Minimum wages, smoking, 'fit for work' and modern slavery: what's new for October?

17 September 2015

Minimum Wage increase
October is always the busiest time for implementing employment law changes and one of the regular features is an increase in minimum wages. This time it's 20p an hour for adult workers bringing it up to £6.70. It is of course a minimum requirement and good employers should also keep an eye on moves towards a 'living wage' in their forward planning.

Smoking in cars
Anyone providing or using a company car needs to be sure that guidelines are revised and respected because drivers of private cars in England may not smoke in them if carrying children under 18 as passengers. This mirrors the situation in Wales while a similar ban will follow in Scotland.

Fit For Work
Health issues of every sort are now a key competent on employment law, with the Fit For Work programme aiming to get employees referred for a free occupational health assessment if they have been absent from work for at least four weeks. It's not mandatory on either side but is a useful tool that has already been working in Scotland and becomes generally available this autumn. The idea is to provide a plan that leads to a return to work at the most opportune moment. And there is no need for a fit note once the programme is being followed.

Modern slavery
Slaving over a hot PC? Most bosses deny being slave drivers yet that may not be the case elsewhere in the supply chain. Now, businesses with a turnover in excess of £36 million must publish a modern slavery statement every year. The company website has to signpost it – even if it states 'no action taken'.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires 'transparency in the supply chain' and refers to forced or compulsory labour, servitude or human trafficking. The decision on what steps to be taken to combat these issues has to be made at the highest level, usually by the CEO and directors. This includes advising staff how and when to be vigilant. Should it extend to inspecting working conditions of garment workers in Asia before placing a staff uniform contract? Checking that casual staff are not sent by an agency complicit in trafficked labour? Or even trying to find out whether unpaid child labourers are hauling sacks of coffee down South American hillsides before making canteen purchases? Eventually, employers will be judged on what they have done and the annual statement is one step in the process.

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