There have been a flurry of reports during the summer highlighting a worrying trend in mothers facing discrimination whilst on or returning from maternity leave. In June 2016 a report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that around one in nine mothers of those surveyed (11%) reported that they had been dismissed, made compulsorily redundant or treated so poorly that they felt they had to leave following returning from maternity leave.
This was followed by an analysis by Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) which showed a significant rise in women seeking advice from the CAB on maternity leave and discrimination issues, rising by 58% in the last two years. In the past year alone the CAB has provided support for 2,000 discrimination cases related to maternity and pregnancy.
In August 2016 the Women and Equalities House of Commons Select Committee called for UK women to have protections similar to those in Germany after a ‘shocking’ increase in workplace pregnancy discrimination over the past decade.
The Committee’s report observed that it was persuaded that additional protection from redundancy for new and expectant mothers is required and recommended that the government should implement a system under which women throughout pregnancy and maternity leave and for six months afterwards can be made redundant only in specified circumstances. The
government has said it will consider the recommendations carefully.
Finally, the EHRC announced in September 2016 that a number of employers, including Barclays and Royal Mail have joined the Working forward – supporting pregnancy and maternity rights initiative, which aims to remove discrimination against pregnant women and mothers. The initiative members will share knowledge, experience and good practice.
Public Sector Pay Reporting
In August the government commenced a consultation on extending mandatory gender pay reporting to the public sector. The government had previously announced its intention to introduce the same approach for public sector employers as is planned for those in the private and voluntary sectors.
These pay reporting obligations would apply to specified public sector bodies that employ 250 or more staff. It is proposed those employers will be required to publish pay data by gender, including their overall mean and median pay gap.
It is expected that the timeframe for public sector bodies to start complying with these new duties will be the same as for the private and voluntary sectors, which means they will be required to capture their first set of gender pay gap data in April 2017 and to publish the information before April 2018.
The consultation ended on 30 September 2016.
ACAS has introduced new guidance to assist line managers in developing productivity and efficiency. The guidance can be found here.
Taxation of termination payments
On 10 August 2016, the government confirmed that from April 2018 it intends to simplify the taxation of termination payments by removing the distinction between contractual and non-contractual payments in lieu of notice (PILONs), so that all PILONs will be treated as earnings subject to income tax, employer NICs and employee NICs.
The government will maintain the existing exemption from income tax and employer and employee NICs for termination payments up to the current threshold of £30,000 but will align the rules for income tax and employer NICs so that employer NICs will be payable on payments above the £30,000 threshold.
Review of Salary sacrifice schemes
The government commenced a consultation on 10 August 2016 in which it is proposing to bring in new rules, effective from 6 April 2017, to subject any benefits in kind provided by way of salary sacrifice to both Income Tax and NICs (even if it is normally exempt from tax and NICs) at the greater of the amount of the salary sacrificed or the cash equivalent/P11D value (if any).
Certain benefits in kind, such as pension contributions, employer supported childcare and cycling equipment will continue to be exempt. However, other schemes that enable employees to receive certain benefits in kind, such as audio visual equipment, white goods and gym equipment by way of salary sacrifice, will be affected.
It is unclear whether the taxation changes, if they are introduced, would affect schemes already in operation but it would be advisable for employers to work on the basis that all such schemes will be taxable from the implementation date, which is likely to be 6 April 2017.
The consultation ends on 19 October 2016.
ET quarterly statistics
The ET quarterly statistics show that between April and June 2016:
- 4,200 single claims were lodged (3% fewer single claims for the same period in 2015)
- 11,600 multiple claims were lodged (38% increase in the same period in 2015)
- The average (mean) award for unfair dismissal claims was £12,362 and £23,478 in sex discrimination claims and £17,319 in disability discrimination claims
- 64% of remission applications for the issue fee were fully or partially successful (12% higher than in the same period in 2015) and 86% of hearing fee remission applications were successful (2% higher than the same period in 2015)
- The EAT received 970 appeals (20% fewer than in 2014/15) reflecting the overall
drop in ET claims.
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