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The revised code is largely the same as previous versions, but it does clarify that employers must agree to a request from a worker to be accompanied to a disciplinary or grievance meeting by any chosen companion, provided they fall within statutory categories (a fellow worker, or trade union representative or official). The request must be reasonable and the reasonableness requirement applies to the request itself rather than the choice of companion, meaning that as long as the worker chooses a trade union representative or colleague, the employer cannot object to the identity of the companion. The worker can also change their chosen companion if desired. What is reasonable will depend on the circumstances of each individual case. A request to be accompanied does not have to be in writing or within a certain time frame.
New rules on the minimum wage and updated guidance on the application to workers who sleep between duties
The National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015 were made on 9 March 2015. The Regulations, which come into force on 6 April 2015, consolidate previous legislation concerning national minimum wage requirements. Following the approval of the Regulations, the government has also announced this week that the adult rate of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) will rise by 20 pence from £6.50 to £6.70 per hour from 1 October 2015. This increase was recommended by the Low Pay Commission, the independent body that advises the government on the minimum wage, in March this year.
In addition, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) has updated its guidance on calculating NMW. This includes new advice on employees whose work involves sleeping between duties. The guidance states that the minimum wage will apply to workers who are found to be 'working' even though they are asleep. This will encompass situations where there is a statutory requirement for a worker to be present or they would face disciplinary action if they left the workplace. However where it is the case that a worker is only available for work and is permitted to sleep, they will not be considered 'working' and NMW will not be payable.
The Government have confirmed anti-avoidance measures for zero- hours contract restrictions
The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, currently in its third reading in Parliament, includes provisions making any exclusivity clauses in zero-hour contracts unenforceable. These clauses attempt to make employees work exclusively for employees whose income is under a minimum level. The minimum income will be calculated by reference to an agreed number of hours multiplied by the minimum wage. It has been noted that this will not apply to contracts where the employee is paid more than £20 an hour.
As this bill is still going through parliament, we do not expect any legislation to come into force until the next parliamentary term. We will keep you updated with any further developments.
New gender pay gap reporting to be introduced for large companies
An amendment introduced to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill will mean large companies will be forced to publish information on men’s and women’s salaries and rewards. The requirement will apply to companies with at least 250 employees and a penalty of up to £5,000 will be enforced for non-compliance.
The change follows research published in August 2014 which showed that only four companies had published gender pay gap information under the government's voluntary code in the Think, Act, Report scheme.
Regulations to introduce the gender pay reporting will be made within 12 months of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill coming into force. It is considered unlikely that the relevant provisions will come into force before the dissolution of Parliament on 30 March.