Employment Law Updates 2019 – July Announcements | Jude Read-HR

In July 2019, the Government announced a series of proposed changes to employment law. The announcements relate to statutory sick pay, maternity leave, redundancy during pregnancy, sexual harassment, modern slavery, flexibility in working hours, and family-friendly leave and pay. In this article, we look at the latest updates and key dates to give you more clarity.

As an employer or HR Manager, you may have the opportunity to voice your views to the Government on many of the following proposals. Therefore, we have shared the closing date for key consultations. However, it’s worth noting that a couple of these changes have already been agreed, so we strongly advise checking and updating your HR policies.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

The Government are proposing to reform Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). Consultations relating to the reduction of ill health-related job losses are due to close on 7 October 2019.

We have listed the proposed changes below:

  • Employees not covered by the employer’s duty to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace, may see a new right to request workplace changes based on health grounds.
  • Employees who are on a phased return to work following a period of sickness absence may see changes to rules allowing them to receive a combination of both wages and SSP.
  • Employees who don’t qualify for SSP due to earning less than the lower earnings limit may qualify if SSP is extended to include them.
  • SMEs that support employees on sickness absence and demonstrate good practice may be offered SSP rebates.

Flexible Working Hours

The Government are looking to address “one-sided flexibility” when it comes to working hours. Consultations relating to these proposed measures will close on 11 October 2019.

We have listed the proposed changes below:

  • Workers may see their rights improved when it comes to “reasonable and recordable” work schedules. The aim of this measure is to tackle the problem of workers being allocated shifts at short notice, which makes it hard to “plan their lives or find other work”.
  • The possibility of workers being entitled to compensation when their shifts are cancelled with short notice.
  • Employers may be required to record the notice given to workers, including the method, i.e. “email or text”.

Family-friendly rights

The Government are exploring ways to support families when it comes to neonatal leave and pay, as well as an overhaul of family-friendly leave and pay entitlements. Neonatal leave and pay consultations are due to close on 7 October 2019 and the publication of family-friendly policies will close on 11 October 2019. However, consultations relating to family-friendly policies will remain open until 29 November 2019.

We have listed the proposed changes below:

  • Introduction of neonatal leave and pay for parents with newborn babies that need neonatal care.
  • Large employers may be required to publish flexible working policies and family-friendly leave and pay.
  • The encouragement of fathers to take statutory paternity pay following an overhaul of the current statutory paternity leave and pay.

Sexual Harassment in The Workplace

The Government are looking to strengthen workplace laws relating to sexual harassment. Consultations relating to these proposed changes will close on 2 October 2019.

We have listed the proposed changes below:

  • Placing a mandatory duty on employers to prevent harassment in the workplace.
  • Employers may also see a statutory code of practice on sexual harassment at work.
  • Employment tribunal time limits for claims may be extended under the Equality Act 2010.
  • The law relating to third-party harassment in the workplace may be clarified and strengthened.

Settlement Agreements

The Government are looking to clarify the law on confidentiality clauses and settlement agreements. In this instance, a response to the consultation on preventing the misuse of confidentiality clauses relating to discrimination or workplace harassment occurred on 21 July 2019. As a result, the Government has advised that legislative changes will be implemented “when parliamentary time allows”.

We have listed the agreed changes below:

  • Guidance on the requirements for confidentiality clauses will be produced.
  • When someone signs a settlement agreement, there will be an improvement to the availability of independent legal advice.
  • Confidentiality clauses will no longer prevent someone from making a disclosure to the police, legal professionals, or regulated health and care professionals.
  • New enforcement measures for confidentiality clauses that do not comply with legal requirements will be introduced.

Pregnancy and maternity leave

The Government wants to extend redundancy protection for pregnancy and maternity leave, and a response to this consultation was published on 22 July 2019. As result, the Government will “work with stakeholders to develop a workable solution and look to bring forward legislation when parliamentary time allows”.

Currently, there is a possibility that the three-month time limit for bringing a pregnancy and maternity discrimination employment tribunal claim may be extended to six months. There are likely to be more announcements on changes relating to pregnancy and maternity discrimination, so we advise employers to keep a close eye on this area of Employment Law.

We have listed the potential changes below:

  • At the point when an employee informs their employer of their pregnancy, the redundancy protection period may give the employee the right to be offered any suitable alternative vacancy in a redundancy situation (this can be given in writing or verbally).
  • At the point when a new mother has returned to work, the redundancy protection period may be extended to six months (the protection period would start once the employee’s maternity leave has finished).
  • Employees taking adoption leave and shared parental leave (not paternity leave), may see the extended redundancy protection period mirror the above.

Rehabilitation Periods

The Government is looking to reforming the rules on rehabilitation periods, which may involve creating a single enforcement body for employment rights. Consultations relating to the creation of this enforcement body will close on 6 October 2019.

We have listed the proposed changes below:

  • Stricter rules may be applied with regards to sensitive posts, i.e. roles that involve working with vulnerable adults or children.
  • In some cases, the requirement for job applicants to disclose sentences exceeding 48 months to employers may be removed (after a specific period).
  • In instances where community sentences and shorter sentences have to be revealed to employers, the period of time may be reduced.

Modern Slavery Statements

The Government is currently developing legislation relating to modern slavery in response to recommendations resulting from an independent review of the Modern Slavery Act. Consultations relating to these proposed changes will close on 17 September 2019. If you are a public-sector organisation, we advise that you prepare a voluntary modern slavery statement to pre-empt any forthcoming changes to the law.

We have listed the proposed changes below:

  • Public-sector organisations may be required to produce an annual modern slavery statement, which would relate to the type of organisation and size.
  • A deadline for organisations affected by the legislation to produce a single annual report for publishing their modern slavery statement.
  • A central online registry may be created where modern slavery statements can be uploaded by employers.
  • From 2020/21, government ministerial departments may be required to voluntarily publish their own modern slavery statements each year.

For more detailed information relating to the above consultations, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations

If you are worried about how your company or organisation might be affected by the latest Employment Law updates, then please call Jude Read-HR Consultancy on 01455 231982 or send us an enquiry.

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