This month we bring you updates on government reforms to employment law and the ping-pong battle over which laws shall be retained following Brexit; which companies are failing to pay national minimum wage, a review in diversity and goals for the 4 day week for political parties to endorse; our UK strike laws are being critiqued and we will soon know which occupations we are most lacking in the UK.
- Brexit: Government consults on reforms to working time rules, holiday pay and TUPE
- Brexit: Lords put further amendments back to Commons on REULRR Bill
- Pay: Department for Business and Trade names companies failing to pay NMW
- Diversity: Parker review sets new targets for FTSE 350 and private companies
- Working Patterns: 4 Day Week campaign launches Mini Manifesto
- Trade Unions: International Labour Organization comments on UK strike laws
- Immigration: MAC intends to publish its shortage occupation list review in autumn 2023
Brexit: Government consults on reforms to working time rules, holiday pay and TUPE
On 12 May 2023, the government published a consultation paper, setting out its plans regarding the future of retained EU employment law. The consultation paper confirms the government’s intention to keep retained EU employment laws in the following areas without any change: family leave rights (maternity, paternity, adoption and parental leave), ‘atypical’ workers’ rights (part-time workers, fixed-term workers and agency workers), and information and consultation rights. However, certain reforms are proposed in the areas of working time, paid holiday rights and rights upon the transfer of a business or an outsourcing. The government says it has identified areas for reform of laws it considers are ‘too onerous for business to be used effectively or too complex for workers to know, understand and use’. Amanda Steadman, principal knowledge lawyer at Brahams Dutt Badrick French LLP, sets out in her article the proposed changes in the consultation and the next steps.
Brexit: Lords put further amendments back to Commons on REULRR Bill
On 24 May 2023, the House of Commons debated the Lords amendments to the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill (REULRR Bill), with a majority of MPs disagreeing with three amendments. Lords amendments 6, 15 and 42 were rejected and Lords amendments 1 and 16 were further amended. Lords amendments 2 to 5, 7 to 14, 17 to 41 and 43 were agreed to.
On 20 June 2023, the House of Lords debated Commons amendments to the REULRR Bill. The Lords approved two amended motions, proposing amendments in lieu of those previously rejected by the House of Commons. These amendments relate to the two outstanding issues in debate—environmental protection and parliamentary scrutiny. Continuing the ‘ping pong’ process, the House of Commons considered the Lords message on 21 June 2023, with the government moving that the Lords amendments be rejected again. The Bill was scheduled to return to the House of Lords on 26 June 2023.
Pay: Department for Business and Trade names companies failing to pay NMW
The Department for Business and Trade (DBT) has published the names of 202 employers who have failed to provide their lowest paid staff the national minimum wage (NMW). Approximately 63,000 workers across the companies did not receive NMW as a result of deductions from wages (39%), failure by the companies to properly compensate for working time (39%) and incorrect apprenticeship rates (21%).
In the top 3 in this Round 19 are WH Smith Retail Holdings Ltd, Lloyds Pharmacy Ltd and Marks and Spencer PLC. Some in the list owe as little as £5500 to one employee but the larger offenders have failed to pay cumulatively hundreds of thousands of pounds to thousands of workers.
Employers are reminded that the minimum wage law applies to all parts of the UK. Employers should always carry out the necessary checks (guidance is available on the Gov website: Calculating the Minimum Wage), and HMRC consider all complaints from workers, so they are reminding workers to check their pay with advice available through the Check your pay website.
Diversity: Parker review sets new targets for FTSE 350 and private companies
The Parker Review Committee has published a 2023 update report on ‘Improving the Ethnic Diversity of UK Business’. The independent review, which published its first report in 2016, was commissioned by the former Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to consult on ethnic diversity in UK boards. The review also set several diversity targets for FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies. The update contains the results of the review’s survey of those targets in 2022 in addition to a number of new targets to be achieved by 2027.
Working Patterns: 4 Day Week campaign launches Mini Manifesto
The 4 Day week campaign has published a ‘Mini Manifesto’, which they are calling on political parties to endorse ahead of the next general election. 4 Day Week is a national campaign for a 32-hour working week with no reduction in pay. The manifesto lays out the campaign’s key principles and goals.
Trade Unions: International Labour Organization comments on UK strike laws
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has critiqued the UK’s strike laws and called for the UK government to bring union laws in line with international law. In a rare intervention that has not been used against the UK since 1995, the ILO issued an instruction for ministers to seek assistance from the ILO and report back on progress by 1 September 2023. The Trades Union Congress has called this ‘hugely embarrassing’ for ministers.
Immigration: MAC intends to publish its shortage occupation list review in autumn 2023
The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has confirmed, by way of an update to its guidance webpage, that it intends to publish its report reviewing the shortage occupation list in autumn 2023. This is later than the anticipated date of June 2023, as stated in previous press releases.
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This month’s news provides an update on the effect of the Retained EU Law Bill and the scrapping of the sunset clause, a new smart regulation from the DBT, a report on the post-pandemic economic growth in the UK labour markets, new guidance from ACAS on both managing stress at work and making reasonable adjustments for mental health at work, a new podcast from the HSE to support disabled people in the workplace and a consultation from the EBA on the benchmarking of diversity practices. Lastly, we have the results of research carried out on unfair treatment of parents following fertility treatment.
- Brexit: Government scraps the proposed sunset clause from the Retained EU Law Bill and Minister confirms effect of the Bill on equality and employment rights
- Employment Law: Department for Business and Trade – Smart regulation unveiled to cut red tape and grow the economy
- Flexible Working: House of Commons Committee report on post-pandemic economic growth in UK labour markets
- Health at Work: ACAS publishes new guidance on managing stress at work and making reasonable adjustments for mental health at work
- Disability: HSE launches podcast to support disabled people in the workplace
- Diversity: EBA publishes consultation on guidance on benchmarking of diversity practices
- Sex Discrimination: Research reveals unfair treatment at work after fertility treatment
Brexit: Government scraps the proposed sunset clause from the Retained EU Law Bill and Minister confirms effect of the Bill on equality and employment rights
On 10 May 2023, the government announced that it will scrap the proposed sunset clause from the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill. As we have previously reported in our Employment Law News, the sunset clause would have meant that most retained EU law in secondary legislation would have been revoked at the end of 2023. Instead at least 600 pieces of retained EU law will be set out in a revocation schedule, which can be found here. Any laws not listed in the revocation schedule will be retained automatically.
Meanwhile, the Department for Business and Trade has published a response to a letter by the Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, requesting further explanation about the Retained EU Law Bill’s effect on equality rights and protections. The response by the Rt Hon Kemi Badenoch MP, Minister for Women & Equalities, confirms that the Retained EU Law Bill does not intend to undermine equality rights and protections, employment rights or maternity rights in the UK. It sets out that most equality protections will remain unaffected, as they are provided for in primary legislation, in particular the Equality Act 2010 (to which no changes are expected because of the Bill) and any relevant secondary legislation and additional instruments will be considered.
It also highlights that where additional provision is required, the Bill enables the UK Government and the devolved governments to protect the rights and protections of UK citizens. This includes a restatement power which allows departments to codify rights into domestic legislation. The response emphasises that this power will secure rights and protections, by laying them out accessibly and clearly in statute.
The response sets out that the government does not intend to amend workers’ legal rights through the Bill, that the UK provides for greater protections for workers than are required by EU law and that the government remains committed to making sure that workers are properly protected in the workplace.
The response emphasises that the repeal of maternity rights is not and has never been government policy, and that the UK is in fact further along than the EU when it comes to maternity rights.
Employment Law: Government’s “Smart regulation unveiled to cut red tape and grow the economy”
On the 10 May 2023 the Department for Business and Trade published its paper “Smarter regulation unveiled to cut red tape and grow the economy” which the government describes as “the first dynamic package of deregulatory reforms to grow the economy, cut costs for businesses and support consumers …”
The governments announcements include the following proposed amendments to employment law:
- The government is proposing to remove retained EU case law that requires employers to record working hours for almost all.
- Making rolled-up holiday pay lawful. Rolled up holiday pay is where an employer includes a sum representing holiday pay in an enhanced hourly rate rather than continuing to pay workers as normal when they actually take leave. This was ruled to be in breach of the Working Time Directive by the ECJ well over a decade ago.
- The merger of annual leave (20 days derived from the EU’s Working Time Directive) and additional leave (being the additional 8 days holiday provided under the Working Time Regulations). Whilst this appears to be sensible it will be interesting to see how the European case law which specifically applies to the 20 days annual leave, such as what constitutes holiday pay and taking such holiday in the year in which it falls, is dealt with.
- TUPE – there are proposals to do away with the need for elections of employee representatives for businesses with fewer than 50 employees or transfers of fewer than 10 employees.
The government has launched consultation on these points.
The government has also proposed limiting the length of non-compete clauses to three months. This will require the passing of legislation, which, the government says will be dealt with when parliamentary time allows.
So we wait to see exactly what legislative changes come about following these announcements.
Flexible Working: House of Commons Committee report on post-pandemic economic growth in UK labour markets
A House of Commons Committee report says the government must reconsider the need for an Employment Bill in the upcoming King’s Speech to address gaps in employment protections. The government has two months to respond to the committee’s proposals which are on topics including the machinery of government with responsibility for labour market policy; technology and skills development; workers’ rights and protection; and older workers.
The report, which follows on from a Call for Evidence on the state of play in the UK Labour market post-Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, highlights that:
- with 500,000 people having left the British workforce since the start of the pandemic, a shortage of labour weighs heavily on the potential for economic growth;
- economic inactivity has risen among people aged 50 to 64 years;
- the way in which the recommendations of the Taylor Review have been implemented has been fragmented and drawn-out;
- the enforcement of labour market rules is under-resourced.
It calls on the government to:
- consider establishing a Ministry of Labour and appoint a new Minister of State for Labour in the Cabinet, as well as a Cabinet Committee on Labour;
- take various actions in respect of technology and skills;
- reconsider the need for an Employment Bill in the upcoming King’s Speech to address gaps in employment protections;
- consider new legal structures for flexible work that include appropriate rights and protections for workers;
- provide more protection for workers from any damaging effects of night-time working;
- pursue the creation of the planned single enforcement body which would clarify rights of redress for those most in need;
- continue and expand support for older workers.
It also calls on businesses to:
- be more open to create more flexible constructions of work;
- offer more flexible working opportunities to benefit from a huge untapped pool of older workers and to assess whether their recruitment practices and workplaces are ‘ageist’.
Health at Work: ACAS publishes new guidance on managing stress at work and making reasonable adjustments for mental health at work
Managing stress at work:
ACAS has published new advice for employers on managing stress at work after YouGov revealed 33% of British workers disagreed that their organisation was effective at managing work-related stress. YouGov was commissioned by ACAS and surveyed just over 1,000 employees in Great Britain. ACAS sets out that stress can be caused by demands of the job, relationships at work, poor working conditions and life events outside of work such as financial worries. An ACAS poll in March 2023 revealed that 63% of employees felt stressed due to the rising cost of living.
Advice for employers on managing stress at work include:
- looking out for any signs of stress among staff. Signs include poor concentration, tiredness, low mood and avoiding social events;
- being approachable available and have an informal chat with staff who are feeling stressed;
- respecting confidentiality and being sensitive and supportive when talking to staff about work-related stress;
- communicating any internal and external help available to staff such as financial advice if the cost of living is a cause of stress.
ACAS states that creating a positive work environment can make employees healthier and happier at work, reduce absence levels and improve performance.
ACAS advice on managing stress can be accessed here.
Making reasonable adjustments for mental health at work:
ACAS has published new guidance for employers and workers on reasonable adjustments for mental health. ACAS states that ‘employers should try to make reasonable adjustments even if the issue is not a disability’. The guidance covers:
- what reasonable adjustments for mental health are;
- examples of reasonable adjustments for mental health;
- what reasonable adjustments can be made for mental health;
- requesting reasonable adjustments for mental health;
- responding to reasonable adjustments for mental health requests;
- managing employees with reasonable adjustments for mental health;
- reviewing policies with mental health in mind.
ACAS has also published case studies exploring how different organisations have helped staff with reasonable adjustments for mental health.
Disability: HSE launches podcast to support disabled people in the workplace
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has launched a new podcast aiming to help employers support disabled workers and those with long-term health conditions in the workplace. The podcast features discussion by host Mick Ord, former BBC Radio journalist, Moya Woolley, Occupational Health Policy Team Leader at HSE and Rebecca Hyrslova, Policy Advisor at Federation of Small Businesses (FSB); and offers advice for employers on how to create a supportive and enabling workplace, take an inclusive approach to workplace health, understand the work barriers that impact on workers, make suitable workplace adjustments or modifications, develop skills, knowledge and understanding, use effective and accessible communication, and support sickness absence and return to work.
Diversity: EBA publishes consultation on guidance on benchmarking of diversity practices
The European Banking Authority (EBA) has launched a consultation on guidelines on the benchmarking of diversity practices including diversity policies and the gender pay gap pursuant to Articles 75(1) and 91(11) of the Capital Requirements Directive IV (Directive 2013/36/EU) (CRD IV) and Article 34(1) of the Investment Firms Directive (Directive (EU) 2019/2034). The EBA has been collecting data on diversity since 2015 based on information requests. The EBA hopes that the issuance of these guidelines will lead to a higher level of transparency regarding the EBA’s work on the topic of diversity and gender equality and will help improve the quality of the collected data as well as the awareness of all stakeholders on these topics. The new reporting format is expected to apply for the collection of data in 2025 for the financial year 2024. Responses are sought to the consultation by 24 July 2023.
Sex Discrimination: Research reveals unfair treatment at work after fertility treatment
Pregnant Then Screwed published a press release during Infertility Awareness Week revealing the unfair treatment women face in the workplace due to their reproductive health. Research has revealed that of the 43% of women who informed their employer of their fertility treatment, one in four did not receive any support from their employer. One in four women also experienced unfair treatment because of undergoing fertility treatment. Unfair treatment was also experienced by 22% of women who disclosed their pregnancy loss to their employer while 6% of partners who disclosed the same faced negative treatment.
The press release confirms Pregnant Then Screwed will be launching a new programme to help employers deal with reproductive health issues in the workplace better. They will be hosting a Women in the Workplace seminar for businesses to find out more about the new training and accreditation scheme which signals fertility friendly employers. This free event will take place in June 2023.
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