This month we have a plethora of publications and information for you. There are changes to National Living Wage, benefit and pension rates all due in April 2024.
This month’s employment law updates cover various critical issues.
We bring you an update of some key pieces of information affecting employment law, and potentially employers, published over the last two months to help keep you up to date.
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.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org
A lot going on this month. New rates and consultations regarding NLW and NMW, new requirement for immigration scale-up route, an update on the Retained EU Law Bill and discussions over the definition of ‘sex’ under the Equality Act. Meanwhile, there is a review into whistleblowing law, an inquiry into seasonal worker visas, a blog on loneliness in the workplace, and a review relating to the work prospects of autistic people.
- Staff Pay: Changes to rates of National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage and 2023 consultations
- Whistleblowing: Government launches whistleblowing law review
- Immigration: Home Office publishes details of a new endorsement requirement for the Scale-up route
- Immigration: MAC Chair publishes letter regarding inquiry into Seasonal Worker visa
- Welfare: Glassdoor reveals survey findings on employee loneliness
- Disability: DWP publishes new review to increase work prospects of autistic people
- Disability: Commons briefing highlights lowest rates of employment among disabled people are for those on autism spectrum
- Brexit: An update on the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill
- Equality Act: EHRC respond to Minister’s request to clarify the definition of ‘sex’
Staff Pay: Changes to rates of National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage and 2023 consultations
SI 2023/354: These Regulations are made to amend the National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015, SI 2015/621. They come into force on 1 April 2023 and increase:
- the rate of the national living wage for workers who are aged 23 or over from £9.50 to £10.42 per hour
- the rate of the national minimum wage for workers who are aged 21 or over (but not yet aged 23) from £9.18 to £10.18 per hour
- the rate of the national minimum wage for workers who are aged 18 or over (but not yet aged 21) from £6.83 to £7.49 per hour
- the rate of the national minimum wage for workers who are under the age of 18 from £4.81 to £5.28 per hour
- the rate for apprentices within SI 2015/621, reg 5(1)(a) and (b) from £4.81 to £5.28 per hour
- the accommodation offset amount which is applicable where any employer provides a worker with living accommodation from £8.70 to £9.10 for each day that accommodation is provided
The Low Pay Commission (LPC) has published a consultation seeking views on the impact of National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW) increases for 2024. The NLW is expected to rise to between £10.90 and £11.43 in 2024. The information gathered will be used to inform the LPC’s recommendations to the government in the Autumn. The consultation closes on 9 June 2023 at 11:45pm.
See also our updated Facts and Figures for 2023
Whistleblowing: Government launches whistleblowing law review
On 27 March 2023, the government published a press release confirming that they have launched a review of the whistleblowing framework. The press release states that the review will gather evidence on the effectiveness of the current whistleblowing regime in enabling workers to speak about wrongdoing and protect those who do so. The press release confirms that the evidence gathering stage of the review will end in Autumn 2023. The review will pursue views and evidence from whistleblowers, key charities, employers and regulators.
Immigration: Home Office publishes details of a new endorsement requirement for the Scale-up route
The Home Office has updated its sponsor guidance in relation to the Scale-up route. Notably, it confirms that an ‘endorsing body pathway’ is being launched, on 13 April 2023, for prospective employer applicants who do not meet the sponsor licence eligibility requirements (eg ‘if their HMRC history is not long enough’). As an alternative, prospective sponsors will be able to obtain an endorsement from a Home Office-approved endorsing body and submit this with the licence application (which must be made no more than three months from the date of endorsement). The guidance confirms that the endorsement process will attract a fee, and further details will be published in due course. Other changes include a new Annex SC2, setting out the changes to the route from 12 April 2023, in line with the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules HC 1160.
Immigration: MAC Chair publishes letter regarding inquiry into Seasonal Worker visa
The Chair of the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), Professor Brian Bell, has published a letter written to the Minister of State for Immigration, Robert Jenrick, regarding an inquiry into the Seasonal Worker visa. The inquiry will consider the rules under which the scheme operates, the size and costs of the scheme, the potential for exploitation and poor labour market practice, evidence from international comparisons and the long-run need for such a scheme. Bell has also confirmed that MAC will be working with the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) during the inquiry.
Welfare: Glassdoor reveals survey findings on employee loneliness
Glassdoor has published a blog with insights from its new study which surveyed 2,000 employees to understand the levels of employee loneliness in the UK. The blog reveals the impact of poor workplace social life and the importance of workplace friendships to retaining staff.
Key findings include:
- six in ten people with less than five years of work experience are lonely all or most of the time
- only 51% of employees connect socially with colleagues at least once a month
- 28% of workers under 35 would stay in a job they did not like if the workplace social life was good
- 89% of workers believe feeling a sense of belonging with their company is vital to their overall workplace happiness
- nearly 49% of workers say a good social life has a significant impact on their overall job satisfaction and mental health
Common reasons for workplace loneliness include less in-person interaction with co-workers, inflexibility in the workplace, and a lack of focus on creating a sense of belonging or community by an employer.
Glassdoor reveals that without a good workplace social life, workers are more likely to be less productive and engaged. They are also more likely to experience stress, anxiety and eventually burnout.
Disability: DWP publishes new review to increase work prospects of autistic people
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), supported by the autism charity Autistica, has launched a review, the Buckland Review of Autism Employment, to increase the employment prospects of autistic people. The review, which will be led by Sir Robert Buckland KC MP and start in May 2023, will consider how the government can support employers to recruit and retain autistic people and enjoy the benefits of a neurodiverse workforce. Recommendations for change will be made to the Secretary of State in September 2023.
Disability: Commons briefing highlights lowest rates of employment among disabled people are for those on autism spectrum
The House of Commons has released a research briefing on autism, policy and services. The briefing sets out the Department for Work and Pensions’ annual set of statistics on the employment of disabled people, which reports that the lowest rates of employment among disabled people are those on the autism spectrum.
In the 2020–21 financial year, 26.5% of disabled people on the autism spectrum were in employment, compared to 52.5% of all disabled people and 80.4% of non-disabled people in the same period. In 2016, the National Autistic Society reported that 77% of unemployed people with autism wanted to work.
Brexit: An update on the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill
Retained EU law is a concept created by the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. This Act took a ‘snapshot’ of EU law as it applied to the UK at the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020 and provided for it to continue to apply in domestic law. The Bill would automatically revoke, or ‘sunset’, most retained EU law at the end of 2023. This would not apply to retained EU law that is domestic primary legislation.
Ministers and devolved authorities could exempt most (but not all) retained EU law from the sunset, and UK ministers (but not devolved authorities) could delay the sunset until 23 June 2026 at the latest for specific descriptions of retained EU law. Any retained EU law that still applied after the end of 2023 would be renamed as assimilated law. The Bill would give ministers and devolved authorities powers to restate, reproduce, revoke, replace or update retained EU law and assimilated law by statutory instrument.
The Bill would also repeal the principle of supremacy of retained EU law from UK law at the end of 2023, although its effects could be reproduced by statutory instrument in relation to specific pieces of retained EU law. The Bill would also make changes to the way that courts could depart from retained EU case law.
The Bill would change the way that some types of retained EU law can be modified. It would ‘downgrade’ retained direct EU legislation so that this could be amended by secondary legislation. It would also remove additional parliamentary scrutiny requirements that currently apply when modifying some types of EU-derived domestic secondary legislation.
The government has published a ‘dashboard’ of retained EU law, although it acknowledges this is not a comprehensive catalogue of all retained EU law that may be in scope of the Bill. The dashboard is due to be updated regularly.
Concerns have been raised throughout the Bill’s progress about the amount of retained EU law to be reviewed before the sunset deadline and whether some may end up being revoked inadvertently. In the Commons, MPs expressed concerns about the impact of large-scale and rapid changes to the statute book as a consequence of the Bill and have highlighted a lack of clarity about what retained EU law the government intends to keep, particularly in the areas of employment, environmental and consumer protections. They were also critical of a lack of parliamentary scrutiny of and input into the process of reforming retained EU law. However, the only amendments made to the Bill in the House of Commons were government amendments to clarify the Bill’s drafting.
The Bill is now with the House of Lords. Five days of Committee proceedings—when a Bill is examined in detail—concluded on 8 March 2023.
Over the five days, Peers put forward many amendments to the Bill on a range of subjects. Opposition peers were scathing in their comments on the Bill. For example, Baroness Ludford (LD), said the Bill was ‘pretty hopeless’ and accused the government of adopting a ‘slash and burn’ approach to legislative reform, with opposition amendments seeking to bring to it ‘some rationalisation and order’. For the government, Lord Callanan, said, on the contrary, a ‘significant minority’ of retained EU law was ‘legally inoperable’ and that it was ‘not good governance’ to subject it to ‘complex and unnecessary parliamentary processes’ before being able to remove it from the statute book. He added that the amendments, including those seeking to delay the sunset, would ‘hamper efforts to realise the opportunities the Bill presents’.
The Bill has come out of Committee stage in the Lords with amendments, including the insertion of a new clause setting out exceptions to the sunset of REUL, and it seems likely that further amendments will be made at Report stage. It is noteworthy that at Second Reading in the Lords a significant number of Conservative peers spoke against the Bill. The level of opposition expressed by peers from all parties indicates that it may not be straightforward for the government to get the Bill into law. It seems likely that the government will need to accept at least some of the Lords’ amendments if it wishes to avoid a lengthy period of ‘ping pong’ between the Lords and the Commons.
In contrast to the approach being taken in respect of much retained EU law, the House of Lords is, in parallel, scrutinising the Financial Services and Markets Bill, which would similarly revoke retained EU law relating to financial services, but contains developed provisions which enable the Treasury and financial services regulators to replace that EU Law with legislation designed specifically for UK markets.
Report stage on the Bill—a further chance for the House of Lords to closely scrutinise elements of the Bill and make changes—began on 19 April 2023.
Authors: David Mundy, Aaron Nelson, and Joanna Purkis at BDB Pitmans, for LexisNexis.
Equality Act: EHRC respond to Minister’s request to clarify the definition of ‘sex’
On 21 February 2023, the Minister for Women and Equalities, Kemi Badenoch, requested advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) regarding the definition of the protected characteristic of ‘sex’ in the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010). EHRC have provided an initial response to the Minister’s request namely suggesting that the UK government carefully consider implications any change to the legislation could have.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: email@example.com
This month the news focuses on some key employment announcements from the Spring budget, changes to work checks guidance, a new proposed UK version of GDPR and a proposed right to request a more predictable working pattern. Lastly a new government employment champion has been announced to urge businesses to take action on the menopause.
- Spring Budget 2023: Key Employment Announcements
- Immigration: Revisions made to right to work checks guidance
- GDPR: Government announces new UK version of GDPR
- Working Practices: Proposed new statutory right to request a more predictable working pattern
- Menopause: Czar urges businesses to step up on policies
Spring Budget 2023 – Key Employment Announcements
In the Spring Budget 2023, delivered on 15 March 2023, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, announced a series of measures intended to support the UK workforce. Among the announcements were the introduction of a new Health and Disability White Paper on how to provide support and opportunities for workers with disabilities, the planned abolition of the lifetime allowance to encourage workers over 50 to stay in employment, the reiteration of government support for Private Members’ Bills providing unpaid carers with additional leave, parents with greater protections against redundancy, and parents of children in neonatal care with paid statutory leave, and commitments to encourage and facilitate flexible working arrangements between employers and employees.
In respect of immigration, Jeremy Hunt announced measures to tackle immediate labour shortages and ease business visits to the UK and further support for those who have come to the UK through the Ukraine Visa Schemes. Building off the Autumn Statement 2022, the Budget confirmed the government’s plan to deliver on three of the five key priorities set out by the Prime Minister in January: to halve inflation, reduce debt and grow the economy. The Spring Budget 2023 lists employment, education and enterprises as priorities for delivering on growth and building a high wage high skill economy.
Immigration: Revisions made to right to work checks guidance
The Home Office has updated its guidance for employers carrying out right to work checks. The guidance was updated late in the day on 28 February 2023 to reflect legislative changes and current practice. Examples include clarifying that employers should carry out on an online check for those with a pending Home Office application, administrative review or appeal, circumstances in which an employer should contact the Employer Checking Service and what employers should do if they are presented with a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) with an expiry date of 31 December 2024. Similar changes have been made, on the same day, to the right to rent checks guidance for landlords.
GDPR: Government announces new UK version of GDPR
The UK government has announced that British businesses will save billions of pounds through a new version of GDPR, which will replace the EU’s data protection laws after Brexit. The new law will allow UK businesses to avoid costly compliance fees and will maintain high levels of data protection for consumers. The changes are expected to provide a boost to the UK economy and enhance the UK’s reputation as a leader in data protection.
Working Practices: Proposed new statutory right to request a more predictable working pattern
The Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill (the Bill) proposes to give eligible workers a new statutory right to request a more predictable working pattern. This follows the Taylor review of modern working practices and the resulting 2018 Good Work Plan in which the government committed to introduce policies to end ‘one-sided flexibility’. Eligible workers (not just employees) will have the right to make a request where:
- there is a lack of predictability as regards any part of their work pattern (the work pattern being the number of working hours, the days of the week and the times on those days when the worker works, and the length of the worker’s contract)
- the change relates to their work pattern
- their purpose in applying for the change is to get a more predictable work pattern
An application must state that it is a request for a more predictable working pattern, and specify the change applied for and the date on which it is proposed it should take effect.
The Bill does not contain other earlier government commitments to introduce a right to reasonable notice of working hours and compensation for shifts cancelled without reasonable notice.
A worker can only apply for a change to their working pattern if they have been employed by the same employer (whether or not under the same contract) at some point during the month immediately preceding a ‘prescribed period’ (this will be specified in regulations and is expected to be 26 weeks ending with the date of the application). There is no requirement for the service to be continuous.
A worker can only make two applications in any 12-month period. This includes any application under the flexible working provisions if that request is for a change which would result in a more predictable contract.
The Bill contains a similar set of rights for agency workers:
- an agency worker may be able to apply to a temporary work agency for a more predictable working pattern where they have had a contract with the agency at some point in the month immediately before a ‘prescribed period’ (to be set out in regulations)
- if the agency worker has worked for a hirer in the same role continuously for 12 weeks (within a period of time which will be set out in regulations) they may also be able to apply to the hirer for a contract of employment, or other worker’s contract, which is more predictable than their current working pattern
There is no definition of ‘predictability’ in the Bill. It does, however, specifically state that workers on a fixed term contract of 12 months or less may request that the term is extended or becomes permanent. Other than that, it seems that a ‘lack of predictability’ will cover any worker whose hours or days vary in a way which provides them with uncertainty, such as:
- casual/zero hours workers without a guaranteed number of hours
- annualised hours workers if the employer has discretion over the working pattern
- workers whose hours are determined by a shift pattern or rota, where that pattern/rota varies unpredictably
In many ways the process for dealing with requests reflects the flexible working regime. There is no obligation on the employer to agree to a request, but they must deal with the application in a reasonable manner and respond within one month. An employer can only reject an application for one or more of the specified reasons, which are:
- the burden of additional costs
- detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
- detrimental impact on the recruitment of staff
- detrimental impact on other aspects of the employer’s business
- insufficiency of work during the periods the worker proposes to work
- planned structural changes
If the worker’s contract terminates during the one month ‘decision period’ the requirements still apply. However, there are then some additional acceptable grounds for refusing a request such as the employer having acted reasonably in dismissing for misconduct or redundancy. A worker will be able to bring an employment tribunal claim if an employer fails to follow the requirements set out above which, if the claim is successful, could result in an order for reconsideration of the request or compensation. The amount of compensation will be set by regulations and could be limited to eight weeks’ pay as it is under the flexible working regime.
There is no timetable for implementation yet and, as noted above, some of the detail of how the right to request will operate in practice still has to be set out in separate regulations.
The new right will have the most impact in sectors where the use of casual workers and changeable shift patterns/rotas is widespread, and on businesses using short fixed-term contracts or agency workers. It is likely to lead to an increased focus on how best to manage these type of working arrangements.
The Bill only provides for the right to ask for a more predictable working pattern, not a right to a predictable working pattern. However, organisations which engage individuals on unpredictable working patterns will need to establish policies and procedures to deal with requests. They should also be aware that, if employment status isn’t clear, an individual might claim worker status while making an application for a more predictable working arrangement
(Content provided to Lexis-Nexis by Julie Keir, practice development lawyer at Brodies LLP.)
Menopause: Czar urges businesses to step up on policies
Helen Tomlinson, England’s first-ever menopause employment champion has called on businesses to develop policies and to normalize discussing the subject, saying that she has witnessed ‘the transformational power’ that talking about the health condition can have in a workplace. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) announced on 6 March 2023 that it had appointed Tomlinson to the post to raise awareness about the health condition. Tomlinson will also aim to encourage more employers to develop policies so women who experience symptoms are better supported, the DWP added. Tomlinson said that fewer than a quarter of UK businesses ‘currently have a menopause policy, but as I take on this role, I am determined that my generation of women in work will break the menopause taboo and have confidence that their health is valued’.
The DWP said that she will raise awareness of menopause, while promoting the benefits for businesses and the economy when women are supported to stay in work. Her role could also include advising employers about ‘small but significant’ changes they can make to the workplace, including offering women experiencing the symptoms of menopause more regular breaks and creating cooler spaces in offices, the DWP added.
The announcement of Tomlinson’s appointment came after the DWP had previously published official responses to two reports on menopause and the workplace. Tomlinson is Head of Talent in the UK and Ireland at the human resources provider Adecco Group. She was appointed to the role on a voluntary basis by the DWP, where she will work closely with Mims Davies, the Minister for Social Mobility, Youth and Progression. Davies said that menopause is a major reason that too many women leave the workforce early, often when they are at the peak of their skills and experience with so much more still to contribute. Tomlinson will also work closely with Lesley Regan, who was appointed as the government’s first women’s health ambassador in 2022.
According to the DWP, a quarter of women report that they have considered leaving their job due to experiencing menopause. Not all women experience symptoms that stop them from working, but research suggests that those with serious menopausal symptoms take an average of 32 weeks of leave from work over the length of their employment.
Many women tend to suffer in silence during perimenopause and menopause. Seeing this subject acknowledged at government level, gives hope that it will inspire businesses to do the same – educating and raising awareness about menopause-related issues, whilst also providing assistance and support to those who need it.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org