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5 Key HR Changes to watch out for in 2017

Workers' rights are moving up the agenda in the pre-Election debate. Employment law is constantly on the move and will be post-Brexit.

However there are some huge changes for UK businesses in 2017. Below are 5 key changes to look out for.

Apprenticeship Levy – The apprenticeship levy came into force at the beginning of April this year and will require all UK employers, within both the private and public sectors, with an annual wage bill in excess of £3 million to pay 0.5% of their annual wage bill towards the cost of apprenticeship training.

All employers, whether they are required to pay the levy or not, are able to access funding to cover the costs of apprentices’ training, and this has led to more businesses considering apprenticeship arrangements where they have not previously.

While some see the rise of apprenticeships as a ploy to discourage the lower paid to send their children into Higher Education, the reality is that there is a huge skills gap on the horizon which needs to be filled with a skilled and experienced workforce.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting Regulation – The Regulation, which took effect from 5 April 2017, for private and voluntary sectors, and 31 March 2017, for the public sector, will require employers with 250 or more employees to publish, on their own website and a government site, statutory calculations every year showing the pay gap between their male and female employees.

As an employer, you will have up to 12 months to publish this report from the applicable effective date. As a result, employers should consider taking action to reduce or eliminate any gender pay gaps within their workplace.

General Data Protection Regulation – The Regulation will be implemented in the UK in May 2018 and will replace the Data Protection Act. With fines up to 20 million or 4% of the annual global turnover for breaching the Regulation, employers must start to review their internal systems and policies this year in order to comply by 2018.

The “Gig Economy” – The digital revolution has driven the emergence and growth of the so-called ‘gig economy’. Many organisations now engage individuals as self-employed contractors to provide goods or services directly to customers.

However, there have been a number of recent cases where there has been an increased recognition of worker status in the ‘gig’ sector. Whilst the question of employment status is fact-sensitive, the boundaries of the current legal tests will continue to be tested and businesses operating under the ‘gig’ model should maintain a watchful eye on any developments that might impact on them in the coming months.

Employing foreign workers – Starting from April 2017, organisations recruiting beyond the borders of the UK and the EEA must be aware of the changes to the Tier 2 category visa.

Whilst sponsoring foreign workers can be an effective way to give a business a competitive edge in the tight labour market, in addition to the increase in the minimum salary threshold for “experienced workers”, an Immigration Skills Charge of £1,000 per migrant, per year will also start to be payable by employers sponsoring foreign workers.

* This article first appeared in the Ward Hadaway Greater Manchester Fastest 50 Awards Supplement 2017.