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Scottish Hospitality Employers: Do You Know Changes Are Coming?

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Scottish Hospitality Employers: Do You Know Changes Are Coming?

August 18
09:05 2015

Laura Morrison CROPPEDAs employers in the food and drink sector mull over the business implications of the changes to the National Minimum Wage and proposed reform of strike laws, Laura Morrison looks at what’s on the horizon.

What are the UK Government’s plans to reform employment law?

The Conservative administration has set its sights on Britain’s strike laws, including plans to ensure a ballot on industrial action can only be successful if at least half the workforce has voted for it.

Crucially for employers in the tourism and leisure sector, where strikes are often planned to hit the peak season, the Government has launched a consultation on the possible repeal of the prohibition on hiring agency workers to cover striking employees, as well as tackling intimidation of non-striking staff, all of which could make it easier for hotels, pubs and restaurants to stay open in the event of a strike. The reforms also include a four-month time limit on a union’s mandate to strike following a ballot.

Meanwhile, a new Immigration Bill will also hold consequences for some employers in the catering and tourism sector who have come to rely on skills imported from overseas. Essentially, the Government wants to ban businesses from hiring workers from abroad without first advertising a job in the UK.

Those that persist in using foreign labour will be subject to a ‘skills levy’, which will help to fund three million new apprenticeships.

How will employers be affected by the summer Budget?

The Chancellor’s Emergency Budget saw the announcement of a new National Living Wage for workers over the age of 25. Effectively a new and considerably higher minimum wage to be introduced next year, it will start at £7.20 per hour in April 2016 and is set to reach £9.00 per hour by 2020.

Also announced this summer, although not in the Budget, was a requirement for companies with more than 250 employees to publish the difference in pay between male and female workers.

What about plans in the other parties’ manifestos?

Before May’s election, both Labour and the Liberal Democrats promised to review the system of Employment Tribunal fees introduced by the last government, but the Conservatives were silent on the matter. However, a review on the impact of the fees regime is ongoing and its expected publication later this year could bring the matter back onto the agenda. There is also a legal challenge to the fees by the union Unison currently going through the courts, so a change could yet be forced on the Government.

Could ‘Brexit’ see the Human Rights Act being abolished?

The much-anticipated referendum on the UK’s EU membership is set to take place by the end of 2017 and creates significant uncertainty for many businesses. While the full implications of a ‘Brexit’ are far from clear, it would pave the way for change in the many employment law provisions brought about by the EU. Widespread reform is unlikely, however. Europe will remain our biggest export market and any free trade agreement to facilitate access to it is likely to include minimum employment standards.

The other big change mooted before the election – the introduction of a British Bill of Rights, which might in time replace the Human Rights Act – is still at a consultation phase.

However, even if the Human Rights Act were abolished, it is unlikely that a new Bill of Rights would significantly impact UK employment law.

Laura Morrison is an employment lawyer with Maclay Murray & Spens LLP and is a member of the firm’s Food and Drink team.


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Catering Scotland

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