Various changes to employment law and pensions come into effect from next month. Detailed below are some of the main changes likely to affect those in the rural sector.

Increased national minimum wage rates

The following national minimum wage hourly rates will be effective from 1 April 2019:

  • The national living wage (workers aged 25 and over) will be £8.21.
  • The standard adult rate (workers aged 21-24) will be £7.70.
  • The development rate (workers aged 18-20) will be £6.15.
  • The young workers rate (workers aged 16 and 17 who are not apprentices) will be £4.35.
  • The apprentice rate (apprentices under 19, or aged 19 or over and in first year of the apprenticeship) will be £3.90.

Increased agricultural workers' wage rates

Scottish agricultural workers are entitled be paid the higher of the national minimum wage or the rates agreed by the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board annually. The following rates have been set by the Board as effective from 1 April 2019:

  • Hourly rate of £8.21 (equal to the national living wage) for all workers regardless of age and how long they have worked for the employer.
  • An hourly rate of £5.30 for new agricultural apprentices undertaking an SCQF Level 4 or 5 or equivalent in Agriculture/Horticulture.
  • An additional sum of £1.25 per hour for workers with 26 weeks' service and appropriate qualifications/certified experience.
  • Overtime rates:
    • for workers during the first 26 weeks of employment starts after 48 hours is worked in the week, at the rate of 1.5 times the agreed hourly rate;
    • for workers after 26 weeks continuous employment starts after 39 hours is worked in the week, at the rate of 1.5 times the agreed hourly rate.
  • Dog allowance increases to £6.24 per working dog, up to a maximum of four.

New statutory rates

  • The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal will increase to £86,444 (from £83,682). Consequently, for any dismissals which take effect on or after 6 April 2019, the cap on the compensatory award will be the lower of £86,444 or 52 weeks' pay.
  • The limit on a week's pay used to calculate certain statutory payments and provisions will rise to £525 (from £508). As a result, the maximum basic award / statutory redundancy payment will be £15,750 from April.
  • Statutory sick pay will increase to £94.25 per week (from £92.05) from 6 April 2019.
  • Statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay will increase from £145.18 to £146.68 per week from 7 April 2019. Maternity allowance will increase to £146.68 from 8 April 2019.

Itemised payslips

As regards pay for work on or after 6 April 2019:

  • Employers will need to provide all workers (not just employees) with an itemised pay statement.
  • If a worker's pay varies by reference to time worked, their payslip must show the total number of hours worked in respect of the variable amount of pay either as (i) a single aggregate figure, or (ii) separate figures for different types of work or different rates of pay. Here is the government guidance which contains some case studies.

A worker who thinks that they have not received a payslip, or that their payslip lacks the required information, may bring a claim. If the tribunal agrees, it must make a declaration to this effect. It may also order repayment of unnotified deductions made in the 13 weeks preceding the presentation of the claim, even where the employer was otherwise entitled to make the deductions. This is separate from any liability for unlawful deduction of wages.

Brexit: settled status

Eligible EU citizens with a valid passport, as well as their non-EU citizen family members with a valid biometric residence card, can already apply for settled immigration status under the EU Settlement Scheme. The process is intended to be fully operational by the end of March 2019.

Find out more in our previous blog Settled status: what do employers need to know?

Pensions: auto-enrolment changes

From 6 April 2019, the minimum contribution to auto-enrolment workplace pensions is increasing from its current 5% to 8%, of qualifying earnings (theband of qualifying earnings for the 2019/20 tax year is between £6,136 and £50,00).

The 8% is to be made up of employer and employee contribution, with employers' minimum contributions set at 3% (up from 2%), though it is possible for the employer to pay a higher amount (including the full 8% minimum, or more). The employee then makes up the balance of contribution to the minimum 8% - so if the employer makes the statutory minimum contribution, the employee will pay the remaining 5%. If the employer pays more than the minimum 3%, then the employee contribution can decrease accordingly.

My thanks go to our employment team whose blog here provided the prompt for (along with much of the content of!) this post. The team manage Brodies Workbox, our online HR and employment law site, where you can access more information on developments, along with 250+ template contracts, policies, letters and forms, and comprehensive employment law guidance in a straightforward FAQ format. If you would like a free trial of Workbox, please get in touch.