The summer holidays are over, and the weather is already closing in. If you’re heading back to work after a well-deserved break, we’ve got you covered with the latest employment law updates you may have missed whilst you were away.
Let’s dive straight in with the employment law updates already in the works, and those we can expect in the future too.
Strikes and agency staff
Especially pertinent this summer as rail, dock, legal and bus staff go on strike (amongst others), the government launched new legislation on 21st July that allows employers to fill the gaps of striking staff with agency workers.
Formerly, this may have constituted a criminal offence, but now businesses can hire either agency or fixed-term temporary staff to fill the holes left in the workforce.
Unions in the UK are currently assessing whether or not the introduction of this legislation may have been in breach of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement where it relates to the UK’s requirement to uphold and respect labour standards, including the right to collective bargaining.
First championed by Theresa May’s government in 2019, the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill received government backing on 15th July and allows the parents of babies who require hospital care to take 12 weeks of paid leave.
This additional leave is on-top of statutory maternity and paternity leave, and will be a ‘day one’ right of employment.
Long Covid and disability status
Over two million people in the UK are reported to be living with long Covid, and there is now precedent that long Covid sufferers can be classed as disabled.
An employment tribunal last year, Burke v Turning Point Scotland, found that a caretaker who was struggling with ongoing Covid symptoms was protected by the Equality Act 2010 as a disabled person. Burke had been off work with Covid for eight months before being dismissed.
The EHRC also said in May this year that, whilst long Covid is not a condition such as HIV, in some cases, it could amount to a disability.
Extra jobs for the lowest earners
Legislation is on the way later this year that will ban employers from adding exclusivity clauses into the contracts of shop workers that stop them from taking up additional jobs with other employers.
The use of such clauses are already banned for those on zero hours contracts, but following a consultation early last year, it’s expected that the rule will be extended to cover staff earning up to £123 a week.
No additional protections for the menopause
Menopause symptoms affect millions of women in the UK, and there have been cases in recent years where successful claims for disability and sex discrimation have been brought against employers where dismissals or unfair treatment have arisen.
However, the government has confirmed that it has no plans to amend the Equality Act 2010 to include menopause as a protected characterisitic, such as race, sex or sexual orientation.
Allocation of tips
This one has been on the apparent backburner since it was first noted in 2018, but is well worth keeping tabs on as it’s recently received government backing. The Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill was included in the Queen’s Speech on 14th October 2019 and if it does progress, it will become unlawful for employers to hold back tips from staff, and workers will also have the right to ask their employers about their tipping record.
It is expected the Tipping Bill will benefit more than two million workers and help customers to know that their tips are going to the people who served them, and not the company.
Changes to data protection
In July, the government introduced a new bill designed to loosen stringent GDPR regulations inherited as part of the EU.
Whilst still aiming to retain a ‘golden standard’, the aim of the Data Protection Bill is to make it easier for businesses to manage data, with subtle but important changes including allowing organisations to appoint a ‘senior responsible individual’ instead of a data protection officer, an update to what identifiable personal data is, and an expansion as to the circumstances where data subject access requests can be lawfully refused.
Additional protections for emergency and shop staff
In case you missed it, The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 became law in April and doubles the maximum penalty that anyone assaulting retail, emergency or police staff can receive from 12 to 24 months.
Increased violence towards these workers throughout the pandemic (amounting to 50 incidents per hour on average) led to a parliamentary committee report in June 2021, with the updated Act covering England and Wales.
Future potential employment law updates
There have been some major employment law changes already this year, with big-ticket legislation including the Employment Bill still waiting to see their day in parliament too.
But what else can employers expect in the months ahead?
First, as noted above, Unions are challenging whether or not new rules set out by the government to allow businesses to replace striking staff with agency workers is legal or not.
We could also see updates to miscarriage policies, with The Miscarriage Association pushing to make the topic less taboo and provide more support for mothers.
We could also see changes to the much-discussed IR35 reforms, with The Public Accounts Committee publishing a report looking at the implementation with recommendations for improvement. Five of those recommendations, including new processes to resolve disputes and efficiency savings throughout the system, could be implemented late next year.
And finally, with more of us working from home than ever before, The Office of Tax Simplification is assessing the impact of hybrid working on taxes, especially for employees working across borders including remote within the UK.
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