Private healthcare – competition

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The CMA published a finding on 10 November 2015 that lack of price competition is harming private healthcare customers.  It expects to publish its final report and any decision on remedies by March 2016.  Watch out for further briefings on this.

Public sector exit payments  

Following the Treasury's July consultation on capping payments made to public sector employees on exiting their employment contracts, the Enterprise Bill 2015/16 has passed all stages of the House of Lords and had its first reading in the Commons.  One of its provisions will allow regulations to be made to cap public sector exit payments at a £95,000.  The Bill is expected to be passed and introduced into law this year.

Contracts

Junior doctors are still preparing to strike over reforms to their contracts, but a new contract for consultants is in the pipeline, a deal having been negotiated by NHS Employers and the BMA.  The vote on the deal is expected to take place next month.  The deal is said to be cost neutral, with some consultants gaining and some losing out, but it is designed to help hospitals have more consultants available in evenings and at weekends.

National Living Wage

A new National Living Wage (NLW) was George Osborne's 'rabbit out of the hat' announced in the July 2015 Budget, surprising many businesses and commentators.  It will undoubtedly affect many providers of care services.  A recent Government survey showed that most employers are not yet ready for the NLW. Even employers currently paying around £7.20 per hour could be caught out by the changes. With less than 3 months to go, what do employers need to know about this and other changes to the National Minimum Wage this year? 

The NLW is unrelated to the 'Living Wage'. The NLW is being introduced by the Government as a compulsory change affecting all employers, whilst the 'Living Wage' is a voluntary rate of pay championed by the Living Wage Foundation. The new NLW will be £7.20 from 1 April 2016, whereas the Living Wage is currently set at £9.40 per hour for London and £8.25 outside London.

The NLW is effectively a new, additional rate of the National Minimum Wage (NMW). This means that the enforcement regime and all the rules about which payments count towards the NMW will apply in the same way to the NLW. The draft National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2016 published in December set out the new rate, as well as the existing rates of the NMW which remain the same.   They also dramatically increase the financial penalty for underpayments of the NMW from 100% to 200% of the arrears due to the worker for pay reference periods beginning on or after 1 April 2016. For further information, please see our article here. 

Top employment law cases in 2015: for our digest of the most significant cases, please click here.