It’s been a rather strange twelve months from an employment point of view.
Brexit implications and the impact of COVID-19 have dominated employment issues this year. Because of that, the details of the Government’s manifesto in relation to changes to employment law can sometimes be overlooked.
The manifesto included promises to:
- Enhance employment rights
- A new points-based immigration system
- Take forward the recommendations made in Matthew Taylor’s Good Work Review
- Extended family-friendly employment rights
- Proposals to raise the level of the National Living Wage
Although specific detail in relation to the above is minimal, a general statement of intent suggests that some new form of employment regulation will be forthcoming over the next couple of years. Until the UK has left the EU all the major EU employment laws still apply.
Statutory Developments This Year
- Increases to redundancy and unfair dismissal compensation limits
- Increases to the rates of SSP, SMP and other benefits
- Increases to National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage
Parental bereavement leave
The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018, entitling most parents of children who die before their 18th birthday to at least two weeks’ paid bereavement leave, came into effect in April 2020. The right is to the paid leave for employees who have completed 26 weeks’ service. The right applies to parents of stillborn babies once 24 weeks of pregnancy have elapsed.
Written statements of terms and conditions
The most significant new regulation that came into effect relates to the requirement to provide written statements of terms and conditions.
All workers and employees, even if they are only going to be working for the employer for a short time, now need to be provided with a statement of their main terms and conditions in writing. This must now be provided on or before the first day of employment.
The additional information relates to:
- how variable pay is calculated
- details of all benefits provided in addition to pay
- periods of probation
- mandatory training that must be completed and who pays for this
- any paid leave that is available in addition to annual leave
There is no statutory requirement in the new regulations to update statements of terms and conditions that were issued to employees prior to 6 April 2020 although if an updated version is requested, this must be provided within a month.
In the case of self-employed people, who will not receive a statement by right, it may trigger a demand for one and classification as a worker or employee.
Calculating holiday pay
From April the reference period to be used when calculating holiday pay when workers are employed to work variable hours or have worked variable patterns of hours, increased from 12 to 52 weeks.
There is no immediate requirement to update written policies or contracts where the established 12-week reference period is mentioned but it would make sense to do so over time to ensure clarity.
The abolition in the UK of the so-called ‘Swedish derogation’ is another change that was recommended in the Taylor review.
This is a method used to deny agency workers their rights under the terms of the EU’s Agency Workers Directive and the Agency Workers Regulations 2011. It means that agency workers do not have the basic right to equal treatment with directly employed colleagues after 12 weeks’ work if their agency pays them a retainer in between assignments.
Not only is this now unlawful, but many agency workers are also now entitled to receive a statement of terms and conditions detailing their contractual entitlements.
Information and consultation rights
Under the terms of the EU’s Information and Consultation of Employees Regulations 2004 (ICE regulations), groups of employees in workplaces with over 50 employees have the right to ‘be informed and consulted’ about the business including employment issues.
Until 6 April 2020, the right only applied when either 10% (or 15) made a formal request. This has now gone down to 2%.
Extension of IR35 to the private sector
In 2017 major changes were made to taxation arrangements for people who provide services to public sector organisations through personal service companies. This means that when someone is an ‘employee’, they have no longer been able to be paid as if they were an independent contractor via invoices. They now must be paid through a payroll along with all other employees.
The aim was to extend the changes to all employers from April 2020 but in March the government announced it would be postponing the roll-out until 6 April 2021.
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