Not Quite the Summer of Love
Whilst the Summer of Employment Law Consultation is unlikely to live in the memory like the Summer of Love, it is certainly an accurate description for those looking at how the employment law landscape is likely to change and impact on employers in the coming months.
July saw not one but five separate consultations launched by the Government which are likely to lead to significant employment law changes across a number of areas.
The Employment Law Consultations covered:
- Proposals to support families. This sees proposed changes to family related leave and pay including paternity leave and shared parental leave, the introduction of neonatal leave and pay which is designed to support parents of premature or sick babies and, for larger employers, encouraging them to be more transparent about their flexible working and parental leave/pay policies. What caught my eye in particular is the Government seeking views on a more radical overhaul of family leave rights, replacing the current system with a single set of entitlements along the lines seen in Iceland. This Icelandic model doesn’t differentiate between maternity and paternity leave; each parent has a block of 3months paid leave with a further 3 month block split as the parents choose.
- Strengthening equality legislation following the Government’s launch of its Gender Equality Road Map. A key part of this is the consultation on the effectiveness of workplace sexual harassment legislation. This sees the possible extension of the 3-month time limit for pursuing discrimination and harassment tribunal claims along with the return of employer liability of third party harassment.
- Extending redundancy protection for women and new parents. Currently, when making a woman on maternity leave redundant an employer must offer that employee suitable alternative employment, where available, in preference to other employees. The proposals would see this protection extended from the moment an employee tells her employer she is pregnant and last for a period of 6 months after they have returned to work. This right would also be extended to apply to those returning on adoption leave and shared parental leave.
- Consultation on the use of non-disclosure agreements/clauses in contracts of employment and settlement agreements. This topic has received a great deal of publicity with various examples cited as to how these types of clause have been used to prevent disclosures being made which has meant unacceptable behaviour has gone unchallenged. The proposed changes would see restrictions on preventing disclosure to the police, regulated health care professionals and legal professionals. They would also see a requirement that these NDAs are clear and when set out in a settlement agreement, the legal adviser being required to advise the employee specifically on the impact of those clauses.
- Consultation to address one sided flexibility where a worker has no guarantee of work but is expected to be available, often at short notice, to work. This would see a right to reasonable working hours, compensation for shift cancellation without reasonable notice and a right for workers to request a more predictable and stable working pattern.
That is a lot for employers to think about. To help employers navigate their way through these proposals we will be looking at the proposed changes in more detail at our free employment law seminar on 16 October 2019 where we will also be looking at other changes and the very latest cases.