Small Businesses, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015

Small Businesses, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 (SBEEA 2015) received Royal Assent on 26 March 2015. Amongst others SBEEA 2015 contains a number of provisions that will add to the legislative framework of employment law.

Regulations will be made to make gender pay gap reporting compulsory for non-public sector organisations with more than 250 employees. This provision is found in Section 78 of the Equality Act 2010. However, the regulations have never been brought into force. Section 147 of SBEEA 2015 requires government to implement the regulations by 25 March 2016.

Research done by Public Concern at Work and the University of Greenwich has come to the conclusion that only 25% of wrongdoings that are reported by whistleblowers are acted upon. Section 148 of SBEEA 2015 has introduced a new Section 43FA into the Employment Rights Act 1996. This provides that regulations may be made requiring certain persons to report annually on whistle blowing disclosures they have received.  The Prescribed Persons (Report on Disclosures of Information) Regulations 2015 is a draft outline of regulations that could be made under this new power.

If an employer fails to pay a sum to an employee that has either been ordered by an employment tribunal or in which a settlement certificate has been issued. The financial penalty is 50% of the unpaid amount subject to a minimum of £100 and a maximum of £5000. This is provided by the new Sections 37A-37Q of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996. The new sections are set out in Section 150 of SBEEA 2015.

Sections 7, 13 and 13A of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996 are amended by Section 151 of SBEEA 2015. The amendments allow for a limit to be placed on the number of postponements a party may be granted in tribunal proceedings. The amendments will also address the costs that arise from short notice postponements.

Section 19A of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 is amended by Section 152 of SBEEA 2015. This amendment provides that the penalty of underpayment of national minimum wage will be done on a per worker basis. This penalty should be paid to the Secretary of State within 28 days however, if paid within 14 days the penalty is reduced by 50%.

High earners that leave a public sector role and return to the same part of the public sector within a short time period will have to repay some or all of their exit payments. The individual that receives the exit payment along with the authority responsible for the exit payment will both face extra obligations. These provisions are found in Section 154 to 157 of SBEEA 2015 however, it will be for HM Treasury to make the regulations no later than April 2016. In proposals made by the government these measures should apply to those earning at least £80,000 and the return period be limited to 12 months.

Zero hour contracts are to face a ban on exclusivity clauses under Section of SBEEA 2015. There will also be a statutory definition of a zero hour’s contract in a new Section 27A of the Employment Rights Act 1996. A new Section 27B will allow for regulations to be made that prevents restrictions on a zero hour contract worker.

The Small Businesses, Enterprises and Employment Act 2015 looks to have some good changes to the frame work of employment law. We will look to other changes the Act will bring about to other areas of the law in another article.Â

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