Answer ... The employment law landscape in the United Kingdom is ever-changing. Employment tribunal litigation continues unabated, although claims have not yet returned to the levels they were at in 2013, when fees for bringing a claim (which have since been abolished) were introduced.
Since the United Kingdom’s adoption of the EU General Data Protection Regulation, there has been a marked increase in employees making data subject access requests, either because they want to understand what personal data is held on them or as part of a wider pre-litigation tactic.
In the past few years there have been a number of cases regarding whether individuals are employees, workers or self-employed contractors. The government made the issues of ‘employment status’ and increasing security for atypical workers key focuses in 2018, which resulted in a number of recommendations. “The biggest package of workplace reforms for over 20 years” was set out in the Good Work Plan. However, many of the recommendations have little detail and will be the subject of further consultation.
There have also been significant cases regarding:
- the rights of whistleblowers;
- suspension and dismissal of employees; and
- whether men who take shared parental leave should be paid the same as women who received enhanced company maternity pay in the past year.
There has also been a focus on appropriate behaviour in the workplace following the #MeToo movement. As well as an increase in internal grievances for employers, the government has commissioned a report on sexual harassment in the workplace and recommendations for change have been made.
The use of non-disclosure agreements in harassment and discrimination cases has also come under scrutiny.
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Brexit has dominated the UK Parliament’s agenda for some time. Employment changes are generally made in April and October each year and a number of new legislative developments are expected in the next 12 months, including the following:
- extension of IR35 reforms to the private sector, to ensure that individuals who would be employees if they were employed directly pay broadly the same tax as if they were employed;
- increase in the holiday reference period for workers with variable pay from 12 to 52 weeks; extension of the right to a written statement to all workers from day 1 and to contain extra details;
- threshold for valid employee requests for information and consultation to be lowered from 10% to 2% of employees; and
- abolition of the opt-out from equal pay protections of Agency Worker Regulations (Swedish derogation).
Future date to be confirmed (expected 2020):
- parental bereavement leave and pay to be introduced, giving employed parents who have lost a child two weeks’ statutory paid leave to allow them time away from the workplace to grieve.
Possible future developments subject to consultation:
- introduction of ethnicity pay gap reporting;
- extended redundancy protection for those on family leave;
- codification of the employment status test and other reforms arising from the Good Work Plan; and
- proposed employment tribunal reform.