Top 2019 Employment Topics in United Kingdom

As Brexit continues to loom over 2019 with its threat of uncertainty, there are several changes to British laws that are expected to come down the road and affect workplaces in that country:

Shared Parental Leave Pay

Through the history of the modern workplace, women or mothers have usually been the only ones to both receive and take advantage of parental leave pay from their employers. Nowadays, however, almost everyone is championing gender equality and asking the questions of if employers offer improved contractual maternity pay to mothers, can they also offer legal shared parental leave (ShPL) pay to fathers?

At the moment, there is no direct requirement in the voluminous ShPL legislation for employers to pay for equal leave so the debate is whether employers will be bound by the Equality Act of 2010 and thus be obliged to pay equal ShPL to fathers. The Court of Appeals will consider the case on May 1, 2019.

Extended Redundancy Protection

The UK government is considering extending redundancy rules for women and new parents. This means that if a woman’s job is terminated, she would be eligible for alternative work by her employer, especially if such a position exists. She actually would have precedence over other employees seeking the same position after a similar redundancy.

The government is now proposing to extend the period of consultation, whereby it comes into effect at the time when the employee notifies her employer of a pregnancy and is also extended by six months, to after she returns from maternity leave.

The purpose of the government debate is to determine answers to several questions, including when the six-month extension starts, the exact treatment of shared parental leave, as well as whether the six-month extension should also apply to adoptive parents.

Code of Practice & Consultations

On December 18, 2018, the UK government responded to the House of Commons’ Women and Equalities Committee’s investigation into sexual harassment in the workplace, by promising the following:

  • Request the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to come up with a Statutory Code of Practice on sexual harassment.
  • Add the EHRC to the list for whistleblowing protections
  • Hold consultations about introducing a compulsory duty to defend employees against sexual harassment. The same consultations will determine how to tackle third-party harassment, as well as protection of interns and volunteers.

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)

The Women and Equalities Committee also launched a new inquiry into non-disclosure agreements in discrimination and harassment cases, on November 13, 2018. This new investigation has a wider scope and focuses on the use of NDAs, specifically where harassment has been committed or been alleged. Examples include racism or pregnancy discrimination. Some of the anticipated results of the investigation include legislation to make it clear that any NDA is null and void if its implications restrict the making of protected discoveries under the whistleblowing regime. It will also apply in the reporting of criminal activity to a law enforcement agency or regulator.

New Statutory Test

Employment status tests continue to be a hot topic and there is a movement underway to force the government to address the issue, with the following findings:

  • Recommendations made by the Taylor Review were accepted by the government, stating a disparity between the employment status tests governing entitlement to work rights and tax liability, with a recommendation to reduce the differences to an absolute minimum. The government also agreed to make an effort to align the test as well as put forward a detailed proposal for the alignment process.
  • The state added that it will improve the clarity of employment status tests through legislation and reflect the true picture of modern working relationships.

A joint public consultation on employment status tests was held by BEIS & HMRC last year. It focused on the possible codification of employment status tests, specifically:

  • A test that is precise – one that focuses on more objective and precise criteria, including the length of engagement, the percentage of employee’s income that comes from one employer, as well as job location.
  • A test with a precise structure – one that is based on a clear order of hierarchy or weighting of criteria.
  • An easy test by reducing the number of factors considered.

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