large French company.  While these purchases took place a while ago now, it is interesting to see how the changes have now started to trickle down to the staff (me!).

So, can these changes create one new, contented holiday company / family?  At the moment, the views of myself and colleagues are mixed – we’re not entirely convinced that things will be better, or even as good.  What could be done to change our minds and to keep us engaged and motivated?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate

With any changes or takeovers there are always rumours about what will and won’t happen.  Clear, regular communication is key if you are to stop the rumour mill and keep staff feeling engaged, rather than worried for their jobs.  A monthly newsletter is better than nothing but it doesn’t really do all it needs to.  How about using social media and other forms of communication too?  – Especially if staff are based in multiple locations or work different shift patterns.  Certainly face-to-face updates and briefings tend to be the most popular method with staff themselves, so can this be done in any shape or form? (Skype, Facetime, podcasts etc)

  • It’s not all about structures…..

Most people tend to think of “change” as being about restructuring, but that isn’t always the case.  Yes, it can make sense to join up some teams and to make some efficiencies and savings while doing so, however, this shouldn’t be the knee jerk reaction.  If you are keen to keep current brand identities then you need to keep some differences in place, which means not merging and restructuring everything.  Be clear on what structures will change, why and when, so allowing other, not directly affected teams / departments to stop worrying about what might happen to them. (at least for now)  At least they can focus on their roles properly again and not be distracted or worried about what may lie ahead.

  • Timing is everything

Make sure you understand what the businesses do when and why.  Are there any critical or very busy times when it would be unwise to change things?  For example for Happy Holidays, changing all of the company mobile phones over to a new network provider with new phone numbers perhaps should have been done outside of the holiday season!  There would have been no customers in resort trying to call old numbers or not knowing about new numbers, and would have avoided a number of problems, upsets and complaints.

  • Who are we again?  What do we do?

Staff do identify with the organisation they work for and can often be surprisingly loyal to it.  Staff will feel that they have their “psychological contract” in place with their employer, as well as their actual employment contract.  Any change can potentially challenge the trust between employer and employee, and potentially sever the “psychological contract”.

It’s really important that staff can see and understand what the future holds and what will be changing. They can then choose whether they want to be part of this or not, and act accordingly.  This can include seemingly obvious things such as – are we still planning to deliver the same product(s) or service(s) to the same customer(s)?  Will we keep the same company values (eg. “green” or “ethical” commitments)?  Will I still wear the same uniform?  Will I still work in the same place?  Will I be working the same hours?  Things like this can really make a difference to someone deciding whether they will stay and go through the changes, or leave now to avoid them.

Even though this is about the two holiday companies I hope that the suggestions will be helpful for your business too.  If anyone from Happy Holidays is reading this, you know where I am and I’m more than willing to make this change a positive one!

www.amelore.com

It’s holiday time – So, how does your holiday policy shape up?

Whilst most employers run the usual January to December holiday year, some companies operate a holiday year which mirrors their financial year. Those very brave employers have a holiday year which follows each employee’s employment start date (administratively this must be a nightmare!)

Employers with an April to March holiday year will find themselves in a peculiar situation for 2016 through to 2018. Remember that all workers are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday, which means 28 days for a full-timer. Bank holidays count towards this entitlement.

Due to the moving Easter holidays, rather than the typical eight bank holidays in a year, April 2016 – March 2017 will have only six bank holidays, while April 2017 – March 2018 will have ten.

So what can you do about this?

Your first port of call is to check your contractual wording around holiday entitlement. This could throw up a number of different scenarios.

Here are a few (using full-time workers as an example):

  1. When the contract states: “you are entitled to 20 days holiday plus all bank holidays”. For April 2016 – March 2017 this would mean that your employees would only receive 26 days holiday, which is obviously below the statutory minimum entitlement. You would therefore need to give them an additional two days paid holiday. For April 2017 – March 2018 they would receive 30 days holiday, but without specific wording which has anticipated this exact scenario it is unlikely you will be able to deduct the extra two days, as the entitlement is to “all” bank holidays.
  1. When the contract states: “you are entitled to 20 days holiday plus 8 bank holidays”. Again your employees would only receive 26 days holiday for April 2016-March 2017 as there are only six bank holidays. You would therefore need to give your employees an additional two days paid holiday to ensure they receive their statutory minimum entitlement.

However, for April 2017 – March 2018 you could choose not to give employees two of the ten bank holidays (there is no automatic right to time off on a bank holiday). However, unless they agree otherwise, you would not be able to deduct these from the 20 day holiday entitlement as the contract says that they are entitled to 20 days holiday. You would instead have to get them to work two bank holidays, which may not be practical if the office is closed and certainly will not be popular.

  1. When the contract states: “you are entitled to 28 days holiday inclusive of bank holidays”. The result of this is the same as point 2 above. You will have to give two extra days for 2016-2017 and you could choose to require employees to work two bank holidays for 2017-2018.

This situation is bound to arise again in the future so the next time you undertake a review of your employment contracts it would be worth considering whether you want to include wording in the holiday clause so that holiday entitlement can be adjusted each year if necessary to allow for this scenario.

This may be even more desirable where you already offer holiday in excess of the minimum statutory entitlement and don’t want to be in a position of having to afford additional days to employees in a particular year.

www.amelore.com

Our top 10 tips regarding “Right to Work Checks”

Every employer is aware that it is unlawful to employ someone who does not have the right to carry out the work in question, and employers can be subject to a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per worker for any breach of this.

Avoiding the £20,000 penalty

It is possible to establish a statutory (legal) excuse in respect of such penalties provided that the employer checks the worker’s documents prior to employment commencing, and then repeats the checks for those workers who have time limited permission to work in the UK.

Generally, UK nationals and European Economic Area (EEA) nationals have the automatic right to work in the UK, whereas migrant workers from the rest of the world will need to establish this right to work by showing that they have appropriate permission under one of the tiers of the UK points based system, by way of another form of visa, or under other European Treaty rights.

However, it is important that checks are carried out consistently on all employees and below we detail our top tips on what to do and some potential pitfalls.

  1. Obtain

Obtain an original of one or more documents listed in the Home Office’s Guidance.

The Home Office has produced a helpful right to work checklist which details those documents that can be relied on.

This list is “non negotiable” and no other documents “will do”. You have been warned!!

  1. Check

Check the document in the presence of the holder.

It is surprising the number of employers who arrange for reception staff or managers to take copies of the document but then in fact pass these copies onto the HR function to validate. This is not strictly compliant. Whoever is in the migrant’s presence when the document is presented should be the person doing the check. HR can of course assist, but the ultimate responsibility lies with this individual, so ensure that he or she has had appropriate training.

  1. Make a copy

Take a clear copy of the document(s). If the copy is blurred, illegible or has information missing/cut-off the statutory excuse will not be achieved. This sounds obvious but you’d be surprised.

This copy should then be marked as a true copy of the original, clearly signed and dated, and then stored or scanned and filed securely. Beware Biometric Residence Permits (BRP’s). It is mandatory to copy the front and back if the statutory excuse is to be secured.

  1. Check the documents thoroughly

It is not simply a matter of taking a photocopy. Make sure you check the validity of the documents, for example that the photos are consistent with the actual appearance of the individual and that any stamps/endorsements look genuine.

If you are given a false document, you will only be required to pay a civil penalty if it is reasonably apparent that it is false, and that means it has to be properly checked.

  1. Specifically check the terms of the visa:

Make sure the job you provide does not break any conditions or restrictions on the type of work an individual can do, or the hours they can work (see below). The terms of the visa or work permission should clearly say what these are. Again, a proper considered check is vital to securing a statutory excuse.

  1. Beware students:

It is important to be aware that non EEA migrants who come to study in the UK under Tier 4 of the points based system are generally entitled to work for a maximum of either 10 hours or 20 hours per week term time (dependent on the course and the educational establishment), and for any period during vacations and following the end of the course to the expiry of their visas.

Since May 2014 it has been the employer’s responsibility to check the dates of working against the student’s published term time tables. If a student is found to be working over the permitted hours during term time then they will be working unlawfully and you will not have a statutory excuse. That additional extra hour of work could therefore cost the business £20,000 per student, so do be sure to check.

  1. Beware discrimination claims:

In an attempt to avoid a £20,000 penalty do not then risk a claim of discrimination, which could prove even more costly. Presumptions should not be made about a person’s right to work in the UK based simply on the basis of their background, appearance or accent. As stated, apply the checks consistently to all workers regardless.

  1. Be mindful of ANY staff that have come TUPE

Yes, that four letter word again. Any employer who “inherits” employees under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 would be wise to carry out the right to work checks on all transferring employees if it wishes to be certain it has the statutory excuse.

You have a grace period of 60 days to do this and although you may be able to rely on any checks previously carried out by the transferor, there is no guarantee that these will have been done correctly.

  1. Don’t risk it:

£20,000 is the fine for unlawfully employing a worker subject to immigration control, if this is by mistake / oversight / incompetence. If you know the migrant does not have permission to carry out the work in question then the penalty is unlimited and the owners of the business can be sent to prison for up to two years, and this is set to rise to five years.

  1. If you are audited and fail – take urgent advice!

If, for whatever reason, a statutory excuse is not obtained and the employer finds that it has unknowingly employed a worker unlawfully or finds itself the subject of a Home Office audit, or even “raid”, all is not lost. There are still ways in which to seek to avoid or mitigate any civil penalties but in that eventuality it would certainly be sensible to seek urgent professional advice.

If you would like a review of your current employment practices with a particular focus on your starter and leaver processes, contact Amelore for more details.

www.amelore.com

Brexit – Dommage or Damage?

Like many people, I’m still slightly in shock about the outcome of the EU referendum on 23 June 2016, when the majority of the British public voted for the UK to leave the European Union.  Perhaps because I’m currently and living in working in Europe, it feels a more serious reality than if I was living back in the UK.

Now the dust has settled a bit on the surprising result (yes, even those campaigning and voting for “Leave” were surprised that they had actually won), it is time to start thinking what the actual implications of the UK leaving the EU will actually mean in practise.  Lots has already been written on this, both here in this blog and across the media as a whole, but let me share with you a European perspective.

“Nothing will happen for at least two years…..”

Things are already happening…….

For UK workers currently posted in Europe and paid in sterling, rather than Euros, their actual salary has already decreased by 15% and counting.  If you employ “posted” workers you will need to think how you can help your staff to still feel that they are earning a reasonable, fair salary now that their money is not going as far.  You will also need to be mindful of how the exchange impacts on the minimum wage of the country they are working in and whether you are still legally complying with it.  (for example in France the minimum hourly rate is currently 9.53 Euros, which is now equivalent to around £8.20 per hour rather than around £7.33 pre-Referendum.)

The tourism industry is already feeling the impact, with potential UK holiday makers deciding maybe they won’t holiday in Europe this year after all.  The area I am working in France is already feeling and noticing this dip in potential income and bookings.  For countries like Spain or Greece where tourist numbers are even higher and their economy is also more reliant on tourism income this could be really serious.

Going forward there is also the question of whether UK citizens will be able to work easily in Europe, or whether they will need to apply for work permits.  Again, for the tourist industry and other industries that employ semi-skilled, short term staff on the local minimum wage, will it be worth their while to even employ or post UK workers to Europe anymore?

Things could also happen more quickly than in two years if some EU politicians have their way, so don’t assume that we definitely have two years grace.

Does Europe care that the UK plans to leave the EU?

In a word, “yes”!

The people I have spoken to recently about Brexit, including those working in local government, the hospitality industry and the tourist industry seem to fall in to two camps.  Those who say it is “dommage” – a shame – and those who think it will be really damaging to Europe, its economy and stability.  Even those who fall in to the “it’s a shame” corner think that things will be worse for the UK, and indirectly, for them too.

While it would be nice to think that nothing much will change and that we have time to get used to the idea of being “out” of Europe, I honestly think that the reality will be different.  As the old saying goes “be careful what you wish for…..” – it will be interesting to see whether leaving Europe is a dream come true or a nightmare.  Watch this space…..

www.amelore.com

 

Immigration Act 2016 – Illegal working offences

visa stampAfter months of rumbling through the political process the much debated Immigration Bill finally received royal assent on 13 May 2016, becoming the Immigration Act 2016.

Hot on its heels came the enabling regulations which will bring many of the measures into force on 12 July 2016, including those detailed below.

The purpose of the Act, put quite simply, is to make it as hard as possible for illegal migrants to live and work in the United Kingdom.

Immigration Minister James Brokenshire stated  “The message is clear – if you are here illegally, you shouldn’t be entitled to receive the everyday benefits and services available to hard-working UK families and people who have come to this country legitimately to contribute.”

Below are the key changes employers need to be aware of:

Illegal working

The act of illegal working is to become a criminal offence, punishable by fine and/or up to six months imprisonment. Whether those convicted are in fact jailed at taxpayer’s expense prior to deportation will remain to be seen. However, the obvious point is that, as a criminal offence, any “proceeds” (which would include wages/salary) will now come under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and so therefore open to confiscation.

Employing an illegal worker

The penal sanction in respect of employing an individual illegally is to rise from the existing two years to five years, together with a continuing unlimited fine. This is further “beefed up” by amendments to the existing offence. Previously the risk of criminal liability arose if the employer knowingly engaged the migrant unlawfully.

The Act now provides that the offence will be committed if the employer “has reasonable cause to believe that the employee is disqualified from employment.” This is a lower threshold than previously, and presumably is to prevent those who routinely exploit illegal workers, from using plausible deniability to escape unlimited civil penalty and possible imprisonment.

However, for the purposes of all of those other employers who dutifully carry out right to work checks and then monitor the position as appropriate, the stakes have been raised significantly.

At what point, for example, does “reasonable cause” arise, whereby a consequential dismissal may be defended on the basis of “illegality” or “some other substantial reason”? Inaction or delay in this regard may result in an unlimited fine and imprisonment, whereas erring on the side of caution and moving immediately to termination of employment may subsequently result in a successful unfair dismissal claim, with the inherent further risk of an ancillary race claim.

Current new starter processes

Many companies still have out of date or insufficiently robust starters procedures which fail to check properly whether an individual has the right to work in the UK.

Next steps

Now, more than ever, it is important to get right to work systems and policies up to date, fit for purpose, and in place, as the consequences for failing to do this are now significantly more severe than they were previously.

See our blog on Right to Work checks for our top tips.

 

Eu exit and the implications for your business

Following the unexpected confirmation of a “leave” vote, many businesses will already be turning their attention to what happens next?

The most important message is that the referendum result does not trigger any automatic legal changes; neither does the UK’s formal notification that it will be withdrawing from the EU.

The UK will continue to be a member of the EU for the time being, and the status and effect of all UK and EU law remains unchanged for now, and possibly for some time in the future.

Beyond that, however, much remains to be debated and negotiated – such as the shape of trading agreements between the UK and the EU, the status of EU-derived law, thorny issues such as acquired rights, and the UK’s relationships with non-EU states.

It’s still business as usual for a while – no immediate changes

Neither the referendum result nor the UK’s formal notification to the EU has any immediate legal effect. From a legal perspective, it will be ‘business as usual’, probably for some time to come.

  • The next step is for the UK to give formal notification to the EU of it’s intention to leave. This will start the withdrawal process, which must be concluded within two years unless an extension can be agreed (which requires the consent of all twenty-seven remaining Member States).
  • The future trading relationship between the UK and the EU could take one of a number of different forms; which form it takes will have significant implications in terms of the movement of goods, services, people and capital.
  • The UK will also need to undergo a major legislative project to identify which areas of EU-derived law will stay, which will be modified and which will no longer have effect in the UK.

Each of these processes is likely to involve much consultation with the UK public and industry. Businesses have an important part to play in shaping the environment that they will be trading in, domestically and cross-border.

Employment implications of Brexit for your business

UK employers are unlikely to see any large-scale changes to current employment law in the short-term as a result of the UK leaving the EU.  The UK’s on-going relationship with EU Member States, as well as our own workplace culture, is likely to demand that the UK retains many of the EU-derived laws that have already been incorporated into domestic legislation.

Free movement of workers within the EU

Now we’ve voted to leave the EU, the free movement of workers will certainly be affected. However, changes to legislation are likely to be gradual rather than immediate.

While in theory citizens of EU member states no longer enjoy the automatic right to work in the UK (and vice versa), this will form part of negotiations to establish the UK’s new trading relationship with the EU.

EU nationals already employed in the UK may already have acquired rights under UK legislation, depending on how long they’ve been here. It’s likely that many will be permitted to stay in return for a similar agreement for UK nationals currently employed in EU member states.

For prospective employees, however, it may be a different story. While it will still be possible to employ personnel from EU member states, there may be extra administrative costs to be factored in, such as visa applications. An EU employee’s capacity to remain long-term in the UK may also be affected.

There may also be limitations on the type of workers that will be allowed to seek employment in the UK. If we choose to follow a model more like the US or Australia, visas may only be granted for those in professions identified as having a particular need.

Other employment legislation changes

We also expect some piecemeal reform to specific areas of employment law, such as:

  • Clarification of the rules for calculating holiday pay and how holiday accrues during periods of long term sick leave, under the Working Time Regulations (WTR)1998.
  • There is on-going litigation regarding inconsistencies between the WTR and the EU Working Time Directive (which the WTR implements in the UK), creating wide-spread confusion for UK businesses and potentially significant accrued and on-going liabilities.
  • Whilst the UK government is unlikely to repeal current working time rules, it may well take the opportunity to clarify the rules around holiday pay and provide much needed guidance for employers.
  • Pro-business reform of agency worker rights, given the additional costs and complexities of engaging agency workers since the introduction of the Agency Workers Regulations 2010, which implement the Temporary Agency Work Directive.

Whilst the AWR gives agency workers limited equal treatment rights with comparable permanent employees from day one, following a 12-week period, an agency worker has a right to equal pay, working time and holiday with a comparable permanent employee. The extent of any reforms in this area will depend on the exit terms the government is able to negotiate.

KEY THINGS TO CONSIDER NOW

Understand the profile of your workforce. How many are EU citizens? How long have they lived in the UK? Do any have the right to a British passport that you can support?

If you are in a sector recruiting lots of EU nationals or likely to, consider accelerating any planned recruitment before changes are announced to the process. Much more likely that any existing arrangements will be allowed rather than unpicked.

If you are planning to expand into areas of Europe, familiarise yourself with local employment legislation and understand any opportunities to second staff from UK and vice versa.

If you would like to speak to an experienced employment advisor, please contact us.

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