UK: Employment Law Update - February 2019

Last Updated: 6 March 2019
Article by Tina Chander

Wage rates rise

From 1 April 2019, the National Minimum Wage will increase. The rates will be:

£8.21 per hour (from £7.83) aged 25 and over

£7.70 per hour (from £7.38) aged 21 – 24

£6.15 per hour (from £5.90) aged 18 – 20

£4.35 per hour (from £4.20) aged 16 -17

The apprentice rate increases from £3.70 to £3.90 per hour.

From 7 April 2019, the rate of statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay, statutory adoption pay and statutory shared parental pay increases from £145.18 per week to £148.68 or 90% of the employee's average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

The Good Work Plan

The Good Work Plan, born out of the Taylor Review into the treatment of flexible workers, has been criticised for being too vague and not addressing specifics such as the future of zero hours contracts, low wages and the implications of Brexit. However, the plan has broadly accepted most of Mathew Taylor's recommendations and the government has embarked on a series of consultations designed, one hopes, to put more meat on the bone. Results of the latest consultations have been published this month, summaries of which can be found at gov.uk, and cover:

  • Measures to increase transparency in employees' basic terms of engagement;
  • Improvements to agency workers' pay and conditions
  • Enforcement of employment rights;

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/government-response-to-the-taylor-review-of-modern-working-practices

Consultation on extending redundancy protection for pregnant employees

Following research commissioned by the BEIS that found that one in nine women had been dismissed or made redundant following their return to work after having a baby, the government is consulting on whether to extend the current redundancy protection rights for up to six months after women return to work. The consultation ends on 5 April 2019.

Workplace pension contributions – going up again

Minimum pension contributions to workplace pension schemes are going up again under automatic enrolment rules, following the increases last April. From 6 April 2019, minimum employee contributions will increase from 3% to 5% and employers' minimum contributions will rise from 2% to 3%. Whilst the increase in the tax-free personal allowance should ease the potential loss of 2% salary into a pension scheme, and whilst these are statutory increases rather than imposed by employers, employers should ensure employees understand the changes and what it will mean in terms of any changes to their take home pay. Clearly, employers can take or share the burden of these increases with their staff – but it is the employer's responsibility to make sure these increases are implemented appropriately.

Gender Pay Gap

Employers with more than 250 employees are required to publish their second report on their pay gap, as it existed on 5 April 2018, by 6 April 2019 (30 March for public sector employers). Most companies' figures will require accompanying explanation in order to clarify the statistics, particularly where there are significant disparities. Let us know if you need any advice on preparing your figures and your accompanying statement.

Equal pay in the retail sector

In September 2017 we reported that Asda had taken their case to the Court of Appeal after the EAT ruled that their employees working on the shop floor could compare their rates of pay with those working in the store's distribution centres. The Court of Appeal has just confirmed that jobs in different parts of the business can be compared under the Equal Pay Act (most of the retail workers are female and most of those employed in distribution are men). This will have implications for retail operators who might be faced with a number of equal pay claims. Contact us for advice on conducting an equal pay review.

Brexit

As the withdrawal agreement negotiated between the government and the EU remains in no man's land, our advice remains as before: employers should continue to operate on the basis that employment law will not suddenly, nor radically, change in the foreseeable future – even with a no-deal Brexit. The government has incorporated all current EU legislation into the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 and there is an expectation that most elements of EU-derived employment legislation will be retained in one form or another once we have exited the Union – whenever that might occur.

YEAR: your employment annual retainer

Reduce the time you spend dealing with HR matters, and make sure that you comply with an increasingly complex area of law, by joining our YEAR club. Your annual membership fee covers a range of services from an initial review of your HR documents, email and telephone support, and discounted rates for onsite visits - click here for the complete list. For more information please contact Tina Chander or visit our website: https://www.wrighthassall.co.uk/knowledge/legal-articles/2017/04/28/wright-hassall-launches-annual-employment-retainer/

Case update

Uber drivers are workers not self-employed

The Court of Appeal has upheld the Employment Appeal Tribunal's ruling that Uber drivers are workers and not independent contractors. Uber's position was that its technology merely facilitated the opportunity for drivers to connect with potential passengers, in other words it was an agent for third party providers (the drivers). However, the court determined that Uber is sufficiently prescriptive about how drivers provide their services and is, in fact, in the business of providing transport services rather than lead generation. The Court of Appeal agreed with the EAT that Uber's description of itself as an intermediary in the contract did not tally with the reality of the relationship between the company and its drivers, and also agreed that when they were logged into Uber's app, the drivers qualified as workers. However, the Court of Appeal ruling was not unanimous so Uber has bene given leave to appeal to the Supreme Court. As with all the other disputes about employment status around the gig economy, no general principles can be drawn from this case – this one, as with all preceding ones, has turned on its own facts. As noted above, improving the clarity of employment status tests is one of the objectives of the Good Work Plan.

And finally...

'Start with good people, lay out the rules, communicate with your employees, motivate them and reward them. If you do all those things effectively, you can't miss.' Lee Iacocca (President and CEO of Chrysler 1978 – 1992)

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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