As the year draws to a close we delve into some technical cases – an update on the case that just keeps on giving (Deliveroo)…
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
We bring you a month of reports and inquiries. Two reports from a think tank and the IES into how women’s finances are affected by their working life and what impact this can have on the gender pension gap. A new Bill has been given government backing to give zero hours workers more certainty by requesting a more predictable work pattern. A troubling and impactful inquiry has been published into the TSSA, with stark consequences, and a study finds that despite having whistleblowing policies in place, many require better implementation and training.
- Pensions: Think tank publishes two reports on the gender pension gap with recommendations
- Zero Hours Contracts: Government backs law to give workers right to request more predictable work pattern
- Trade Unions: Inquiry finds Sexual harassment rife at TSSA
- Whistleblowing: Majority of firms have whistleblowing policies, but lack formal training for those handling concerns, study finds
Pensions: Think tank publishes two reports on the gender pension gap with recommendations
Two reports from think tank Phoenix Insights and the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) exploring women’s finances through the lens of the workplace, set out a number of recommendations to assist women’s ability to save thereby closing the gender pension gap. The gender pay gap already disadvantages women’s future finances because it means they are more likely to contribute less to their retirement savings than their male peers. The research found that this disparity is made worse by life events, including motherhood, menopause, divorce, childcare, menstruation and caring responsibilities which can all disproportionately affect a woman’s earnings, and therefore pension contributions.
Some of the key findings in the reports include that the gender pay gap is a significant contributor to the gender pension gap, yet women on average contribute a larger proportion of their salary to their pension. On average, women are contributing a higher percentage of their monthly income into their pension than men up until middle age – 6.1% compared to 5.8% aged 35-44 by middle age – where care responsibilities fall to one in four women in the UK – men are paying almost £80 more per month into their pension than women. Women are more likely than men to fall under the auto-enrolment threshold (women 35% : men 11%). Automatic enrolment closed the contribution gap in participation but increased the gap in terms of contribution. Women are more likely to be economically inactive due to long-term health conditions than men. There is limited awareness among employers of the causes and consequences of the gender pension gap, resulting in a lack of action over and above the statutory minimum allowances that seek to improve the savings capacity of women across the different life stages.
The think tank report recommends employers should be required to inform employees about the pensions impact that changes to their working hours and earnings may have, to help close the gender pension gap.
The opportunity for employers – five key recommendations:
- re-enrol workers into pension schemes annually, rather than the statutory three years, to give workers the opportunity to re-engage if they have taken career breaks or have opted out because of a lack of affordability
- ensure employer pension contributions continue during periods of parental leave
- adopt a minimum of five days unpaid leave per year for those with childcare responsibilities, and where possible, five days paid carer’s leave
- make flexible working the norm from day one and highlight this across all job roles
- ensure workplace health policies offer explicit and visible support for reproductive conditions such as miscarriage, fertility treatment, for those diagnosed with endometriosis and managing menopause symptoms
The role of government – five key recommendations:
- legally require employers to provide information on how contractual changes impact pension contributions
- revisit the Carer’s Leave Bill to ensure that unpaid careers can access up to ten days statutory paid leave
- the legal right to flexible working should be available from the first day of employment, and the number of reasons to reject flexibility should reduce from eight to two
- widen the coverage of auto-enrolment by lowering age and earnings eligibility threshold to 18 years and £0, respectively
- review the advice and guidance boundary so that a larger population can access tailored and reliable financial support
Zero Hours Contracts: Government backs law to give workers right to request more predictable work pattern
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has announced that the government is backing Blackpool South MP Scott Benton’s Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Bill. The Bill seeks to ensure that all employees, even agency workers, receive more predictable working patterns.
‘Hard working staff on zero hours contracts across the country put their lives on hold to make themselves readily available for shifts that may never actually come’ said Labour Markets Minister, Kevin Hollinrake. ‘Employers having one-sided flexibility over their staff is unfair and unreasonable. This Bill will ensure workers can request more predictable working patterns where they want them, so they can get on with their daily lives.’ The Bill provides that if an employee’s existing working pattern lacks certainty in terms of the hours they work, the times they work, or if it is a fixed term contract for less than 12 months, they may make a formal application to change their working pattern to make it more predictable. The move comes as part of a package of policies designed to further workers’ rights, such as:
- paid neonatal care leave
- requiring employers to ensure that all tips, gratuities, and service charges are paid to workers in full
- entitling unpaid carers to a period of unpaid leave
- providing employees with a day one right to request flexible working, and a greater say over when, where, and how they work
Trade Unions: Inquiry finds sexual harassment rife at TSSA
A misogynistic, ‘mafia-like’ culture of sexual harassment, bullying and violent language has permeated one of Britain’s transport unions, a new independent inquiry has revealed. An investigation by Baroness Helena Kennedy KC into the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) concluded on 8 February 2023 that ‘there has been sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying within the TSSA and that the leadership and culture has enabled these behaviours through wilful blindness, power hoarding and poor practices’.
Kennedy’s report called for sweeping changes in an organisation where absolute power was concentrated in ‘a very small number of hands’, and called for new leadership at the TSSA. The TSSA opened the investigation in September 2022 after its General Secretary at the time, Manuel Cortes, was accused of sexual harassment by several women. Cortes, who has since retired with an undisclosed payout, denies the allegations. Kennedy pointed out in her report that neither the internal leadership of the TSSA nor the executive committee understood that to say they had not witnessed inappropriate behaviour is not an acceptable response to an ‘atmosphere of fear’ and an environment of ‘open secrets’.
Only two of the 50 people who volunteered to speak to Kennedy as she carried out her inquiry had any positive words to say about the TSSA’s culture, according to her report. The rest described a ‘dysfunctional’ and ‘mafia-like’ culture across the TSSA. The organisation was sexist, racist and homophobic, they said.
Kennedy said that a ‘distressing element’ of her inquiry was realising how little senior leaders at the TSSA seemed to have ‘moved with the times’. Their approach to management was ‘controlling’ and described by many staff members as bullying. The barrister said that, combined with governance failings, meant the ‘outdated attitudes of scepticism and disbelief of women’ formed a ‘dangerous mixture’.
Kennedy noted that the recent history of ‘wage suppression’, particularly in the public sector, and the ‘casual erosion of employment rights’ through precarious work points to an urgent need for healthy trade unions. She recommended a sweeping change of leadership, a realistic time-frame for reform and ‘serious investment of time in culture change’ to make a success of the TSSA.
TSSA said in response that the report made ‘difficult reading’ and highlighted serious problems that the union had to tackle. A spokesperson said the TSSA recognised the need for sweeping reform and stated its commitment to tackle institutional issues and drive through a culture change. ‘As a union, TSSA fights for equality, fairness and social justice for all, regularly winning on equality issues for our members’, the spokesperson said. ‘But it is clear from this report that our union has not followed the values we aspire to for our members.’
The President and Treasurer of the TSSA have stood down with immediate effect and interim replacements had been appointed, the spokesperson added. The TSSA has confirmed it is committed to take comprehensive, considered and meaningful action to address [the report’s] findings, and to enable the necessary further investigation and decisions to be made, the TSSA has suspended all five senior members of staff named in the report, including former General Secretary, Manuel Cortes.
Responding to the report, the TUC stated that ‘sexual harassment and bullying have no place in the trade union movement or any workplace. The TUC believes the women who came forward to share their experiences’. The TSSA have been asked to meet with the TUC General Secretary and the TUC President to discuss next steps.
The Kennedy report comes after a similar 2020 investigation into the GMB, conducted by Karon Monaghan KC, concluded that the GMB is institutionally sexist, and bullying, misogyny, cronyism and sexual harassment are endemic within the GMB.
Whistleblowing: Majority of firms have whistleblowing policies, but lack formal training for those handling concerns, study finds
On 16 February 2023, an article by People Management reported that a study by whistleblowing and compliance services provider Safecall, which surveyed HR managers and directors from 222 organisations, found that that while 17 per cent of respondent organisations lacked a whistleblowing policy, the majority (83 per cent) did have one in place, and for those companies that provide internal whistleblowing services, only 58 per cent of their investigators had been formally trained.
The report also discovered:
- more than two fifths (42 per cent) of employees responsible for managing whistleblowing complaints have either self-taught, learned their skills through experience, or have no experience at all
- more than half (57 per cent) of HR professionals surveyed believed that their employees were actively encouraged to report wrongdoing.
- however, just 42.6 per cent said employees “generally feel safe” to do so,
- the majority (74 per cent) of HR professionals could not be certain that whistleblowers were confident in raising concerns, and
- one in five (20 per cent) organisations have whistleblowing processes that their employees would find to be “highly untrustworthy”.
The article goes on to discuss various aspects of having whistleblowing policies. A policy that emphasises how employees can bring matters to their employer’s attention, which may help employers avoid or at least reduce the risk of employment claims by increasing the likelihood that disclosures will be readily identified as qualifying as a protected disclosures.
However, problems arise where there is a fundamental lack of trust between an organisation and its workforce. Having a whistleblowing policy that ensures there is a clear procedure that must be followed by all staff when a complaint is made can support businesses in fostering a transparent and open company culture. The policy should also demonstrate that staff should not be victimised or subjected to any detrimental treatment as a result of bringing a complaint.
Last year, legal experts warned HR professionals of the consequences of workers whistleblowing on their former and current employers for coronavirus job retention schemes, with law firm Pinsent Masons reporting that 13,775 furlough fraud whistleblowing reports were made to HMRC.
Meanwhile, a previous People Management report found that one in five (20 per cent) employees who had gone to their bosses with concerns over furlough fraud and breaches of Covid-19 safety rules were sacked as result.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: email@example.com
As we welcome in the fresh new year, there is a need to focus on helping employees with health issues as the NHS struggles more than ever. We highlight three areas where employers can make a real difference. Other challenges this year come from union strikes, and the government looks to balance the rights of strikers with continuing to provide minimum levels of service in specified public services in a new bill before the Commons, along with an update on the Neonatal Care Bill which covers parental leave. With people working more flexibly consultations have started on proposals to pro-rata holiday entitlement for part-year and irregular hours workers.
- Employee Health: Three wellbeing challenges employers will need to tackle in 2023
- Trade Unions: House of Commons library publishes briefing on Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill
- Parental Leave: House of Commons publishes update on Neonatal Care Bill
- Holiday Pay: BEIS consults on proposals to pro-rata holiday entitlement for part-year and irregular hours workers
Employee Health: Three wellbeing challenges employers will need to tackle in 2023
Website, People Management, published an article on 20 January 2023 by Imogen Cardwell (Clinical Operations Director at PAM OH) promoting a proactive approach from employers to address health challenges facing employees including soaring cancer rates, increasing work-related illness and NHS delays. You can read the full article [here] but below is a summarised version.
She reports that with an NHS backlog of more than 7.2 million, it will impact more than a million employees, with 15 per cent of employees affected being forced to go on long-term sick leave, and 40 per cent of cancer patients are having to wait more than the 62-day target for life-saving cancer treatment . At the same time, two-fifths of employees believe work has made them sick, primarily due to work-related stress and musculoskeletal (MSK) issues. All of which means the NHS backlog, rising cancer cases and increasing work-related illness are the three major wellbeing challenges employers will need to address in 2023.
Challenge 1: Supporting employees with cancer
Employers will need to do more to support terminally ill employees to stay in work, so long as it is safe to do so. This is both a legal duty, under the Equality Act 2010, but also a moral duty. Integral to this is supporting employees by making the reasonable adjustments needed to allow them to remain in work, such as allowing flexible working or changing working hours for a period to account for someone’s needs.
Managers should be encouraged to talk to employees about what they think would help them and an occupational health clinician can also advise on appropriate adjustments that would work for the individual and business, both now and as the employee goes through important milestones and treatments.
Challenge 2: Ongoing NHS delays
Before the pandemic, employees would typically get signed off work by their GP until after they had been treated and had some post-surgery rehabilitation, which might have been around 6 weeks. With wait times of up to a year, this might not be acceptable going forward. Be aware of the risk of financial hardship, and long-term absence which has been shown to lead to lack of confidence, isolation and an increased risk of future worklessness.
Again, reasonable adjustments to help keep people in work will be critical going forward. Workplace wellbeing initiatives or occupational health advisors might also be able to support the individual with linked conditions, for example, losing weight to reduce joint pain and need for an operation.
Challenge 3: Soaring work-related illness
Days lost to work-related ill health cost billions per year, primarily work-related stress, depression or anxiety and MSK issues. What drives these issues? Employers should review their health data, including referrals to occupational health and health screening insights. As well as conduct ‘employee listening’ with surveys designed to uncover the root causes of work-related stress. This can often be addressed with workshops and manager training based on the HSE’s Management Standards for reducing stress, which look at everything from workload to working relationships.
In the case of soaring MSK issues, workplace risk assessments can be used to identify where employees are setting themselves up for future injury. While body mapping workshops, where employees place stickers on body maps to reveal where they have injuries or niggles, can also be used. These encourage employees to share tips and advice with one another on how they’re using the same equipment, or doing the same job, in a way that prevents injury. As it’s often the smallest behavioural changes that make the biggest difference.
A free guide to Health at Work is available from PAM Wellbeing here.
Trade Unions: House of Commons library publishes briefing on Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill
The House of Commons (HoC) Library has published a research briefing on the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill, which was introduced to the House of Commons and given its first reading on 10 January 2023. The Bill enables regulations to be made by the Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (after consultation) setting minimum levels of service in specified public services so that those services do not completely shut down when there are strikes. For these purposes a strike does not include an overtime ban or a call-out ban. The Bill would grant the Secretary of State the power to set ‘minimum service regulations’ that could set minimum service levels for workers during strikes in the following sectors:
• health services
• fire and rescue services
• education services
• transport services
• decommissioning of nuclear installations and management of radioactive waste and spent fuel
• border security.
The Bill grants employers the power to give a ‘work notice’ to a trade union about any strike that affects a service subject to the Bill. The notice would have to specify which workers the employer to continue work in order to ensure service levels required by the minimum service regulations. Where a union fails to ‘take reasonable steps’ to ensure compliance with the work notice it loses protection from liability. Furthermore, the Bill removes automatic protection from unfair dismissal for any employee who strikes contrary to a valid work notice.
The second reading of the Bill was due to take place on 16 January 2023.
Parental Leave: House of Commons publishes update on Neonatal Care Bill
The House of Commons (HoC) has published a briefing paper on the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill 2022–23, which was introduced by Stuart C McDonald MP as a Private Member’s Bill on 15 June 2022.
The Bill would introduce neonatal care leave and statutory neonatal care pay. As these are both new rights, they require the Minister to pass regulations to bring them into force. Parents whose children spend at least one week in neonatal care would qualify for the day one right to neonatal leave. The duration of the leave and when it must be taken would be set by regulations. It would be a minimum of one week and the period in which it could be availed of would last a minimum of 67 weeks starting from the date of the child’s birth. Employees with at least 26 weeks continuous service can avail of neonatal care pay during periods of neonatal leave. While limit and duration of pay would be set by regulations the minimum limit that could be claimed would be a minimum of 12 weeks.
There have been calls since 2014 for such a bill to be introduced. Following a consultation, the Government committed to introduce neonatal care and pay in March 2020. This was reiterated by the then Labour Markets Minister Paul Scully when he was responding to a parliamentary question on 25 May 2022. All MP’s who spoke during the second reading of the Bill were in favour of it passing. Similarly, all contributions at committee stage were in favour of the Bill and all amendments were accepted. However, concerns over the length of time the government were taking to implement the Bill were also raised.
Holiday Pay: BEIS consults on proposals to pro-rata holiday entitlement for part-year and irregular hours workers
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is conducting a consultation on proposals to pro-rata holiday entitlement for part-year and irregular hours workers based on the annual hours they work. The consultation follows the recent Supreme Court judgment in Harpur Trust v Brazel  IRLR 67.
As part of the consultation, BEIS proposes to introduce a holiday entitlement reference period for part-year and irregular hours workers. BEIS wants to ensure that holiday pay and entitlement is directly proportionate to the time part-year and irregular hours staff are working. The consultation also aims to understand how entitlement is currently calculated for agency workers and how the consultation proposal could be implemented.
The consultation may be of interest and impact employers, workers, business representative groups, unions, and those representing the interests of groups in the labour market.
Further information regarding the Calculating holiday entitlement for part-year and irregular hours workers Consultation can be accessed here. The Proposal to simplify Holiday Pay and Entitlement Consultation Impact Assessment can be accessed here.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org