Employment Law General Update – October 2022
This month our update covers a new online service to help employers support disabled employees, the CIPD has found gaps in support for employees experiencing pregnancy or baby loss, there’s new draft guidance from the ICO, an update on the future of the four-day week, frustration over the scrapping of the plans to abolish the changes to off-payroll working rules, new guidance on the Professional Qualifications Act 2022, and research into allyships for underrepresented groups.
- Disability: New online service to help employers support disabled employees
- Support & Leave: CIPD report reveals gaps in workplace support for employees experiencing pregnancy or baby loss
- Data Protection: ICO consults on monitoring at work draft guidance
- Working Practices: One third of employers expect a four-day week to be a reality within ten years
- IR35: Frustration from business groups over latest Chancellor’s backtracking over the repeal of the IR35 rules
- Brexit: Government publishes guidance for UK regulators on Professional Qualifications Act 2022
- Discrimination: Research finds intent to be an ally often does not translate into action
Disability: New online service to help employers support disabled employees
On 17 October 2022, the government announced a £6.4 million investment to help employers support employees with disabilities and health conditions. Part of this investment will fund a new online service that will provide information and advice about how to support and manage employees with disabilities or health conditions, whether they are in or out of work. The service will be free and can be accessed by any employer although it is aimed at smaller businesses who may not have in-house HR support or access to occupational health services. It is hoped this service will help small businesses develop more inclusive workforces.
An early test version of the Support with Employee Health and Disability service is currently active and will be updated and developed over the next three years. An online survey is open for businesses and disability groups to offer feedback that will be used to inform the development of the site.
Support & Leave: CIPD report reveals gaps in workplace support for employees experiencing pregnancy or baby loss
A report published by the CIPD has identified gaps in workplace support for employees experiencing pregnancy or baby loss. Only a quarter of employees surveyed received paid compassionate or other special leave in this situation and a fifth of employees received no support at all from their employer. After compassionate leave, the types of support that employees identified as being most helpful were understanding from managers and colleagues that it is a difficult time, paid time off to attend appointments and the option to work from home when needed.
The CIPD has confirmed that it will publish guidance to provide practical advice for employers to improve workplace support for employees experiencing pregnancy and baby loss based on the following five principles:
- Raise awareness, in a thoughtful and sensitive way, about the need for pregnancy or baby loss to be recognised as part of workplace wellbeing.
- Create an open, inclusive and supportive culture to break down stigma and let employees know they will be supported.
- Develop an organisational framework to support employees. This should include implementing specific policies, which the report identified only just over a third of employers have in place.
- Manage absence and leave with compassion and flexibility.
- Equip line managers to support people with empathy and understanding so that they feel comfortable and capable to have sensitive conversations with team members.
Data Protection: ICO consults on monitoring at work draft guidance
On 12 October, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) opened a consultation on draft employment practices and published its draft guidance on monitoring at work. The guidance is open for consultation until 11 January 2023. The ICO is publishing its draft guidance on employment practices in stages with this being the first. It has also published an impact scoping document and plans to publish additional practical tools such as checklists.
The draft guidance covers key topics such as lawful basis for monitoring, transparency, fairness and accountability. It also provides guidance on DPIAs, security and retention as well as specialist topics such as covert monitoring, use of biometric data, call monitoring, dashcams and device activity.
This follows on from the ICO’s call for views in 2021. The ICO has published a summary of the responses to its call for views.
Working Practices: One third of employers expect a four-day week to be a reality within ten years
On 7 October 2022, the CIPD published a new report, The four-day week: Employer perspectives, which sets out employer perspectives on moving to a four-day week. The report is based on a survey which shows that 34% of respondent organisations consider that a four-day week for most workers is attainable within the next decade. One in ten respondents reported having already reduced working hours without cutting pay in the past five years (47% of those respondents confirmed the reductions were part of the COVID-19 furlough scheme). Many of the 2,000 employers surveyed felt that increased efficiency would be needed for a four-day week with no reduction in pay to be sustainable, either through organisations working smarter (66%) or the increased use of technology (68%).
The CIPD notes that the report is published amid rising interest in the concept of the four-day working week. A major trial in the UK, launched earlier this year, involves around 3,330 workers across 70 companies reducing their working week to four days with no loss of pay.
Despite the rising interest in adopting a four-day week, the report found that progress remains slow with just 1% of employers that have not already done so planning to reduce hours without lowering pay in the next three years. For organisations that have reduced working hours, the main drivers are improving employee wellbeing, helping with recruitment and retention, or a reduction in demand for products or services (36%, 30% and 32% of respondents respectively). The main challenges facing these organisations are that reduced hours do not suit everyone (32%), workers cannot achieve the same volume of work or output as before (30%), or a task requires someone to be present (26%).
A separate report, The four-day week: Scottish employer perspectives, has also been published.
IR35: Frustration from business groups over latest Chancellor’s backtracking over the repeal of the IR35 rules
People Management reported on 18 October 2022 that business groups are frustrated by new Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has taken a u-turn from Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-budget where he had proposed repealing the IR35 off-payroll tax rules for contractors.
We reported in our September Employment Law General Update that the mini-budget had planned to repeal the 2017 and 2021 reforms from 6 April 2023. It wasn’t going to abolish IR35 but would have taken us back to the rules in place from 2000 (the Intermediaries Legislation), where the onus was on the worker to correctly assess their status and pay the correct amount of tax. However, our new Chancellor has backtracked on this meaning the situation remains the same that the end client remains responsible (and liable) for determining the IR35 status of contractors. The liability and responsibility is on the fee-paying party (often the recruiter) in the supply chain applying to public sector bodies, and medium and large private sector businesses. Small companies are exempt.
Industry experts are frustrated that the promised simplification of the tax rules is not being delivered and that many businesses had already started to undertake the vital work of how their systems would need to change by April 2023. Paul Farrer, founder and chairman of global recruitment agency Aspire, said that in turbulent times like this freelancers and contractors were needed for businesses to navigate peaks and troughs in demand. However, he called the recent IR35 news a “a backward step” – not just for workers, “but for the recruitment industry and businesses that rely heavily on the flexibility and skills of the independent workforce”. Other business leaders complain that this system is complex and poorly enforced, and badly needs proper reform. To read the whole article, see People Management.
Brexit: Government publishes guidance for UK regulators on Professional Qualifications Act 2022
The Professional Qualifications Act 2022 (PQA 2022) received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022, revoking the EU rules relating to the recognition of professional qualifications in the UK.
Among other things, the PQA 2022 introduced a new framework for the recognition of UK professional qualifications between different parts of the UK and overseas. Under this framework, UK regulators have a duty to publish information about the requirements for individuals to enter and remain in their professions (section 8, PQA 2022). In addition, UK regulators must, on request, share information with regulators from other parts of the UK (section 9, PQA 2022) and overseas regulators (section 10, PQA 2022). These obligations apply from 28 October 2022.
On 4 October 2022, BEIS published the following documents to assist UK regulators to comply with these new obligations:
- Guidance on the obligation to publish qualification requirements under section 8 of the PQA 2022, setting out what information must be published, when the obligation applies and when published information should be updated.
- Two separate guidance documents explaining the information-sharing obligations under, respectively, section 9 and section 10 of the PQA 2022. These documents set out when the legal requirements under the relevant section apply and what information must be shared. They also each contain a worked example of what a UK regulator should do when it receives a valid request for information.
Discrimination: Research finds intent to be an ally often does not translate into action
One of the first studies into allyship in the UK workplace (published by Wates on 27 September 2022) has found that intent to support colleagues from underrepresented groups has not translated into action. The study of over 5,000 employees found that 67% of UK employees consider themselves an “ally“. However, only 36% have spoken up against discrimination or exclusion of a colleague from a minority background when they have seen it at work. Around two-fifths of respondents said that they had spent time educating themselves about the experience of minorities, although this figure was lower for senior executives.
The same research found that 40% of employees have experienced microaggressions related to identity. The figure rises to nearly 60% for LGBT employees and to 64% for respondents from Black Caribbean backgrounds. Microaggressions experienced by respondents include a name being mispronounced because it is “too hard” (60% of Black African respondents and 59% of Black Caribbean respondents) and a colleague being told that they “don’t even ‘look’ gay” (42% of men from the LGBT community). Respondents from minorities were more likely to report witnessing microaggressions or discrimination. Microaggressions or discrimination related to sexual orientation was reported by almost half of lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents compared to 25% overall. Microaggressions or discrimination related to race or ethnicity were reported by 35% of respondents, rising to 62% of Black Caribbean respondents and 47% of Pakistani respondents.
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