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Top five employment law changes for 2017


Five employment law changes to look out for in 2017

With 2016 now a mere memory for most it’s time to start panicking about the employment law changes you’ve known about for a year but left till the last minute. So in no particular order, we’ve put together the top five employment law changes you need to be thinking about in 2017.

Gender pay gap

If you work in an organisation that employs more than 250 individuals and you’re in the private, public or voluntary sector you will soon be required to publish information on the gender pay gap in your workplace.

Information must include standard pay and any bonuses and also the number of male and female workers within each quartile of the organisation’s pay structure.

While regulations have yet to be finalised, the deadline for the first report is April 2018 meaning 2017 is the year to get your affairs in order.

Salary sacrifice takes a hit

With a number of salary sacrifice schemes being abolished in April 2017 employers will need to take a closer look at their tax saving options. Mobile phones, gym memberships, accommodation, school fees and white goods will no longer be eligible, although pensions, childcare and cycle-to-work schemes are exempt.

If you have a scheme that has been in place prior to April 2017, it will be protected until 2018, while those relating to cars, accommodation and school fees are protected until 2021.

The move is expected to cost employees and employers £85m in 2017/18 and over the next six years will generate an additional £1bn in tax.

National minimum wage changes

From April 2017, the national minimum wage will increase by 4% to £7.50 an hour for 25s and over. The increase is part of the proposed plans to implement a national living wage, which will be £9 an hour by 2020.

The increase is expected to put an extra £600 in the pockets of over 25s although experts including Hannah Maundrell, editor in chief of Money.co.uk, have expressed concerns that it still isn’t enough for families to maintain a good standard of living.

Apprenticeship levy being introduced

From April 2017, employers with an annual payroll of more than £3m will be required to pay a 0.5% levy on their total bill to invest in apprenticeships. Those with annual wages lower than £3m will be able to take advantage of Government supplements for training apprentices.

The Government will top up 10% to the levy sum each month, which employers in England will gain access to through an account with the Digital Apprenticeship Service. Employers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will have separate arrangements put into place.

With the Government eager to train 3m apprentices by 2020, you will begin to see a big push for employers to take part in all areas of the scheme.


Prime Minister Theresa May announced that she intends to trigger Article 50 before the end of March 2017, although with the recent Supreme Court decision that a parliamentary vote must be passed before Article 50 can be invoked, that date may be a little optimistic.

Many UK employment rights derive from EU law and while current laws are not at risk of change anytime soon, the future of employment rights certainly could be.

Until we have a clear vision of the landscape post-Brexit, the chance of Britain moving away from EU laws and regulations is still very much up in the air.

Other things to look out for

Holiday pay

One case employers need to keep an eye on is the Lock V British Gas case in regards to whether holiday pay should include contractual results based commission. This has gone back and forth for several years now with British Gas launching the latest appeal to the Supreme Court. A judgement is expected sometime in 2017 and considering the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling against British Gas, it is unlikely that the Supreme Court will uphold the appeal.

Ban on Muslim headscarves

There are currently two cases pending a decision by the ECJ on whether the banning of Muslim headscarves in the workplace amounts to direct discrimination.

A decision is expected soon and could cause huge waves for all involved.

Changes to rules for employing foreign workers

Employers who sponsor foreign workers will be required to pay an immigration skills charge of £1,000 per worker, or £364 for small employers and charities, from April 2017. These will be in addition to the current fees for visa applications.

If you would like to know more about these changes or any others that are on the horizon, contact Opsium Employer Support today.

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The average cost of loss

The backbone of any great SME is the employees. Hardworking, dedicated, loyal, the holy trinity of employee traits. But when that shining example decides to up sticks and moves to a new role, the cost could be much higher than you can stomach.

According to new research by AXA PPP Healthcare, the average cost of replacing an employee is £30,000. No, you didn’t squint, that’s thirty thousand pounds, sterling. While the pound may be on life support, the numbers add up.

SME bosses claim that recruitment costs, training and lost productivity are increasing the average cost of replacing an employee. That’s why UK SMEs are predicting that 2017 will be the year of retention with 35% of employers surveyed focusing on work/life balance, 21% offering more flexibility in the role and 19% investing in better procurement practices to save costs.

Speaking about the results of the survey, Paul Moulton, intermediary distribution director for AXA PPP Healthcare, said:

"Getting and keeping talented people is an essential part of running a successful business. It's encouraging that SMEs acknowledge the importance of employee work/life balance as creating a positive environment where workers can flourish is, undoubtedly, key to building and maintaining a motivated, loyal workforce - and safeguarding a business from the risk of losing valuable people.

"It's also promising that so many SMEs say they are expecting to grow their workforce in 2017 as this should present intermediaries with an opportunity to further support their clients' growing businesses."

While the comments paint a picture of a rosy 2017 for SMEs and employees alike, with 24% of those surveyed looking to hire three to five people in the new year, that could all be set to change in the new year with an increase to the national living wage and minimum wage.

With auto-enrolment increases, apprenticeship levy and the recent changes to holiday pay, businesses are going to have to tighten their belts and find savings where they can, and with Brexit expected to further shape the business landscape in 2017, SMEs would be remiss to plan too far ahead. Instead, the aim must be on steadying the ship and bolstering departments when and if needed.

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What the last Autumn Statement means for your business


With Chancellor Phillip Hammond giving his first and last Autumn Statement, millions tuned in eager to know how it would affect them. From the National Living Wage to National Insurance contributions we’ve put together a quick guide to the Autumn Statement changes for employers.

National Minimum Wage

From April 2017 the National Living Wage will increase from £7.20 to £7.50 for anyone over 25, equating to an increase of more than £500 a year for full time workers. That’s not all, workers on the National Minimum Wage will see an increase in their pay packet too.

◾ 21-24 year olds will receive an increase of 10p per hour from £6.95 to £7.05
◾18-20 year olds will receive an increase of 5p per hour from £5.55 to £5.60
◾16-17 year olds will also receive an increase of 5p per hour from £4 to £4.05
◾The hourly minimum wage for apprentices will also increase from £3.40 to £3.50

While this is good news for workers, employers will feel the squeeze following additional costs such as the apprenticeship levy, pension auto-enrolment increases and the recent changes to holiday pay.

Employers in the retail and hospitality sector had the worst to fear from the increase, although they were able to offset the costs by increasing prices, reducing hours or reducing premium payments but this may come at the expense of a customer / employee backlash.

For other sectors who do not have the luxury of offsetting costs through flexibility, they may find themselves having to increase productivity or passing on the additional cost to customers. This may have a detrimental effect on customers, especially if you are not offering an improved service.  

Personal Allowance Increase

From April 2017, the tax free Personal Allowance will increase from £11,000 to £11,500 with the higher rate threshold also increasing to £45,000. Hammond also confirmed they are still on track to meet their target of a tax free personal allowance of £12,500 by 2020.

From 2020, the increase is expected to rise with inflation as opposed to the NMW.

Employee Shareholder Status (ESS)

Hammond confirmed that the tax relief available under the Employee Shareholder Status will be abolished for any agreements commencing 1st December 2016. The Government have also confirmed that they are looking to abolish the ESS status altogether 'at the earliest opportunity'.

Salary Sacrifice

Hammond announced an end to most salary sacrifice and benefit in kind schemes from April 2017. Describing both as “unfair” and confirming that employees who use these schemes will pay the same tax as everyone else.

Schemes that will be exempt from the axe include pension contributions, cycle to work and childcare vouchers.

Termination Payments

From April 2018, the current arrangement on taxation of termination payments up to £30,000 will continue, however for payments over the £30,000 NICs will apply.

National Insurance

From April 2017, National Insurance payments for employees and employers will align with payments starting on weekly earnings of £157 or more. While this change is expected to make payments simpler for all involved, the treasury confirmed it will cost employers an extra £7.18 per employee per year.

If you’d like to know more about the changes and how they affect your business contact Opsium for the latest guidance and advice.

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Top tips on boosting staff morale this Christmas

With Christmas fast approaching you may notice a veil of lethargy drape over your team like a fog in a snow storm. So how do you keep your team motivated during the festive period?

We’ve put together a few handy tips to ensure your Christmas goes off with a ‘ho ho ho’ instead of a ‘bah humbug’.

Plan ahead

If you’re lucky enough to have been trading for a few years, you should be able to accurately predict your peaks and troughs of the year. This will give you a better understand of the staff levels you need to ensure that customer service and productivity don’t suffer.

If in doubt, create a list of employees who could be ‘on-call’ should you find yourself understaffed during the busy periods.  

Join in

There’s no harm getting into the festive spirit. Inject some fun into the office with a Christmas quiz, decorations or some Christmas tunes to get people in the mood. Keeping spirits high will go a long way to increasing productivity and to stop employees pining for home.

Every little helps

More and more of us are shunning the high street battleground and shopping online. By letting your staff have their Christmas shopping delivered to the office you can help remove one of their biggest stresses, enabling them to focus on the task at hand.

Arrange for parcels to be stored in a convenient and secure location. They can then be collected at the end of the shift, ensuring piece of mind all round.


If you are able, why not allow employees to rearrange their hours slightly. Offer an early start / finish and a late start / finish shift pattern to help employees manage their work-life balance at this busy time of year.

Frankie says RELAX 

If you have a business dress code try relaxing it over the Christmas period by implementing festive dress of red and green or Christmas jumper days.

Nobody likes a Scrooge

Why not offer ad-hoc prizes amongst the staff to spread some holiday cheer. Mini raffles and best-dressed awards will encourage people to get involved and incentivise staff.

One more thing, it's not just holidays that are coming, it’s also sick days!

With the change in weather, increased social activities and stress of getting things sorted for Christmas you are bound to see an increase in absence during the winter months. If you need to know how to better manage sickness and unauthorised absence call us for advice.

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Your HR survival guide to the Christmas party


With Christmas on the horizon, it’s time for a lot of companies to begin winding down and taking stock of another business year. For staff, it’s the time to prepare for the Christmas party, for the HR department it’s a minefield.

But, it doesn’t have to be…

There’s a great deal of trust involved in providing your employees with alcohol and having them let loose outside of the office environment whilst socialising with people who’ve spent the last 12 months pushing their buttons.

From arguments to fights and flirting to harassment, HR departments need to be out in front of any possible issues before they have the opportunity to dig their claws in.

Code of conduct

Before the event, set out your stall clearly to all staff. A simple message to everyone encouraging them to have fun but also detailing the code of conduct you expect them to observe during the event. Remind staff that they are representing the business and you expect them to behave as such.

Limit the alcohol intake

While some companies may implement an open bar, others chose to provide drinks vouchers and exercise strict limits on servings of alcohol, i.e. no doubles or triples.

Call it a night

If you’re arranging the party at a venue, state the time the party is due to end. Make it clear that employees who choose to continue on at another venue do so at their own risk. If they act in a way that brings the company into disrepute or harms relationships in the workplace they could still be at risk of repercussion. 

Have your fairy godmother on hand with a pumpkin

One way to ensure people get home is to plan their transport at the end of the night. A few pre-booked taxis at the end of the party should ensure that most people get home safe without too much hassle. Employees tasked with getting home under their own volition may find themselves being distracted by something shiny, and continuing the night into the wee hours. Mitigate any risk by having a clear plan of action for the end of the night.

Manage your expectations

While it would be advantageous to have the night go off without a hitch, it’s always best to manage your expectations. There will be drunken behaviour and it’s likely that there will be words exchanged in the heat of the moment. You need to establish what is a HR issue and what is a byproduct of alcohol and reduced inhibitions.

If in doubt, Opsium employer support will be able to work with you to establish whether an incident warrants further action.

The morning after the night before? 

So you’ve survived the night, but what about the morning after? Many companies choose to have the Christmas party on a Friday to avoid the inevitable sick days that follow, whereas others will have the party midweek in an effort to stop employees getting too carried away. Which one is right?

It’s an either-or scenario as regardless of what you choose there will always be one. With that in mind, it’s best to address the issue of post-party absence before the event. Let employees know that they will have their pay deducted if they are late or fail to attend.

Alternatively, you can work with staff to encourage attendance. Offer staggered working shifts for the following day, while some will want to get in early and get the day over with, others will be glad of the lie in. If you give employees the option they are less likely to take advantage come the morning.

The important bit

Set out your stall. Don’t leave anything to chance and explain to your employees exactly what you expect of them. The Christmas party should be an opportunity to celebrate your successes for the year as a team. By following our few simple steps you can ensure it’s a night to remember.

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