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Employment law update for GP practices

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It seems that hardly a day goes by without a new piece of employment legislation being considered, challenged, or brought into legislation in the UK. For the GP practice manager, keeping on top of UK employment law is a job in itself. Yet if you don't, you could be leaving the practice open to being taken to an employment tribunal or worse.

In this article, I'll update you on the latest changes in the employment law landscape and provide links to more information.

Pay attention to pay

National minimum wage, voluntary living wage, and gender pay gap reporting are hot topics right now. Let's start with how much you should be paying as a minimum:

  • If your employee is of school leaving age (under 18) you're obliged to pay £4.00 per hour (£4.05 from April 2017)
  • Employees between the age of 18 and 20 must be paid £5.55 an hour (£5.60 from April 2017)
  • Between the ages of 21 and 24, an employee is entitled to a wage of £6.95 per hour (£7.05 from April 2017)
  • At 25 and over, your employee must be paid £7.20 an hour (£7.50 from April 2017)

The bracketed values indicate the changes introduced in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement in November.

National minimum wages are reviewed every October. Those are the wages paid to all employees aged 24 and under. The national living wage is paid to those aged 25 and over. If that's not confusing enough, there are two other wages that can be paid:

  • Apprentices aged under 19 or aged 19 or older and in their first year of apprenticeship are entitled to £3.40 per hour
  • If yours is a business that has signed up to the voluntary living wage, then the rate of pay is £8.45 per hour

More information:

National minimum wages – government pages

National living wage information

Voluntary living wage – news from 'People Management'

The apprenticeship levy

Now that I've mentioned pay for apprentices, you should be aware of the new apprenticeship levy scheme, which comes into force in April next year in England. The main points are:

  • If your wage bill is higher than £3 million (and this includes all wages, bonuses, commissions, and pension contributions that are subject to Class 1 secondary NICs), you will be obliged to pay the apprenticeship levy.
  • If your wage bill is less than £3 million, you won't pay the levy but you can draw from it.
  • Any payments into the scheme are effectively held for the benefit of the company paying in, but are lost if they haven't been used within 24 months. At this time, the government will reclaim those funds.
  • If your company has paid money in, that money can only be used to provide apprenticeship training.

The apprenticeship levy is charged at 0.5% of your wage bill, with an allowance of £15,000 (which is why the payments start for those companies with a wage bill of more than £3 million).

More information:

How apprenticeship funding works – government pages

Apprenticeship levy factsheet

Gender Pay Gap Reporting

In efforts to eliminate the gender pay gap, the government will be introducing gender pay gap reporting with a view to producing gender pay reports in April 2018. There have been a number of initiatives to close the gender pay gap, and reporting and publishing pay by gender is seen as a practice that will force employees to pay men and women equally.

You should take steps to understand what data you need to report, in order to be prepared for mandatory obligations that may become mandatory in the public sector in early 2017. You may want to carry out a pay audit ahead of the reporting period, benchmark against other GP practices, and build a strategy to address any gender pay gap.

More information:

Gender pay gap reporting consultations – government pages

Advice on gender pay gap reporting – from ACAS

Gender pay gap reporting in the public sector – HR Law Live

Foreign-born workers

Amber Rudd's proposal that employers should reveal how many of their employees are foreigners sent shock waves through the healthcare sector in particular. Whilst the proposal has since been watered down, it has served to focus attention on foreign workers in the GP practice.

You should always undertake a background check to ensure that an employee is fit to perform the duties required. They should have the necessary qualifications and experience. Prospective employees from outside the EU will need specific work permits, and all foreign healthcare workers will need to be registered to perform healthcare work.

More information:

New employees from abroad – government pages (including an online tool to check an employee's legal right to work in the UK)

I hope that this blog post has helped you with the most common conversations that we hear around the topic of employment law in GP practices. If there are any issues you'd like discussed, or best practices you use that would benefit other GP practices, please feel free to drop the team a line.

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