Employment Review: January 2017

In our first newsletter of 2017, we look ahead to what developments to expect in Employment Law this year and set out some key dates for the HR diary. We also consider a case involving the question of employers' vicarious liability following an assault which took place after a company Christmas party. Finally, we look at a notable case concerning the status of "stress" and at new powers for immigration officers to take punitive actions against employers that repeatedly breach UK immigration laws

What to expect in Employment Law in 2017 Tax-free childcare scheme A tax-free childcare scheme has now been introduced and is being rolled out gradually to families throughout 2017, with parents of the youngest children able to apply first. Families where both parents work and each parent earns less than £100,000 per year will be eligible to receive 20% of their yearly childcare costs.

National Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage

The national living wage (for workers who are aged 25 and over) will rise from £7.20 to £7.50 on 1 April 2017. The national minimum wage for workers aged at least 21 but under 25 will rise from £6.95 to £7.05 per hour. The rate for workers who are aged at least 18 but under 21 will rise from £5.55 to £5.60 per hour, the rate for workers aged 16 or 17 will rise from £4 to £4.05 per hour, and the apprentice rate will increase from £3.40 to £3.50 per hour.

Gender pay gap reporting

This is a subject we have covered in detail in previous bulletins. Employers' duties under gender pay gap reporting will commence on 5 April 2017. The reporting requirements will apply to employers with 250 or more employees in the private and voluntary sectors.

Apprenticeship levy

An apprentice levy is to be introduced on 6 April 2017. Large employers (those who have an annual wage bill of more than £3 million) will have to pay a levy of 0.5% of their wage bill to fund apprenticeships.

Income tax allowances and thresholds

On 6 April 2017 the personal income tax allowance will rise to £11,500 and the higher rate of tax threshold will rise to £45,000.


The lower earnings limit for national insurance contributions will increase on 6 April 2017 to £113 per week.

Auto enrolment

The automatic enrolment earnings trigger for 2017/18 will remain fixed at £10,000.

Statutory payments

The Government plans to increase weekly payments for statutory sick, maternity, paternity, shared parental and adoption pay from 2 April 2017 to the following amounts

  • Statutory Sick Pay - £89.35 Statutory Maternity Pay - £140.98 Statutory Paternity Pay - £140.98 Statutory Shared Parental Pay - £140.98 Statutory Adoption Pay - £140.98

  • Tier 2 migrant workers In April 2017 the salary threshold for sponsoring workers under tier 2 of the points-based system increases to £30,000. 

  • An immigration skills charge will also be introduced in April 2017 which will mean that employers that employ migrant workers under tier 2 will be subject to a levy of £1,000 per certificate of sponsorship per year

Employer was not vicariously liable for assault Comment Employers may be able to escape liability in such circumstances but it will depend on the facts of a particular case. It is difficult to reconcile this case with a recent Supreme Court decision which appeared to suggest a broader application of the 'close connection' test to incidents of assault by an employee.

Employers should exercise caution as this decision does not change the law, nor does it establish that post-Christmas party drinks are outside the scope of employment for vicarious liability purposes. The case therefore provides a reminder to companies that they could be held responsible for improper behaviour at works events, especially where alcohol is flowing freely.Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Ltd [2016] EWHC 3104 (QB

Does long-term stress amount to a disability?


Whilst the decision confirms that stress in itself does not meet the necessary criteria to qualify as a disability under the Equality Act, employers should still be aware that sick notes referring to conditions such as "stress" or "anxiety" may be evidence of symptoms of an underlying disability such as depression.

If in any doubt, employers should seek further medical input and legal guidance on this issue.

Herry v Dudley Metropolitan Council UKEAT/0100/16/L

Illegal Working Compliance Orders Regulations 2016

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.