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The rate of work-related stress and mental health conditions among workers in Great Britain rose to its highest for at least 11 years in 2016-17, reaching 1,610 per 100,000 workers, according to the latest Health and Safety Executive (HSE) injury and ill health statistics.

The figures, which are drawn from the quarterly Labour Force Survey and produced by the Office of National Statistics, show the rate was 6.6% up on the previous year. In total 526,000 workers said they experienced stress, depression or anxiety, up 7% from 488,000 in the previous period and 17% from the 440,000 in 2014-15. There were 236,000 reports of new cases of work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016-17, an incidence rate of 720 per 100,000 workers, up 4.3% on 2015-16 when it was 690.

Stress has overtaken musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) as the most commonly reported work-related illness. There were 1,550 cases of MSDs per 100,000 workers in 2016-17, which attributed to 39% of the 1.3 million workers with a work-related illness. This is lower than in 2015-16 when 1,670 cases per 100,000 workers were reported.

The HSE confirm that the rate of self-reported work-related MSDs has shown a downward trend.

Non-fatal injuries
There were 609,000 non-fatal injuries in 2016-17, 175,000 of which resulted in people taking more than seven days off work.

In the manufacturing industry, the overall rate per 100,000 workers of injuries that led to an absence of more than seven days fell, but concealed a rise in several subcategories. In chemicals manufacturing, for example, the rate per 100,000 rose 10% to 191 and in basic metal production over seven-day injuries increased 7.2% to 697.

Breaking down the stress- related illness figures by sector, the HSE found it was more widespread in public service industries, such as education, health and social care, public administration and defence.

The figures show that men are less likely than women to report a mental health condition. Over the past three years, the average prevalence rate for work-related stress, depression or anxiety for men was 1,170 compared with 1,880 for women per 100,000 workers.

Workplace injuries and ill health cost Britain £14.9bn last year, the HSE said.

Rise in fines
The statistics also revealed that fines handed to dutyholders found guilty of safety and health offences increased by 80% in the 12 months to the end of March 2017 despite a fall in the number of prosecutions.

In 2016-17 – the first full year that the Sentencing Council’s new guidelines for safety and health offences were in place – fines reached £69.9m compared with £38.8m a year earlier.

This is the second consecutive year in which financial penalties have soared. There was a 115.5% rise between 2014-15 (when £18m in fines was collected) and 2015-16. Though total penalties increased, the number of prosecutions brought by the HSE and Scotland’s independent public prosecution service, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, fell after trending upward for several years.

There were 554 cases that resulted in a conviction for at least one offence in 2016-17, the lowest number for five years. There were 672 such cases in 2015-16 and 619 in 2014-15.

Of the 554 cases, 206 were in construction – the highest number for any industry during the period – leading to penalties totalling £15.9m. This figure marks an increase of more than 100% on the 2015-16 figure of £7.9m when 246 cases were convicted.

In manufacturing, fines doubled between 2015-16 and 2016-17, from £12.5m to £25.1m. But the number of cases that resulted in a conviction fell 32% from 210 to 159.

Agriculture was the only industry where total fines were lower in 2016-17 compared with 2014-15. They fell 13% from £823,900 to £712,700.

Some 38 cases resulted in fines over £500,000. The 20 largest fines accounted for £30.7m of the £69.9m total. In 2014-15 – the last full reporting year before the guidelines – five cases were at or above £500,000 and the single largest fine was £750,000.

The HSE and local authorities issued 11,913 enforcement notices in 2016-17, a 5% increase compared with the previous period when 11,380 were served.

Notices issued by the HSE were up 8% from 8,776 to 9,495, while local authorities issued 2,418, down 7% compared with the 2,604 served in 2015-16. Notices issued by local authorities fell yearly between 2012-13 and 2016-17

The Government is considering whether to extend the offence of dangerous driving to cyclists. This follows the death of Kim Briggs, who was hit by a cyclist whose only brake was provided by the fixed rear wheel, illegal on the type of bicycle he was riding. Charlie Allistonn, the cyclist, was convicted of wanton and furious driving but acquitted of manslaughter.

Cycling organisations argue that these sort of incidents are extremely rare, and that a broader review of all road traffic offences may be more appropriate. However, the Transport Secretary has been asked to look at the implications of the case, including whether the offence of dangerous driving should apply to cyclists who pose a danger to other road users.

Following the recent budget there are a number of key points concerning new regulations on Tax & National Insurance Contributions which will affect all HR & Payroll functions within a company. These can be summarised as follows:

· National Minimum Wage: the national living wage, paid to workers aged 25 or over, will rise from £7.50 to £7.83 next April. The other NMW rates will increase as follows:

o Workers aged 21 to 24: £7.38

o Workers aged 18-20: £5.90

o Workers under 18: £4.20

o Apprentices: £3.70.

The accommodation offset allowance will also increase to £7.00 from 1 April 2018.

· Income tax thresholds: the personal tax allowance will rise to £11,850 in April next year and the higher rate threshold will increase to £46,350.

· Company cars: with effect from 6 April 2018, the existing company car tax diesel supplement will increase to 4%, but the increase will only apply to diesel cars that do not meet the latest emissions limits. The fuel benefit charge and the van benefit charge will also both increase by RPI from 6 April 2018. However, the planned increase in fuel duty for petrol and diesel scheduled for April was cancelled, and, from April 2018, there will be no benefit in kind charge on electricity that employers provide to charge employees’ electric vehicles.

· Save as You Earn schemes: from 6 April 2018, employees on maternity and shared parental leave will be able to take a break of up to 12 months from paying into a ‘Save As You Earn’ employee share scheme (a rise from the current six months).

· Childcare vouchers: will no longer be available to new joiners from April. These workers will have access to the Tax-Free Childcare Scheme only.

· Expenses: the Government plans to consult on extending the scope of tax relief currently available to employees and the self-employed for work-related training costs. From April 2019, employers will no longer be required to check receipts when reimbursing employees for subsistence using benchmark scale rates. Improved guidance will be published regarding employee expenses, particularly travel and subsistence and the process for claiming tax relief on non-reimbursed employment expenses.

· National Insurance Contributions Bill: the Treasury has confirmed delays to a number of changes that were expected to take place in April next year. These affect the abolition of Class 2 National Insurance contributions (NICs), reforms to the NIC treatment of termination payments which would have resulted in Class 1A employer National Insurance contributions being payable on termination payments above £30,000, and changes to the NIC treatment of sporting testimonials (under which Class 1A employer National Insurance contributions would be payable on payments above £100,000). The National Insurance Contributions Bill will be introduced in 2018, but the changes will not come into effect until April 2019.
Other changes to the income tax and NICs treatment of termination payments are however still planned to take effect from April 2018. These include income tax and class 1 NIC liability on all payments in lieu of notice and the removal of Foreign Service Relief for employees resident in the UK. The Government confirmed that it will no longer proceed with an increase to the main rate of Class 4 NICs from 9% to 10%.

Changes to living wage rates

Living Wage: the Living Wage Foundation has announced the annual increases to the Living Wage. There are two rates - one for London and one for the rest of the UK, and as from 6 November, these are £10.20 an hour for those working in London, and £8.75 an hour for those working elsewhere. The increases represent a 4.6% rise in London and a 3.6% rise in the rest of the UK.

Note: the Living Wage is a voluntary rate, which is higher than the National Living Wage. It is independently calculated by the Resolution Foundation and overseen by the Living Wage Commission, and takes into account the real cost of living in the UK and London.

The Government has issued new guidance which confirms that employees from the EU who want to remain in the UK after Brexit should be able to do so without needing to become citizens. EU citizens will be able to apply for ‘settled status’ which will allow most EU citizens who have been living here legally for five years to remain. A new “settled status” document will enable them to prove their status and rights to UK authorities, employers, public service providers and others. This will cost around the same as a UK passport, and the Government has also said that the new status will not be refused on minor technicalities. Around three million EU citizens and their families will potentially apply for this new status, and there will be a statutory right to appeal if their application to stay is refused.

Individuals who are already in the country but do not meet the five-year threshold will be able to apply for continued residence on a temporary basis.

The guidance also offers reassurance that EU citizens will not be expected to leave on the day the UK exits the European Union.

HMRC has issued details of the latest Advisory Fuel Rates for company cars. The changes, which take effect from 1 December (although for one month from the date of change, employers may use either the previous or new current rates, as they choose) are to mileage in cars with engine size 1401cc to 2000cc (petrol reduced to 13p, previously 14p; and LPG vehicles reduced to 8p from 9p); over 2000cc, LPG reduced to 13p from 14p; and diesel vehicles over 2000cc (reduced to 12p from 13p).

HR Statistics

Our usual round up of interesting HR statistics:

· Employment: the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reports that the number of people in employment has fallen (for the first time in a year) to just over 32 million. The employment rate of working-age adults fell to 75% from 75.1% in the three months to August. Unemployment was steady at 4.3%, a 42-year low, with 1.42 million people out of work.

· Immigration: the ONS reports that the number of EU citizens working in Britain has risen to a record high. 2.37 million migrants from EU states were employed between July and September, an increase of 112,000 on the same period last year. There are now more citizens of Poland, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia working in Britain than shortly before the referendum.

· Automatic enrolment: with inflation at 3%, rising interest rates and little sign of real wage increases for the majority of workers, there are concerns about a possible increase in opt-out rates once the minimum employee contributions rise from 1% to 3% in April 2018. Employers also face an increase in minimum contributions, from 1% to 2%, which will put pressure on overall pay increases.

· Earnings: the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings found that median gross weekly earnings for full-time employees in the UK are £550 (an increase of 2.2% from 2016). However, when adjusted for inflation, full-time workers’ weekly earnings (excluding bonuses) decreased by 0.4% compared with 2016. Earnings rose by more among the lowest paid workers. Median weekly earnings for full-time employees in the private sector were £532 (up 2.8% on 2016) compared with £599 (up 0.9%) for the public sector. Median weekly earnings for full-time workers are highest in London (£692) and lowest in Wales, North East, Northern Ireland, Yorkshire and The Humber, and East Midlands (all approximately £500).

· Gender pay gap: in April 2017, the gender pay gap based on median hourly earnings for full-time employees decreased to 9.1%, from 9.4% in 2016. This is the lowest since the survey began in 1997. Analysis from the ONS shows that workers in London face the largest gender pay gap - 14.6% in favour of men.

· Older workforce: a new study by the University of Manchester and King’s College London has found that around a quarter of retirees return to work, with most returning within five years. Men were 26% more likely than women to return to paid work following retirement, while people whose partner still worked were 31% more likely to return following retirement than those whose partner did not work. Additionally, those with post-secondary qualifications were almost twice as likely to return to work than those with no qualifications.