This timetable outlines the major changes to employment legislation in 2015 and 2016, and what is expected in 2017 and 2018. For information on employment law in Northern Ireland see our factsheet.

Employment legislation in 2015

5 January 2015

Employment agencies recruitment advertising

The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3351) came into force on 5 January 2015 and prohibits employment agencies and employment businesses from advertising jobs exclusively in other European Economic Area countries without advertising in Great Britain. The ban only applies to employment agencies and employment businesses operating in Great Britain.

10 March 2015

Data protection: subject access rights

Section 56 of the Data Protection 1998 (DPA) prevents employers from requiring people to use their subject access rights under the DPA to provide certain records as a condition of employment. Requiring people to provide the records will become a criminal offence, punishable by a fine. Section 56 was brought into force on 10 March 2016 by the Data Protection Act 1998 (Commencement No. 4) Order 2015 (SI2015/312).

For more information see our Data protection, surveillance and privacy at work Q&As (Member only)

26 March 2015

Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015

Receiving Royal Assent on 26 March 2015 the Act contains provisions to improve gender pay gap reporting under the Equality Act 2010, introduce annual reporting on whistleblowing disclosures, limit employment tribunal postponements and penalise employers who do not pay an employment tribunal award. Also includes provisions to prevent use of exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts and setting a maximum penalty for underpaying the national minimum wage on a per worker basis rather than per notice.

Deregulation Act 2015

Receiving Royal Assent 26 March 2015 the Act aims to reduce the burden of excessive regulation on businesses and repeal legislation which is no longer of any practical use. Introduces approved English apprenticeships and changes to the Equality Act 2010 to remove the power of employment tribunals to issue wider recommendations in successful discrimination cases.

27 March 2015

Reserve Forces financial assistance

The Reserve Forces (Call-Out and Recall) (Financial Assistance) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/460) amend the Reserve Forces (Call-Out and Recall) (Financial Assistance) Regulations 2005 (SI 2005/859) regarding financial assistance to reservists and employers during mobilisation and came into force on 27 March 2015.

For more information see our Reserve forces Q&As (Member only).

5 April 2015

Shared parental leave and pay

The new shared parental leave scheme was introduced under the Children and Families Act 2014. It applies to parents whose babies were due on or after 5 April 2015, or who had children placed for adoption on or after that date and was brought into effect by various sets of legislation. 

For more information see our factsheet on shared parental leave (Member only).

Adoption leave and pay

For all employees who are having a child or children matched with them or placed for adoption on or after 5 April 2015 they are entitled to:

  • Time off to attend introductory appointments.
  • 52 weeks adoption leave (26 weeks' continuous employment is no longer necessary).
  • The right to 52 weeks adoption leave is available to the employed ‘primary’ adopter with the two weeks paternity leave for ‘secondary’ adopters.

For more information see our Maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption leave and pay Q&As (Member only).

Parental leave

Under the Maternity and Parental Leave etc. (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3221) which came into force on 5 March 2015 the right to take unpaid parental leave will be extended to parents of any child under the age of 18.

For more information see our Parental rights and family-friendly provisions Q&As (Member only).

Family-friendly payments

Under the Welfare Benefits Uprating Order 2015 (SI 2015/30) the statutory maternity pay (SMP), statutory paternity pay (SPP), statutory additional paternity pay (ASPP), statutory adoption pay (SAP) and statutory shared parental pay (ShPP) rates increased to £139.58 a week from 5 April 2015.

For more information see our Statutory rates and compensation limits page (Member only).

6 April 2015

Statutory sick pay

Statutory sick pay (SSP) increased to £88.45 a week from 6 April 2015.

For more information see our Statutory rates and compensation limits page (Member only).

Tribunal compensation limits 2015

The Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2015 (SI 2015/226) came into force in Great Britain on 6 April 2015. It increases the limit on certain tribunal awards. A week's pay increased to £475 and the cap on the compensatory award increased to £78,335. Apply where the effective date of termination is on or after 6 April 2015.

26 May 2015

For more information see our Statutory rates and compensation limits page (Member only).

Zero hours contracts: exclusivity clauses

Under the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 any term of a contract which tries to prevent a zero hours worker from working under another contract became unenforceable from 26 May 2015.

For more information see our factsheet on zero hours contracts.

Penalty for underpayment of NMW

Sets a maximum £20,000 penalty for underpaying the national minimum wage on a per worker basis rather than per notice from 26 May 2015.

For more information see government policy on enforcing NMW and National Living Wage (NLW).

English apprenticeships

The Deregulation Act 2015 introduces 'approved English apprenticeships' taking place under 'approved English apprenticeship agreements' which came into force on 26 May 2015. The new apprenticeships replaces 'apprenticeship agreements' introduced under the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009.

These reforms are part of proposals to simplify the regulation of apprenticeships in England, making it more flexible and responsive to the needs of employers.

For more information see government guidance on developing new apprenticeships .

31 July 2015

Holiday pay: two year limitation on backdated claims

The Deduction from Wages (Limitation) Regulations 2014 (SI 2014/3322) which came into force on 8 January 2015 introduce a two year limitation on unfair reduction from wages claims in respect of holiday pay. This is in order to impose clear time limits following the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) decision in Bear Scotland Ltd v Fulton and conjoined cases. The two year limitation will apply to claims presented on or after 1 July 2015 and claims presented before that date are subject to the existing legislation on limitation. The new limitation period is applied only to the first category of deductions from wages under the Employment Rights Act 1996.

The Regulations also implicitly state that the right to paid holiday is a statutory right and not incorporated as a contractual term in employment contracts (this is to try and prevent employees getting around the two year limit by using the normal six year time limit for contractual claims). This provision came into force on 8 January 2015.

For more information see our Annual leave and holiday pay Q&As (Member only).

1 October 2015

National minimum wage rates 2015

The National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/971) brought the following increases to the national minimum wage (NMW) into force:

  • the adult rate will increase to £6.70 per hour
  • the rate for 18 to 20 year olds will £5.30 per hour
  • the rate for 16 to 17 year olds will increase £3.87 per hour
  • the apprentice rate will increase to £3.30 per hour
  • the accommodation offset will increase to £5.35

For more information see our Statutory rates and compensation limits page (Member only).

Employment tribunals’ power to make wider recommendations

The Deregulation Act 2015 amends the Equality Act 2010 to remove employment tribunals’ power to issue wider recommendations in successful discrimination cases. The provisions came into force on 1 October 2015.

For more information see our Tribunal claims, settlement and compromise Q&As (Member only).

29 October 2015

Anti-slavery statements

Under Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, companies with a turnover of £36m or more who carry on business in the UK and supply goods or services will be required to prepare an annual slavery and trafficking statement. Statements will only be required for each financial year on or after 31 March 2016.

For more information see statutory guidance.

Employment legislation in 2016

11 January 2016

Zero hours contracts: enforcing ban on exclusivity clauses

The Exclusivity Terms in Zero Hours Contracts (Redress) Regulations 2015 (SI2015/2021) which came into force on 11 January 2016 give zero hours workers the right not to be unfairly dismissed or subjected to a detriment for failing to comply with an exclusivity clause, and to claim compensation.

For more information see our Terms and conditions of employment Q&As (Member only).

23 March 2016

Scotland Act 2016

The Scotland Act 2016 which received Royal Assent on 23 March 2016 devolves further powers to the Scottish Parliament, including financial powers and elements of the welfare system. Under the Act, the Scottish Parliament has announced its intention to abolish employment tribunal fees in Scotland.

For more information see our Tribunal claims, settlement and compromise Q&As (Member only).

1 April 2016

National Living Wage

From 1 April 2016 there will be a new rate of £7.20 for workers aged 25 and over, known as the National Living Wage (NLW). For more information see our Legal timetables.

From 1 October 2016

  • Workers aged 21 and over: £6.95 an hour
  • Development rate for workers aged 18-20: £5.55 an hour
  • Young workers rate for workers aged 16-17: £4.00 an hour
  • Apprentice rate: £3.40 an hour

More information on the NMW and its calculation is available on the GOV.UK website.

6 April 2016

Tribunal compensation limits 2016

The Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2016 (SI 2016/288) came into force in Great Britain on 6 April 2016. It increased the limit on certain tribunal awards. A week's pay increased to £479 and the cap on the compensatory award increased to £78,962. They apply where the effective date of termination is on or after 6 April 2016.

For more information see our Statutory rates and compensation limits page.

Penalties for non-payment of employment tribunal awards

Under Section 150 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 employers who fail to pay an employment tribunal award will be issued with a penalty notice. Coming into force on 6 April 2016 the penalty will 50% of the outstanding award, subject to a minimum of £100 and a maximum of £5,000. If the full award and penalty are paid within 14 days, the penalty will be reduced by 50%. The penalty is payable to the Secretary of State not the claimant.

For more information see our Tribunal claims, settlement and compromise Q&As (Member only).

Employment tribunal postponements

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 contains provisions limiting the number of adjournments in employment tribunal cases. Brought into force on 6 April 2016 by The Employment Tribunal Rules of Procedure in the Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2016 (SI 2016/271)

For more information see our Tribunal claims, settlement and compromise Q&As (Member only)

15 April 2016

Closed recruitment practices call for evidence closes

The government call for evidence on the use of internal-only recruitment practices in the public sector and whether it is ever effectively or inappropriately used closed on 15 April 2016.

More information is available on the GOV.UK website.

4 May 2016

Enterprise Act 2016

The Enterprise Act 2016 received Royal Assent on 4 May 2016. It contains provisions to impose a cap on exit payments for most public sector workers and introduces a target for the total number of apprentices working in public sector bodies.

Trade Union Act 2016

The Trade Union Act 2016, which received Royal Assent on 4 May 2016, makes a number of changes to strike legislation. Provisions include a requirement that at least 50% of those eligible to vote on strike action must participate in the ballot and, in addition, that 40% of workers in ballots involving ‘important public services’ must support the strike for the industrial action proposed to be lawful.

The government has now defined what is included in ‘important public services’ in a set of draft regulations published on 6 December 2016 (for further details, see 1 March 2017 - Trade Union Act: important public services).

There's more information in our Trade union recognition and industrial action Q&As (Member only).

12 May 2016

Immigration Act 2016

The Immigration Act 2016 received Royal Assent on 12 May 2016 and contains provisions on illegal working, the introduction of a skills charge and a new duty on public authorities to ensure that everyone who works for them in a customer-facing role speaks fluent English. Some of the provisions came into force on 12 July 2016 (see below).

23 June 2016

EU Referendum held

The EU Referendum held on 23 June 2016 to decide whether the UK should remain in or leave the EU, was won by the Leave campaign.

For more information view our hub on Brexit.

12 July 2016

Immigration Act 2016: Illegal working

Various provisions under the Immigration Act 2016 came into force on 12 July 2016. Illegal working will be a criminal offence in its own right, with a maximum custodial sentence of six months and/or a fine of the statutory maximum (unlimited in England and Wales). It is an offence for an employer to employ someone whom they ‘know or have reasonable cause to believe’ is an illegal worker. Conviction on indictment for this offence will be increased from two years to five years. To deal with employers who employ illegal workers and evade sanctions, the Act introduces a power to close premises for up to 48 hours.

The appointment of a new Director of Labour Market Enforcement who will oversee the relevant enforcement agencies.

For more information see our Recruitment and selection Q&As. (Member only)

19 July 2016

Non compete clauses call for evidence closes

The government call for evidence on the use of non-compete clauses in the UK (including Northern Ireland) closed on 19 July 2016. The government is seeking views from both business and workers on whether the clauses hamper innovation and growth.

More information is available on the GOV.UK website.

26 September 2016

Public sector exit payments: cap and repayment

Public sector exit payments: cap
The government intends to introduce a £95,000 cap on all public sector exit payments, but plans to accomplish this by regulations have currently been replaced by a negotiated approach to bringing about reform at workforce level. In a response to its consultation conducted last year (which contained draft regulations under the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2016) the government said it will introduce an ‘overarching framework’ for workforce agreements in order to “cut the cost of redundancies, and to ensure greater consistency between schemes”.

Public sector exit payments: repayment
Details on how the government intends to ‘clawback’ redundancy payments, sometimes made to highly-paid employees returning to the public sector shortly after receiving a termination package, are not in the consultation response.

1 October 2016

National minimum wage rates 2016

The following national minimum wage (NMW) rates came into force on 1 October 2016:

  • The rate for workers aged 21 to 24 years increased to £6.95 per hour.
  • The development rate for 18 to 20 year olds increased to £5.55 per hour.
  • The rate for 16 to 17 year olds increased to £4.00 per hour.
  • The apprentice rate increased to £3.40 per hour.

A new national living wage (NLW) for workers aged 25 years and over came into force on 1 April 2016. This did not change on 1 October 2016. The government has confirmed that the NMW rates, including the NLW, will be uprated in parallel from April 2017.

For more information see our Statutory rates and compensation limits page.

31 October 2016

Health and Work Green Paper published

On 31 October 2016 the government published a Green Paper, Improving lives, which seeks views on proposals to halve the disability employment gap. The proposals include:

  • the possible provision of a ‘one stop’ shop guidance for employers on health and work
  • reforming the statutory pay system in order to encourage more phased returns to work
  • reviewing how fit note currently works and whether it can be signed by other professionals than doctors.

The consultation ends on 17 February 2017.

The consultation paper is available on the GOV.UK website.

21 November 2016

English language fluency

The government has issued guidance on the code of practice that came into force on 21 November on the new requirement in the Immigration Act 2016 for all public sector staff in public-facing roles to speak English (or Welsh) fluently enough for “the effective performance of their role” (language requirements already exist for doctors and teachers).

24 November 2016

Immigration Rules changes (Tier 2)

Changes to Tier 2 of the immigration system came into force on 24 November 2016, including:

  • an increase in the Tier 2 (General) salary threshold for experienced workers to £25,000, with some exemptions (the threshold will be further increased to £30,000 in April 2017)
  • an increase in the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) salary threshold for short term staff to £30,000
  • a reduction in the Tier 2 (Intra-Company Transfer) graduate trainee salary threshold to £23,000 and an increase in the number of places to 20 per company per year
  • the closure of the Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) skills transfer sub-category.

The first phase of the Tier 2 changes follows a review by the Migration Advisory Committee.

More information is available on the GOV.UK website.

2017

1 Mar 2017 – Trade Union Act: important public services

The Trade Union Act 2016, in force from 1 March, sets additional strike balloting requirements for those working in ‘important public services’. For strikes in those services to be lawful, not only must 50% of those eligible to vote participate in the ballot, but 40% must support the action proposed (as opposed to a simple majority of those voting, as required in strike ballots elsewhere).

Five sets of regulations specify the categories of public service workers covered by the additional 40% threshold. They are:

  • Hospital services such as A&E, intensive care, psychiatric and emergency midwifery services
  • Teachers of compulsory school age children, and those working in further education
  • Fire-fighters, and fire and rescue service personnel organising emergency responses
  • London bus, national rail, and tramway personnel, including maintenance workers, and air traffic control, airport and port security services
  • Border control, sea patrol and border intelligence personnel.

Regulations on nuclear decommissioning services are to be produced at a later date.

1 Apr 2017 – National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage

The following NLW and NMW hourly rates apply from 1 April 2017:

  • Workers aged over 25 years (NLW): £7.50.
  • Workers aged 21 to 24 years: £7.05.
  • Workers aged 18 to 20 years: £5.60.
  • Workers aged 16 to 17 years: £4.05.
  • Apprentices (under 19 years, or in the first year): £3.50.

From 2017, changes to both the NLW and NMW rates will take place in April.

1 Apr 2017 – Whistleblowing

Prescribed persons’, the official organisations to whom whistleblowers can disclose wrong-doing under the whistleblowing protection legislation, will be required from this date to make annual reports of those disclosures. The first reports are due on 1 October 2018.

For more on this subject, see the Whistleblowing factsheet.

2 Apr 2017 – Family friendly payments

Statutory maternity (SMP), paternity (SPP), adoption (SAP) and shared parental pay (ShPP) rises to £140.98 a week from 2 April 2017.

For more information, see Statutory rates and compensation limits.

6 Apr 2017 – Gender pay gap reporting

All private and voluntary sector employers in England, Wales and Scotland with at least 250 employees are required to publish information annually about the differences in pay between men and women in their workforces under new Equality Act 2010 regulations, in force from 6 April. The information must be based on a ‘snapshot’ of their pay bill on 5 April 2017, and annually thereafter, and the first reports must be published by 4 April 2018.

Similar reporting requirements apply to larger public sector employers, although these regulations are in force from 31 March 2017 and the first reports are due by 30 March 2018.

Regulations under the Northern Irish Employment Act 2016 are due by the end of June 2017, but there is no date yet for enforcement. Unlike the rules for England, this statute provides for fines of up to £5,000 for non-compliance, and includes a requirement for the pay band statistics to cover ethnicity and disability as well as gender.

See our Guide to gender pay gap reporting for more information.

6 Apr 2017 – Apprenticeship levy

An apprenticeship levy applies from 6 April to any public and private employers with an annual pay bill for the previous tax year in excess of £3 million. All employers in this category, whether or not they actually use apprentices, will have to contribute 0.5% if their annual pay bill, calculated on the basis of all payments to employees (including wages, bonuses and commission) that are subject to employer class 1 NICs. Levied employers with apprenticeships will receive an annual allowance of £15,000 to offset against their apprentice costs.

For more information see our factsheet.

6 Apr 2017 – Compensation limits

Tribunal compensation limits increase from 6 April 2017. The new rates are:

  • Limit on guaranteed payments – £27
  • Limit on a week’s pay – £489
  • Maximum basic award for unfair dismissal and statutory redundancy payment – £14,670
  • Minimum basic award for unfair dismissal – £5,970
  • Maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal – £80,541
  • Minimum compensation for exclusion/expulsion from a trade union – £9,118

For more information, see Statutory rates and compensation limits.

6 Apr 2017 – National Insurance thresholds

From 6 April the National Insurance thresholds are:

  • Class 1 lower earnings limit – £113 per week
  • Class 1 upper earnings limit – £866 per week

For more information, see Statutory rates and compensation limits.

6 Apr 2017 – Statutory sick pay

6 Apr 2017 – Immigration skills charge (Tier 2)

Organisations sponsoring non-EEA skilled workers under Tier 2 of the points-based system will pay a £1,000 immigration skills charge (£364 for smaller organisations and charities) per sponsored worker from 6 April 2017 (see draft regulations). The charge was recommended by the Migration Advisory Committee and confirmed by the Government in March last year. Workers in PhD-level occupations, those switching from Tier 4 student visas, and graduate trainees on Intra Company Transfer visas are exempt.

Also on this date:

  • the minimum salary threshold for Tier 2 migrants rises from £25,000 to £30,000
  • the immigration health surcharge will apply to Tier 2 Intra Company Transfers
  • Tier 2 (General) workers in the education, health and social care sectors will need to provide a criminal record certificate for themselves and any adult dependants.

For more on immigration issues, see Employing overseas workers in the UK.

6 Apr 2017 – IR35 in the public sector

The IR35 tax rules governing off-payroll working in the public sector also change on this date. Responsibility for deciding whether the rules apply shifts from the worker to the public body, which will also be responsible for deducting relevant tax and NICs from the fee it pays to the intermediary organisation where appropriate.

For more information on IR35 changes in the public sector, see GOV.UK guidance.

6 Apr 2017 – Salary sacrifice schemes

From 6 April, only employer pension contributions, childcare benefits, cycle to work schemes and ultra-low emission company cars can be provided through salary sacrifice arrangements, although schemes in place prior to this date can continue to benefit from the tax advantages they provide until April 2018. Accommodation, school fees and other company cars may be provided under salary sacrifice arrangements until April 2021.

For more on salary sacrifice schemes, see Employee benefits.

2018

Apr 2018 – Gender pay gap: first reports

Private and voluntary sector employers in England, Wales and Scotland with at least 250 employees will be required to publish information about the differences in pay between men and women in their workforce, based on a pay bill ‘snapshot’ date of 5 April 2017, under the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017. The first reports must be published by 4 April 2018.

Similar reporting requirements apply to larger public sector employers from 31 March 2017 and the first reports are due by 30 March 2018.

Provisions under the Northern Irish Employment Act 2016 mirror these, except they also include fines of up to £5,000 for non-compliance, and a requirement to report on ethnicity and disability pay gaps, as well as gender.

For more information see our Guide to gender pay gap reporting.

Apr 2018 – Termination payments: taxation

The government plans to make changes to the taxation of termination payments from April 2018. The proposals include:

  • removing the distinction between contractual and non-contractual PILONs (payments in lieu of notice) so that all PILONs are taxable and subject to Class 1 NICs
  • ensuring that the first £30,000 of a termination payment remains exempt from income tax and that any payment paid to any employee that relates solely to the termination of the employment continues to have an unlimited employee NICs exemption
  • aligning the rules for income tax and employer NICs so that employer NICs will be payable on payments above £30,000 (which are currently only subject to income tax)

A government consultation on the issue closed in October 2016.

Apr 2018 – Restricting employment allowance for illegal workers

The government plans to introduce a further deterrent to the employment of illegal workers. From April 2018, employers will not be able to claim the Employment Allowance for one year if they have:

  • hired an illegal worker
  • been penalised by the Home Office
  • exhausted all appeal rights against that penalty.

A consultation containing draft regulations closed in January 2017.

25 May 2018 – General Data Protection Regulation

The government has confirmed it will be implementing the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which applies to all EU Member States from 25 May 2018, even though the UK is leaving the EU (see the Information Commissioner's blog).

The new rules give individuals:

  • easier access to their own data
  • a ‘right to be forgotten’
  • a right to know when their data has been hacked.

Organisations will benefit from having:

  • a single set of data protection rules across the EU and
  • one supervisory authority, rather than the current 28. Notifications to supervisory bodies are also being scrapped. But companies may be required to:
  • pay a fine of up to 4% of global turnover if they breach the new rules
  • appoint a data protection officer in certain circumstances.

Exemptions apply for SMEs for whom data processing is not a core business activity, and these employers may also charge a data access fee where requests are 'manifestly unfounded' or 'excessive.'

The ICO has a range of information and resources on the new rules, including a 12-step guide, and more information is available in our Data protection, surveillance and privacy at work Q&As.

2018 – Grandparental leave

In March 2016, the government confirmed its plans to extend shared parental leave and pay to working grandparents by 2018. However, to date, no consultations have been issued on this subject.

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