Employment Law General Update – November 2023

This month’s employment law updates cover various critical issues. The Work and Pensions Committee seeks input on statutory sick pay, while the Government has published its response to the EU employment law consultations. The Home Office updates illegal working penalty guidelines, and we have Government guidance on the handling labour unions before strikes. The TUC’s data on the disability pay gap underscores the importance of inclusivity, and a WoRC report examines systemic factors in the exploitation of migrant workers. Stay informed for compliance in this evolving employment landscape.

  • Sick Pay: Work and Pensions Committee publishes call for evidence on statutory sick pay
  • Retained EU Employment Law: Government response to consultation and new draft regulations available
  • Immigration: Home Office publishes updated code of practice on illegal working penalties
  • Trade Unions: Government publishes guidance on issuing work notices ahead of strike action
  • Disability: TUC publishes latest data on disability pay gap
  • Immigration: WoRC report looks at systemic drivers of UK migrant worker exploitation

 Sick Pay: Work and Pensions Committee publishes call for evidence on statutory sick pay

The Work and Pensions Committee has issued a call for evidence on statutory sick pay (SSP), requesting the public views and ability to submit evidence until Friday, 8 December 2023. The Work and Pensions Select Committee calls for this inquiry to assess the existing ‘effectiveness of SSP in supporting claimants and if SSP should be reformed to better enable a recipient’s recovery and return to work’.

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Retained EU Employment Law: Government response to consultation and new draft regulations available

Retained EU Employment Law consultation response

The government has officially released its response to the ‘Retained EU Employment Law’ consultation, addressing proposed reforms within the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) related to annual leave, holiday pay calculations, and record-keeping requirements. Additionally, it responded to the consultation concerning the annual leave entitlement calculation for part-year and irregular hours workers in light of the Supreme Court’s Harpur Trust v Brazel 2022 ICR 1380 decision.

The government has proposed the introduction of a ‘rolled-up’ holiday pay system for irregular hours and part-year workers and allow for an annual leave accrual method of 12.07% of hours worked for these groups. This means that instead of receiving a separate payment when taking annual leave, certain workers, specifically those with irregular hours or part-year employment (which may include agency workers), will get an extra amount added to their regular pay.

However, the government has decided not to proceed with the idea of creating a single annual leave entitlement that combines the ‘basic’ and ‘additional’ annual leave entitlements into a single 5.6-week entitlement (i.e. four weeks required by EU law and the 1.6 weeks mandated by the Working Time Regulations). Instead, they want to maintain two separate “pots” of annual leave with two different pay rates. This means that workers will still receive four weeks of leave at their normal pay rate and 1.6 weeks at a basic pay rate.

Additionally, the government plans to pass laws to make it clearer what should be included in the calculation of normal remuneration for holiday pay. They are also considering more significant changes to how holiday pay rates are determined.

In response to the Harpur Trust ruling, the initial proposal suggested using a 52-week reference period to calculate annual leave entitlement. However, many people raised concerns about the extra work this would create and the challenges it posed for workers whose hours changed from year to year or for those in their first year of employment.

To keep things simpler, the government has opted for a different approach. They will use an accrual method to figure out annual leave entitlement, where workers get 12.07% of the hours they’ve worked in a specific pay period. This method was commonly used before the Harpur Trust decision and better reflects the hours a worker has actually worked in the current year. For other workers in their first year of employment, things will remain the same. They will continue to accrue annual leave by receiving 1/12th of their statutory entitlement on the first day of each month and adjusting it accordingly.

The response also mentions that the government will maintain certain EU case laws to protect workers’ rights regarding carrying over unused annual leave when they can’t take it due to maternity, family-related leave, or being sick. They will also introduce a way for irregular hours and part-year workers to accrue annual leave when they’ve had periods of maternity, family-related leave, or sickness.

Additionally, the government will proceed with changes to record-keeping requirements in the Working Time Regulations (WTR). This change clarifies that businesses do not have to keep daily records of how many hours each worker works. This clarification aims to address concerns that a previous ruling by the European Court of Justice might have required employers to track the exact daily hours worked by each employee, rather than maintaining adequate and proportionate records based on the workplace and working patterns.

Regarding TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings), the government will move forward with its proposal to simplify consultation obligations during a transfer. Small businesses (with fewer than 50 employees) will be allowed to directly consult with employees if there are no existing employee representatives, avoiding the need to organize elections for new representatives. Additionally, businesses of any size can directly consult with employees (if there are no existing representatives) when a transfer involves fewer than ten employees.Top of Form

Draft Regulations

The Department of Business and Trade has published the draft Equality Act 2010 (Amendment) Regulations 2023. The draft SI restates some protections in relation to pregnancy, maternity and breastfeeding, indirect discrimination, access to employment and occupation, equal pay and the definition of disability which would otherwise be lost from 1 January 2024 under the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Act 2023 (REUL(RR)A 2023).

These draft regulations are proposed to reproduce in domestic law certain interpretive effects of retained EU law which, under REUL(RR)A 2023, will cease to apply to the UK statute book after the end of 2023. This will mean that, in the areas covered by this instrument, the law will continue to have the same effect after the end of 2023 as it did before. They are due to come into force on 1 January 2024.

The draft Employment Rights (Amendment, Revocation and Transitional Provision) Regulations 2023 will amend the Working Time Regulations 1998 (in relation to record-keeping, paid holiday for irregular hours workers and part-year workers, normal pay, and the carrying forward of paid holiday) and the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (in relation to information and consultation obligations on small businesses for transfers on or after 1 July 2024) and revoke the European Cooperative Society (Involvement of Employees) Regulations 2006. They are due to come into force on 1 January 2024.

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Immigration: Home Office publishes updated code of practice on illegal working penalties

The Home Office has published a new draft Code of Practice on the civil penalty schemes for employers (preventing illegal working). The draft is an update to the version published in March 2022 and will be the sixth version of the code. This latest version of the code will be applied to all right to work checks from 22 January 2024 including where a follow-up check is required to maintain a statutory excuse, even if the initial check was undertaken using a previous version of the code which was current at the time.

The draft code has been amended further to the issue of draft Statutory Instruments (SIs) which will raise the starting point for penalties to £45,000 for a breach (if there are no previous breaches in the last three years) and £60,000 for repeated breaches. The draft codes will come into force at the same time as the related SIs, which are: (Employment of Adults Subject to Immigration Control) (Maximum Penalty) (Amendment) Order 2023 and the Immigration (Restrictions on Employment and Residential Accommodation) (Codes of Practice) (Amendment) Order 2023. These are each stated to come into force on 22 January 2024, or, if later, on the twenty-first day after the day on which it is made. However, the code assumes 22 January 2024 as a commencement date.

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Trade Unions: Government publishes guidance on issuing work notices ahead of strike action

The Department of Business and Trade has published guidance for employers, trade unions and workers on issuing work notices ahead of strike action. Work notices, which were introduced under the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Act 2023, allow employers to require a workforce to meet minimum service levels for an upcoming strike period where the trade union has given notice to the employer of the strike and the employer provides a service covered by minimum service level regulations.

The new guidance is designed to be read alongside the government’s range of guidance on industrial action which can be found here.

The guidance covers:

  • the purpose of a work notice and the steps for preparing it;
  • considerations when preparing a work notice;
  • considerations upon deciding to issue a work notice;
  • consulting with trade unions;
  • guidance on producing a work notice;
  • guidance on notifying workers of a notice;
  • duties on workers and trade unions following issue of a work notice;
  • data protection issues.

The full guidance can be found here.

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Disability: TUC publishes latest data on disability pay gap

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has published new analysis [TUC slams “zero progr<a id=”back”></a>ess” on disability pay gap in last decade | TUC] of the pay gap between non-disabled and disabled workers. According to data from the TUC, the pay gap is currently higher than it was 10 years ago, with non-disabled workers earning approximately 14.6% more than disabled workers.

The key findings of the analysis include:

  • the pay gap is only marginally lower than it was when the TUC launched disability Pay Gap Day in 2016/17;
  • disabled women face the biggest pay penalty with non-disabled men earning an average of 30% more;
  • the industry with the biggest pay gap is financial and industrial services which currently stands at 33.2%;
  • disabled workers are twice as likely to be unemployed than non-disabled workers;
  • one in 10 BME disabled workers are unemployed compared to nearly one in 40 white non-disabled workers;
  • disabled workers are more likely to be on zero-hours contracts than non-disabled workers.

The TUC has called for action from the government to put an end to discrimination against disabled workers in the labour market and has backed Labour’s New Deal for Working People.

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Immigration: WoRC report looks at systemic drivers of UK migrant worker exploitation

The charity Work Rights Centre (WoRC) has published a report which looks at what lies behind increasing reports of migrant worker exploitation in the UK, particularly in certain sectors such as health and care. Drawing on 40 case studies, interviews with caseworkers, and policy analysis, the report identifies the post-Brexit work sponsorship system and piecemeal/weak labour enforcement as two key systemic drivers. It makes a number of recommendations, including reforms to the work sponsorship system (replacing employer sponsorship entirely, or alternatively a range of reforms to the sponsorship system to facilitate protection of sponsored migrants against exploitation), increasing protections for all workers (including establishing a Single Enforcement Body for all labour rights, giving protection against unfair dismissal from the first day of employment and instituting secure reporting of exploitative practices), and implementing a migrant worker welfare strategy (including the creation of an independent Migrant Commissioner role).

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Further Information:

If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: hello@dixcartuk.com

The information provided within this document is for general informational purposes only. While every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy, no responsibility can be accepted for inaccuracies. Readers are advised that laws and practices may change over time. This document is provided solely for informational purposes and does not constitute accounting, legal, or tax advice. Professional advice should be sought before making any decisions based on the contents of this document.