New laws that will change the way you live, work and relax will come into force in the new year. Some of these were headline news when they were announced, while others may have passed you by unnoticed. But many of them could have a permanent, lasting impact on the lives of millions of British citizens. Get up to speed here.
1. Stricter immigration rules for working people
You might think that a nurse who has spent the last decade tending to terminally ill British citizens would be considered an asset to our society. But under new legislation that comes into effect from April 2016, she could be deported. If you come from outside the EU and you’ve been working here for more than five years, you must be earning more than £35,000 a year, or else you will be shipped off back to your country of origin.
According to the Royal College of Nursing, nearly 3,500 nurses could be kicked out of the country under the legislation, in a move which could end up costing us nearly £200million. The threshold is far above the average national wage of £22,000.
2. A higher minimum wage
The minimum wage for workers over the age of 25 will increase to £7.20 in April 2016, in the largest real-terms increase since 2007. The increase is part of a move toward a national minimum wage of £9 per hour by 2020.
However, the minimum wage still lags far behind the actual wage needed to live in the UK, which the Living Wage Foundation currently estimates to be £8.25 per hour. And when tax credit cuts and a four-year freeze on working age benefits are taken into account, millions of workers and families will still face a real-terms loss of income in 2016, despite the new legislation.
3. Gender pay gap in workplaces must be reported
At the moment, companies only disclose information about their pay gaps on a voluntary basis, unless forced to do so following an accusation of sexist pay discrimination being brought against them in court. But new legislation rolling out in 2016 will force employers to disclose this information each year.
The exact details of the law are still being finalised, but campaigners are pushing for this information to be shared with workers and trade unions, rather than buried in semi-public end-of-year reports. The overall average pay gap between men and women is currently 19.1%, and amongst part-time workers it is approaching 40%.
4. A new, flat-rate pension
From April 2016, there will be only a single-tier pension. This will be a flat rate paid at £155.65 a week. This replaces the current, lower basic state pension of £115.95, but it also replaces secondary and additional pensions which would normally enable people to top up the basic rate.
An analysis by leading actuarial firm Hymans Robertson found that most people would lose out under the new regulations. Though she criticised this assessment as “scaremongering”, minister Ros Altmann admitted that even the government projected that 25% of people would be worse off under the new pension scheme.
5. …and smaller vapes and e-cigarettes
If Britain in 2016 could be incarnated into a single body, it would be that of a young man gliding down a high street on a “hoverboard” and puffing on a vape. But new EU legislation could see vapes and e-cigs disappearing from our public spaces.
The maximum size of refill containers and cartridges is now being limited (to 10ml for a refill container and 2ml for the cartridge slotted into the e-cig itself), while the maximum nicotine strength is being limited to 20mg (about the same as a strong cigarette). Meanwhile, the EU is reserving the right to ban the devices outright if three or more member states decide they are harmful enough to be made illegal. Depending on who you listen to, e-cigs are either a God-given health tool that could save millions of smokers’ lives or just another pointless, lethal cash cow for the smoking industry to milk. 2016 could see the EU making the decision for you.
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