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Changes to employment law just weeks away

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Every October brings new employment law changes, and employees will find 2015 is no different.

Here are five employment law changes employers need to prepare for this autumn.

1. Referrals under the new Fit for Work service

The Government’s new Fit for Work service should be fully operational by autumn. The aim of the service is to help employees return to work following a sickness absence. Occupational health advice can be obtained through the Fit for Work website and telephone helpline. Employers will soon be able to refer an employee for a free occupational health assessment when the employee has been absent from work for at least four weeks. Employers in Scotland can already make referrals.

2. National minimum wage increases

This annual employment law change sees the national minimum wage hourly rate increase from £6.50 to £6.70 for adults from 1 October 2015. The rates also increase for young workers and apprentices.

3. Tribunals lose power to make wider recommendations

From 1 October 2015, tribunals no longer have any power to make recommendations that go beyond an employee’s own circumstances in a discrimination claim. In practice, the power to make recommendations for the benefit of a wider workforce was rarely used.

4. Modern slavery statements

A new provision in the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (the “Act”), due to come into force in October 2015, will require large commercial organisations carrying on business in the UK to prepare an annual statement detailing any action they have taken to ensure slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in their supply chains or in their business.

Employers with an annual turnover of £36 million or more will have to publish a modern slavery statement each year.

The Government has yet to publish its guidance, but in the meantime, preparation is key. Businesses should check their supply chains, operational structures and risk management processes to ensure they will be ready for this employment law change.

5. Sikh safety helmet exemption extended to all workplaces

A health and safety exemption that was originally designed to allow Sikhs to wear a turban in place of a safety helmet on construction sites is to be extended to all workplaces from 1 October 2015.

This employment law change means that Sikhs will be able to wear a turban, and not a safety helmet, in workplaces like warehouses, factories and vehicles involved in transportation.

Some limited exceptions where employers can require Sikhs to wear safety helmets will remain, mainly involving the armed forces and emergency response situations.