28th August 2019
One of the biggest challenges for your busy HR department is keeping abreast of the ever-changing world of employment law. The risks associated with getting things wrong when it comes to legislation are catastrophic; ranging from hefty fines, to losing the trust of your employees, to reputational damage that loses you customers.
The Government has revealed seven proposed changes to employment law covering a variety of topics. Is your HR department prepared to potentially deal with the following?
1. Consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace
The Government is consulting on whether current laws pertaining to the Equality Act 2010 provide the protection they’re supposed to in terms of keeping people safe at work. They are looking at whether there are any gaps in the legislation, and whether there is anything else that can be done practically to protect people from sexual harassment at work. Potential changes being considered include making it even more clear that it is the employer’s responsibility to protect employees from harassment by clients, customers and other external people, examining whether the current laws adequate protect interns and volunteers, and potentially given people longer to take claims to Tribunal.
2. Consultation on proposals to support families
The Government is looking at various ways to better support parents in balancing their work lives and family lives. This includes neonatal leave and pay for the parents of babies who require this special care after birth; transparency of flexible working and whether employers should have a duty to specify possibilities for flexible working when a role is advertised; and parental leave and pay, and what options are available for reforming current entitlements to further help parents to balance the gender division of parental leave.
3. Changes to confidentiality clauses
The government consulted on proposals to prevent the misuse of confidentiality clauses in the case of workplace discrimination/harassment. It intends to implement several changes, including legislating to ensure that confidentiality clauses do not prevent people from disclosing information to police, legal or healthcare professionals; and ensuring people receive comprehensive advice on the nature and limitations of confidentiality clauses, amongst other things. It is unknown exactly what this, along with other related legislation will entail, or when it will be implemented.
4. Pregnant people and new parents to get enhanced redundancy protections
These groups could receive up to two years’ legal protection against redundancy, in response to a previous consultation that revealed new parents face discrimination in the workplace; “54,000 women a year felt they had to leave their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity discrimination”. Adoptive parents will also be protected.
5. Consultation to reduce ill health-related job losses
The Government is consulting on different ways they can support early intervention by employers to support their employees with long term health conditions, and give better access to effective and affordable occupational health. This could include reforming statutory sick pay and extending it to protect those whose earnings do not currently qualify them to receive it. They want to understand how these changes, plus some others, will effect on businesses, individuals and the occupational health profession.
6. Consultation to address unfair flexible working practices
Proposals by the Low Pay Commission seek to address ‘one-sided flexibility’, an issue within some parts of the labour market whereby employers create an environment of unpredictability and insecurity with their employees’ working hours and income. This creates a reluctance amongst these employees to exercise their employment rights. The Government is seeking views on “providing a right to reasonable notice of working hours”, and “providing workers with compensation for shifts cancelled without reasonable notice”.
7. Consultation on establishing a new single enforcement body for employment rights
The Government is exploring the possibility of merging all enforcement of employment rights into one central single labour market enforcement body that will address all issues for workers and businesses. Whereas currently there are different enforcement bodies for different issues, this new body would seek to look after every area, from health and safety to discrimination to modern slavery. They are exploring whether doing so would improve things for vulnerable workers, as well as creating a “level playing field” for the vast majority of businesses who are compliant with the law.
The legislative burden of employment law is not to be underestimated. If there is any doubt in your mind that your business has a handle on this, then you need to make sure you’re working with a tried and trusted HR provider that will give you peace of mind that if and when these changes come into play, you’ve got it all covered.