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General Election 2019: What’s on the ballot?

With the general election now only one week away, the largest political parties have now launched their manifestos. On the employment and immigration landscape, these include some familiar proposals as well as some potentially transformative changes. Given the uncertain political landscape, it remains to be seen exactly how relevant these proposals will be. However, it is interesting to review how the different parties have approached employment and immigration issues.

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General Election 2019: What’s on the ballot?

Government proposes enhanced protections for employees and workers facing workplace discrimination

The government has proposed introducing new protections for employees and workers facing discrimination in the workplace from their employers. These proposals reflect increasing demands for there to be a fairer balance between workers' and employers' rights.

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Government proposes enhanced protections for employees and workers facing workplace discrimination

Consultation on establishing a single enforcement body for employment rights: Responses

Earlier in July we posted an update on the launch of consultation on the proposal for a single employment rights enforcement body in the UK, contained in the government’s Good Work Plan (earlier update here). The consultation period for this proposal closed on 6 October 2019. Both the Employment Lawyers Association (ELA) and Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) have now published their feedback on the proposal.

The CAB welcomes the proposal taking the view that the current enforcement system is not working. They argue the current system is complicated for complainants as it consists of multiple enforcement bodies that have varying powers on a range of complaints. For example, both the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA) and HMRC Statutory Sick Pay Disputes Team have a responsibility to process complaints relating to sick pay, but only a complaint to the GLAA may lead to an investigation on wider practice. A harmonised system would provide workers with a single place to go for help on all their basic employment rights.

The ELA also suggested that the current system is not an effective means of enforcing individual’s employment rights and that too much reliance is placed on the Tribunal process. The ELA were positive about the proposal, suggesting that it would be a single point of contact for individuals and could be a central organisation providing materials to educate workers and employers about employment rights.

However, both the ELA and CAB raised concerns over aspects of the proposal.  In particular, these concerns included the time required to amalgamate the existing system into a single body and that sufficient funding and resources will need to be allocated to co-ordinate such a move. The ELA suggested that the single enforcement body should not erode the existing skills and expertise within separate organisations, singling out the Equality and Human Rights Commission in particular for its expertise in equality issues and recommending that its role should not be interfered with. It also raised the concern that a single enforcement body that is more accessible to employees could increase the volume of state investigations compared to the number of Tribunal claims, as employees may feel more comfortable making a claim to a government body than bringing a Tribunal case. Further management time and resources would need to be allocated to dealing with such investigations and it will need to be determined whether this would be the most efficient means of dealing with employees’ complaints.

Following the responses to the consultation, it is yet to be seen whether the government will alter the proposal put forward by the Good Work Plan.

Consultation on establishing a single enforcement body for employment rights: Responses

Government consultation: “Health is everyone’s business”

The government has launched a consultation on ways in which government and employers can take action to reduce ill-health-related job loss in the UK.

Despite low unemployment figures, it remains the case that those who suffer from ill health face barriers entering and remaining in work. The government reported that although around 8 in 10 non-disabled people are employed, only five in 10 disabled people are in work, and disabled people are 10 times more likely to leave work following long-term sickness absence than non-disabled people.

The government is seeking views on a number of proposals which aim to encourage early action by employers to engage with and support employees with long-term health conditions, including:

  • A right for employees to request work(place) modifications on health grounds. Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are currently under a duty to make reasonable adjustments where an employee with a disability and is placed at a substantial disadvantage as a result of a provision, criterion or practice imposed by the employer, a physical feature of the employer’s premises or a failure by the employer to provide an auxiliary aid. The proposed change would allow employees to request that modifications are made even where the employee doesn’t meet the definition of disabled under the 2010 Act. The employer, unlike under the duty to make reasonable adjustments, would be able to refuse a request for workplace modifications on legitimate business grounds.
  • Reform of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP). The proposed changes would enable an employee returning from a period of sickness absence to have a flexible, phased return to work while still receiving some SSP and would see those who do not qualify for SSP (as they earn below the Lower Earnings Limit) receive a proportion of their wage as SSP. Additionally, there are proposals to increase the fines for failure to pay SSP where it is due, and the inclusion of the enforcement of SSP within the remit of a proposed new, single labour market enforcement body (see further commentary on the consultation in relation to this new body here.
  • Ways of improving the use of Occupational Health (OH) services by employers. The government is seeking views on ways to reduce the costs, increase market capacity and improve the value and quality of OH services.

The proposed measures aim to recognise the role that employers play in assisting employees with disabilities and health conditions to stay at work, and the importance of the employer taking early action. The consultation looks to measure the impact of the proposals on businesses, individuals and the occupational health profession. The views gathered during the consultation will inform government policy in this area. The consultation will run until 7 October 2019 and is available here.

Government consultation: “Health is everyone’s business”

Consultation on the establishment of a new single labour market enforcement body in the UK

Since the publication of the 2017 Taylor Review of Modern Employment Practice and the government’s subsequent Good Work Plan, we have been keeping you up to date with new regulations and proposals for implementing recommendations (earlier updates here and here).

The Good Work Plan news this week, against a backdrop of record levels of employment and growing wages,  is that the government has launched a consultation to consider the case for a new single labour market enforcement body.

The reason for the consultation and the potential new enforcement body arises out of the government’s recognition that “effective enforcement plays a vital role in giving individuals the confidence to challenge employers where they are denied their rights and it creates a level playing field between businesses”.  The proposed focus would be on protecting the most vulnerable workers’ employment rights.

The government’s vision is that a new single enforcement body could deliver extended state enforcement, a strong recognisable single brand, better support for businesses, pooled intelligence, co-ordinated enforcement action, more effective use of resources and closer working with other enforcement partners.

The government points out in the consultation briefing that other countries have taken steps to establish more streamlined inspectorate bodies, and in fact this type of body is recommended by the International Labour Organisation. International case studies are referred to and provide an interesting comparison. 

The proposal is that a new single labour market enforcement body would deal with the National Minimum Wage (currently enforced by HMRC); employment agency regulations (currently enforced by the Employment Agency Standard Inspectorate); umbrella companies; licences to supply temporary labour in high risk sectors e.g. agriculture and the fresh food chain (currently enforced by the Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority); labour and worker exploitation; and holiday pay for vulnerable workers.  The government is also interested to hear views on whether the new body should play any role in the enforcement of Employment Tribunal awards.

The consultation closing date is 6 October 2019. The consultation can be accessed here. As usual responses are welcome online, via email or in writing.

Consultation on the establishment of a new single labour market enforcement body in the UK

HMRC issues guidance on preparing for changes to off-payroll working in the private sector (IR35)

As we flagged on this blog back in March (post here), a consultation is currently open on implementation of the extension of the IR35 rules on deducting tax and National Insurance contributions at source to medium and large private sector organisations which engage individual contracts via intermediaries.

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HMRC issues guidance on preparing for changes to off-payroll working in the private sector (IR35)

Expanding the female talent pipeline – new government guidance

The Government Equalities Office has published some simplified guidance on actions that can help support women's progress in the workplace.
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Expanding the female talent pipeline – new government guidance

What is the IR35 regime and why does it matter?

The IR35 regime was introduced by HMRC to avoid individual contractors escaping paying tax as an employee by operating through a personal service company.
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What is the IR35 regime and why does it matter?

The gender pay gap – new guidance issued to help organisations close the gap

According to the Office for National Statistics, as at June 2018, the national gender pay gap (GPG) stood at 18.4 per cent as an average across all employees. The Government Equalities Office (GEO) has reported that closing this gap will not be a "quick fix" but that reducing the GPG has become a priority for more companies than ever before. With that in mind, the GEO has published two pieces of guidance to support employers so they can recognise and address their GPG.
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The gender pay gap – new guidance issued to help organisations close the gap

The Good Work Plan delivers some good news for work-seekers

The latest statutory instrument coming out of the Good Work Plan, The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses (Amendment) Regulations 2019 has been laid before Parliament. This is the government's attempt to address the recommendation from the Taylor Review that information available to workers should be more transparent, particularly when it comes to pay.
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The Good Work Plan delivers some good news for work-seekers