UK: Consultation Update

Last Updated: 9 August 2019
Article by Ceri Fuller, Zoë Wigan and Hilary Larter

In the run up to electing a new leader, the Government have been busy publishing consultation responses and setting out more proposals for change in further consultations. If any of these wide ranging issues in the open consultations are of particular interest or concern to your organisation please let us know, and we can respond to the consultation on your behalf, maintaining anonymity if preferred.

GOVERNMENT'S RESPONSE TO CONSULTATION ON EXTENDING REDUNDANCY PROTECTION FOR WOMEN AND NEW PARENTS

THE FACTS

In January this year, the government published a consultation paper looking at whether to extend redundancy protection afforded to women on maternity leave and those with similar rights on family leave. In its response to this consultation it says it will:

  • ensure that the redundancy protection applies from the date an employee notifies the employer of her pregnancy, whether orally or in writing.
  • extend the redundancy protection period to six months after a mother's return from maternity leave. For those on adoption leave, the protection will be extended similarly to six months after the end of a return from adoption leave. consult further consultation will take place on how to structure a period of extended redundancy protection for those returning from shared parental leave.
  • establish a taskforce of employer and family representative groups to make recommendations on what improvements can be made to the information available to employers and families in relation to pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR EMPLOYERS?

The government has not said when this legislation will come into effect. This is a significant extension of the current law. It should be remembered that the maternity/adoption returner will still need to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy where one is available during a redundancy process even if they are not the best candidate for the role.

View the response here

GOVERNMENT'S RESPONSE TO CONSULTATION ON THE USE OF NDAs IN WORKPLACE HARASSMENT OR DISCRIMINATION CASES

THE FACTS

The government has also published its response to the consultation launched in March this year on possible measures to prevent the misuse of confidentiality clauses, or "NDAs", in situations of workplace harassment or discrimination. The main points from the response are:

  • The government will introduce legislation to ensure that a confidentiality clause cannot prevent individuals making a disclosure to the police, regulated health and care professionals, or legal professionals. Notably, this only applies to regulated professionals.
  • The legislation will also require that limitations in confidentiality clauses are clearly set out.
  • Mandatory independent legal advice on settlement agreements will include advice on the limitations of any confidentiality clauses.
  • The government agreed that it is important that individuals understand their rights when signing a confidentiality clause, and legislation will require that wording is "clear and specific". The legislation will not however prescribe a specific form of words to be used.
  • New guidance will be produced by ACAS, the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to clarify the law and good practice.
  • Confidentiality clauses that do not comply with the new legal requirements will be void.
  • In relation to employment contracts, the limitations of any confidentiality clause will be added to the list of written employment particulars that must be given to all employees.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR EMPLOYERS?

The government has not given timescales for the new legislation. However, employers may wish to review their template employment contracts and settlement agreements at an early stage to ensure they are ready for the changes when they become law.

View the response here

CONSULTATION ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE

THE FACTS

The Government has published a further consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace exploring whether existing legislation is sufficient. The consultation questions ask:

  • what more could be done to ensure that employers take all steps they can to prevent harassment from happening;
  • whether employers need to be made explicitly responsible for protecting their staff from harassment by third parties, like customers and clients;
  • whether, in practice, there are any interns who are not currently covered by equality protections in the workplace;
  • what the right balance is between the flexibility of volunteering and equality protections for volunteers;
  • whether people are being denied access to justice because of the three-month time limits for bringing an discrimination or harassment claim to an Employment Tribunal; and
  • should the time limit for bringing a discrimination or harassment claim be extended to six months?

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR EMPLOYERS?

The current consultation is open until 2 October 2019. The government is concerned that despite existing legislation there is still a "worrying problem with sexual harassment" and clearly wish to tackle it.

View the consultation here

GOOD WORK PLAN: CONSULTATIONS ON PROPOSALS FOR FAMILIES

THE FACTS

Under the "Good Work Plan" heading, the government has issued three separate consultations which were not previously set out in the original strategy document. It is consulting on:

  • Possible reform of family-related leave and pay (including maternity, paternity, adoption, parental and shared parental leave and pay).
  • Proposals for neonatal leave and pay to support parents of premature of sick babies.
  • Proposals to encourage employers to be more transparent about their flexible working policies and their parental leave and pay policies.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR EMPLOYERS?

These are new ideas so it will be interesting to see what responses they illicit. The family-related leave and pay consultation ends on 29 November 2019, and the last two on 11 October 2019.

View the consultation here

GOOD WORK PLAN: CONSULTATION ON MEASURES TO ADDRESS ONE SIDED FLEXIBILITY

THE FACTS

The government has published consultation seeking views on proposals put forward by the Low Pay Commission last year to tackle the problem of "one sided flexibility", where some workers have unpredictable working hours and insecure income such as those in the "gig economy".

Views are sought on:

  • a new right for workers to be given reasonable notice of their working hours, with appropriate enforcement and effective remedies
  • workers' rights to be compensated where their shifts are cancelled or curtailed without reasonable notice.

The consultation also states that the government will adopt the Low Pay Commission's recommendation for workers to have a right to switch to a contract that recognises their normal working hours.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR EMPLOYERS?

Employers who wish to respond to this consultation, which closes on 11 October 2019, can find the consultation here

No timescale has been stipulated for when the right to switch to a contract recognising normal working hours will be introduced.

GOOD WORK PLAN: CONSULTATION ON SINGLE ENFORCEMENT BODY

THE FACTS

The government has launched a consultation seeking views on:

  • whether a new body should have a role in enforcing rights in relation to statutory sick pay, supporting the Equality and Human Rights Commission and a role in enforcing unpaid tribunal awards.
  • extending the civil penalties regime used to enforce payment of the national minimum wage to other areas in which the current enforcement bodies can require businesses to comply with certain aspects of pay.
  • transparency in supply chains and enforcing joint responsibility for labour market breaches.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR EMPLOYERS?

Employers who wish to contribute to this consultation, which closes on 6 October 2019, can find the consultation document here

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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