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As we start 2020, here are some HR and Employment Law thoughts to get us all started for the New Year.

National Minimum Wage.

Let’s start with an important one. Due to the General Election being held in December, the National Minimum Wage rates have been published later than normal (they normally come out in November but have only just been announced). Here are the details:

• The National Living Wage (“NLW”) for workers aged 25 and over will increase from £8.21 to £8.72 per hour.
• The National Minimum Wage (“NMW”) for 21- to 24-year-olds will increase from £7.70 to £8.20 per hour.
• The NMW for 18- to 20-year-olds will increase from £6.15 to £6.45 per hour.
• The NMW for 16- to 17-year-olds will increase from £4.35 to £4.55 per hour.
• The apprentice rate for those aged under 19 or in the first year of an apprenticeship will increase from £3.90 to £4.15 per hour.

As well as these annual increases, there are some interesting developments likely to affect this area. The NLW is expected to rise to around £10.50 an hour by 2024. This is following a recent pledge made by the Chancellor, Sajid Javid, to increase the rate to two-thirds of median earnings, in line with the recommendations of the independent Dube review. The Chancellor has also announced plans to expand the reach of the NLW to cover workers aged 23 and over from April 2021, and to those aged 21 and over within five years. It is a good time to start planning for these and how your business will manage these changes if they happen.

Employment Tribunals.

As a new year starts, we all naturally think about what we are going to do differently this year, what can we improve? Some interesting statistics were published recently about the Employment Tribunals. According to the Ministry of Justice’s quarterly statistics, the number of Employment Tribunal claims continued to rise for the period between 1 July 2019 and 30 September 2019. Compared to the same period in 2018, the number of single claims increased by 38%. This increase in claims continues the trend since fees to issue a claim were abolished back in 2017.

So, what can we take from this? Employees are more willing to go to Tribunal because the barrier of fees is no longer there. Also, companies offering “no win no fee” services have more incentive to pursue claims.

What can employers do? Most Employment Tribunal claims are lost due to failure in procedure and/or a failure to evidence what you have done. Having clear policies, following them and evidencing what you have done, will give you the best chance of putting the employee (or their advisor) off pursuing a claim. If they do bring a claim, it gives you the best chance of defending it successfully. Keeping records in any process is crucial. As an example, if a manager has an informal conversation about performance, have they kept a record? If they haven’t, it can be difficult to prove if it happened or what was said. Tightening up on evidence keeping is a great way to keep out of Tribunal. This could be something as simple as an e-mail confirming the content of the meeting.

Updating and reviewing policies is another good way of protecting your business. As an example, there has been some publicity about the menopause and how employers deal with this in the workplace. A study found that only 5% of companies have a dedicated menopause policy. If you don’t have one, get one introduced.

Our services include training for HR Teams and/or Managers on dealing with processes and keeping good records. Our HR Portal is a great cost-effective way to keep your business up to date with current policies and procedures. For more details, contact Rob Tice on 01332 866610 or rob.tice@precepthr.com.