Whilst the media has been busy focusing on new Prime Minister Boris Johnson who took office on 24 July 2019, and his new Government, it has failed to notice a raft of employment law changes proposed by out-going Prime Minister Theresa May.
These were proposed by her as part of her legacy in the dying days of her Premiership. However, they remain mere proposals and with Brexit uncertainty continuing and likely to take up valuable parliamentary time when Parliament resumes in early September, it remains to be seen whether they actually become law.
The Government Equalities Office has published a consultation on plans aimed at strengthening protections against sexual harassment in the workplace. This includes harassment from third parties and as part of the consultation, views are welcome as to whether legal protections should be extended to volunteers and interns, and whether the laws relating to harassment by third parties for example customers should be clarified further.
Phased return from sickness absence
There are proposals by the Department of Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care to shake up the Statutory Sick pay system more generally and as part of this process it has been proposed that employees who are returning from a period of sickness absence will be entitled to enter into a flexible phased return to work.
This will involve paying an element of statutory sick pay and also contractual wages. There are also proposals to fine businesses who fail to pay employees their statutory sick pay entitlement.
New redundancy protections of new parents and the introduction of neonatal leave
It is proposed that new and expectant mothers and employees who are adopting or taking shared parental leave will have redundancy legal protections for a period of six months from the date that they return to work. These protections also apply to employees who inform their employer that they are actually pregnant.
The actual detail of implementing these changes have yet to be clarified. The Government also proposed that parents of babies who receive neonatal care could receive neonatal leave and pay for the period that their baby is in hospital. It is unclear as to whether there would be a cap on the period of such leave and pay and whether it will be a qualifying entitlement from the commencement of employment.
Changes to Parental leave
It has been suggested that flexible parental leave should be introduced which would enable parents to take time off in specific blocks for example in terms of days, half-days and other specific blocks of time. It has also been proposed that parental leave and pay should also be extended to all working parents and this would include workers with the option of transferring leave entitlement between parents.
The Government is keen to encourage fathers to take a greater role in the care of their children and it is hoped that these proposals will encourage more of them to take up parental leave. As part of the plan it has been suggested that businesses employing more than 250 employees would need to publish their family leave and pay policies and flexible working plans and to reveal these in any recruitment campaign for staff.
The right to reasonable notice of work schedules and compensation for the cancellation of shifts.
The Government has implemented a consultation until October 2019 as to whether workers should be entitled to reasonable notice of their work shifts and schedules and to introduce a financial penalty for those employers who fail to provide such notice.
It is also proposed that workers who suffer a cut in their shifts at the last minute without much warning would be entitled to compensation which would include the amount the worker would have earned from the cancelled shift and also a payment calculated by the national minimum wage rate multiplied by the number of hours cancelled.
Prohibiting Non-Disclosure Agreements in sexual harassment and discrimination cases
The Government wishes to legislate to ban confidentiality clauses from being used to prevent individuals from disclosing information to the police, health professionals, lawyers and social workers in these areas.
Non-Disclosure Agreements will still be lawful for legitimate reasons for example to protect a businesses trade secrets and confidential information. It is also proposed that individuals signing such agreements will be entitled to independent legal advice on the limitations of the agreement.
The Government wants to toughen up the laws on modern slavery and aims to extend the requirement to publish a modern slavery statement to the public sector on an annual basis. It is proposed that this is done on-line within a specific annual deadline.
Requesting workplace adjustments
Staff suffering from poor health will be given the automatic right to request workplace adjustments. The details are currently sketchy, and it is understood that a business would have to demonstrate that it has a legitimate business case to refuse a request.
Changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders legislation
It is proposed that new laws are introduced to remove the requirement for staff with some sentences of over four years to have to disclose them to employers after a specific period of time has passed.
It is likely that these new proposals will not apply to the most serious convictions and that there will still be strict rules for some roles which involve working with children and/or vulnerable adults and involving public trust.
New single enforcement body
A further consultation is underway on proposals to create a new single labour market enforcement body aimed at making it easier for individuals to know where to go for help and assistance and to assist employers in complying with their legal obligations.
As can be seen there are a whole raft of proposed changes which if implemented will introduce a number of changes to UK employment law. However, whether the new Government has the appetite to continue with these proposals remains to be seen and at a time where Brexit uncertainties are likely to delay any legislative journey onto the statute book.
Contact One Of Our Employment Solicitors Today
If you have any employment law concerns, then contact Steven Eckett – Partner and Head of Employment at Meaby & Co LLP on 020 7703 5034 or by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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