We report on the legislative changes to expect this year and potential developments to look out for.  There were several legislative measures announced in the Queen’s Speech, made on 19 December 2019, which we can expect to hear more about this year.  We can also expect to hear about other government measures previously announced, but which did not feature in last month’s Queen’s speech.

APRIL 2020 CHANGES

IN FORCE DEVELOPMENT
5 April 2020 Pay

The Department for Work and Pensions has set out proposed increases to a number of statutory benefits payments.  The weekly rates are expected to apply from 5 April 2020:

  • Statutory sick pay will be £95.85 (up from £94.25)
  • Statutory maternity pay, shared parental pay, paternity pay    and adoption pay will be £151.20 (up from £148.68)
6 April 2020 Good Work Plan

We reported in our newsletter in May 2019 of the key changes coming into effect.  Details can be found here

The Conservatives’ manifesto did not mention resolving the complex issue of refining and providing clarity on the employment status test.  Neither has there been any response to the consultation, which closed on 1 June 2018.  This suggests that this is not a high priority.

6 April 2020 Off-payroll working rules

As reported in our May 2019 newsletter, the government confirmed that the off-payroll working rules (IR35) would be extended to the private sector.   Large and medium sized companies that contract with personal service companies for the provision of workers’ services could have to treat payments to those workers as employment income and account for tax and national insurance.  Our May 2019 giving more details of the IR35 rules can be found here.  Legislation has not yet been passed; therefore, this measure could be subject to further changes. 

6 April 2020 Taxation of termination payments

All termination payments above £30,000 will be subject to employer’s NIC’s.

Expected in April 2020 Parental bereavement – leave and pay

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018, entitling all working parents to two weeks’ paid statutory leave if they lose a child under 18 (including a still birth after 24 weeks of pregnancy).  Secondary legislation to implement the details of the scheme is awaited.

QUEEN’S SPEECH 2019

As announced in the Queen’s Speech, the government is proposing a new Employment Bill. We can expect the new bill to include:

  • The right to request a more predictable contract. In its Good Work Plan the government indicated its intention to legislate to introduce a right for a more fixed working pattern for those who do not have one, after 26 weeks’ service. An employer would have to deal with this in a similar manner to a flexible working request.
  • Protecting tips and service charges for workers. The government proposed legislation to require employers to pass on all tips and service charges to workers and, supported by a statutory Code of Practice, to ensure that tips would be distributed on a fair and transparent basis.
  • Extending redundancy protection to prevent pregnancy and maternity discrimination. The Pregnancy and Maternity (Redundancy Protection) Bill was not granted Royal Assent. The Bill was designed to make it harder for employers to make employees redundancy during pregnancy and for six months after they had returned from maternity leave. The Bill was believed to have cross party support and the government is now intending to implement this measure through the Employment Bill.
  • Extended leave for neonatal care. The government proposed in its Good Work Plan to introduce a new right to neonatal leave and pay, to support parents of premature or sick babies. Consultation closed on 11 October 2019; a response is awaited.
  • A week’s leave for unpaid carers.
  • Making flexible working the default. The government intends, subject to consultation, to make flexible working the default position unless the employer has a good reason.

We do not have any timescales of when the Employment Bill can be expected.

BREXIT

Following the outcome of the general election on 12 December 2019, the UK is expected to leave the EU at 11.00 pm on 31 January 2020. The long-term impact of Brexit on employment law is difficult to predict, although no significant changes are likely to occur during 2020.

POTENTIAL DEVELOPMENTS TO LOOK OUT FOR

Non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s)
Following the #MeToo movement and the extensive publicity on the use of NDA’s, the government published its proposals to prevent the misuse of confidentiality clauses in NDA’s in the settlement of workplace harassment and discrimination complaints. The government reiterated that confidentiality clauses can serve a legitimate purpose in both employment contracts and settlement agreements but confirmed its intention to bring forward new legislation introducing limitations on confidentiality, which should be made clear to those signing them. Clauses that do not follow the new rules will be void. Draft legislation is awaited when Parliamentary time allows.

Whilst legislation has yet to be implemented, we are already drafting and seeing confidentiality clauses setting out circumstances when the confidentiality clause will not apply.

Sexual harassment
The government launched a consultation on measures to address sexual harassment in the workplace. The consultation included proposals to introduce a mandatory duty on employers to prevent harassment in the workplace and increase the time limit (from three months to six months) for bringing a discrimination claim. Consultation closed on 2 October 2019. Draft legislation is awaited when Parliamentary time allows.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission will publish a new statutory code of practice on preventing sexual harassment in the workplace. They had hoped to publish by July 2019, but this is still awaited. It may well be published this year.

Pay
The Conservatives pledged in their manifesto to increase the National Living Wage (NLW) to £10.50 per hour (two-thirds of average earnings) by 2024 and to extend the NLW to over-21’s.

Contact our employment team for more information