News in Brief March 2015 Budget 2015: What does it mean for HR? The Chancellor George Osborne delivered the Budget on 18th March 2015. This article provides summary of the key areas HR professionals need to be aware of: personal tax allowance will rise to £10,600 from April 2015 and to £ £10,800 from April 2016 rising to £11,000 allowance from April 2017. The increase in tax free allowance represents a tax cut for 27 million people which means 4 million of the lowest paid will pay no tax. The Chancellor added that: “the typical working taxpayer will be over £900 a year better off.” The National Minimum Wage will increase by 20p to £6.70 per hour from 1st October 2015 and the apprenticeship rate will rise by an unprecedented 57p. The Chancellor also added that employment levels in the UK are at an all-time high of 73 per cent and unemployment fell to 1.86 million people. But critics said that much of this jobs growth was in low-paid or insecure work such as zero hours contracts, people setting up their own businesses, or that the majority of posts were in London. Mark Beatson, chief economist for the CIPD said that the government was right to cheer the rise in employment but that “it’s astonishing that productivity wasn’t referenced even once in the chancellor’s speech, and yet this is the biggest challenge that the economy and businesses face now.” Number of women on board increases to 25% According to the latest Women on Boards Annual Report of the Davies Review, the proportion of female board members in FTSE 100 companies now stands at 23.5 per cent, marginally short of this year’s target of 25 per cent. The government report found that there were now 263 female directors in FTSE 100 companies, meaning a further 17 women need to be appointed this year to meet the 25 per cent target. Business secretary Vince Cable said that this achievement needs to be celebrated and that “FTSE 100 boards have made enormous progress in the last four years, almost doubling female representation to just shy of 25 per cent.” But Dr Elena Doldor, co-author of the report, said she expected women's representation on boards to stagnate at about 28 per cent. She described that there were still not enough women on executive committees and that “introducing aspirational and measurable targets for women at all levels is the only way to achieve real progress." However, this news comes at a time when a report from the UN’s International Labour Organization showed that the income of female workers across the world will lag behind men’s for another 70 years. But under a change to a law to be debated this month in the UK parliament, firms will have to reveal differences between average pay for male and female employees. Companies with more than 250 employees that don't comply with the new rules could face fines of up to £5,000. Research finds positive link between ‘collective voice’ and employee well-being Research by Royal Holloway, Warwick Business School, Unite, University of London and Cass Business School has shown that having a union representative in the workplace can reduce employees’ stress levels, improve their work-life balance, and increase their overall well-being. More than 3,000 people across 174 companies were surveyed for the report and researchers found that respondents’ perception of job quality were more favourable in organisations where an onsite representative was present. Professor Kim Hoque, of Warwick Business School, joint author of the report, said: “having a union representative on site seems to help improve workers job quality; this could be an important finding for companies looking to improve productivity as well as conditions for workers.” He also pointed out that previous research had shown that higher level of collective voice inside an organisation had led to higher levels of job quality and that any attempts to weaken the rights of union representatives inside an organisation could be damaging.