Main features of current employment legislation

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It is by complying with relevant legislation that both employers and their employees can help ensure that the workplace as a whole provides a fair environment for every individual. Therefore, employment law in the United Kingdom exists to regulate the relationship between organizations and their employees. Employment law also helps safeguard against discrimination, unfair dismissal and promote equality in the workplace. At the onset of 2018, a number of important modifications were introduced to further strengthen the law and help make workplaces more conducive to employees, without any bias. Without further ado, here are some of the key features of the current employment legislation in the UK.

Private Members’ Bill on Workers’ Rights (Introduced on 9th January 2018)

Scottish MP Chris Stephens introduced the Workers (Definition and Rights) Bill on the 9th of January 2018 under the private members’ 10-minute rules in the Parliament. The Bill aims to ban zero-hours contracts (except in cases wherein their use was agreed with an individual and the workers’ trade union). Furthermore, the bill also helps clarify the definition of ‘worker’, especially after the recent case law from the Supreme Court.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting Consultation (Introduced on 2nd February 2018)

On this date, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) consultation on the required steps to enforce the reporting of gender pay gaps across organisations closed. According to the EHRC draft policy document on enforcement, any non-compliance with the regulations will informally dealt with, at first.  Moreover, employers will need to report their gender pay gap within a period of 42 days after receiving a notification from the EHRC. Otherwise, the EHRC will initiate an investigation to find whether this amounts to an “unlawful act”.

Subsequently, the aforementioned employer will have the option of agreeing in writing to comply with pay gap reporting, otherwise, they must prepare an action plan to correct the breach. In case, they still fail, the EHRC could take matters to the courts for enforcement. Additionally, failure to comply with the court order would be subject to a significant fine.

It is important to know that the regulations contain no enforcement penalties. Rather, the current proposals are based on the assumption that failure to comply with the gender pay gap is a violation of the Equality Act 2010. Having said this, a few top employment law solicitors in UK maintain that gender pay reporting is outside the scope of the Equality Act despite that, they warn that the risk of reputational damage to organisations due to non-compliance would be a greater threat than the actual enforcement action.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting: First Reports (Published on 30th March 2018 for Public Sector)

Specified public authorities that include government departments, local authorities, armed forces, the NHS and state schools (with 250 or more employees), were asked by the legislature to publish their first gender pay gap reports by this date). This information would be based on the data collected on 31st March 2017. The same reporting dates and data snapshots apply under the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties and Public Authorities) Regulations 2017 from now on. More or less, the same would apply to voluntary and private sector organisations of the same size as well.

‘Fit for work’ Assessment Ends (on 31st March 2018)

The government announced that it would scrap the ‘Fit for work’ assessment scheme from December 2017. Launched in 2014, this scheme aimed to provide free information service (advice on work, health, and managing sickness absence) and occupational health assessment service to employees with four weeks or more of sickness absence. Most referrals under this were expected to be made by general practitioners.

However, many employers were also able to refer such employees who were off work due to sickness for more than four weeks. While employers, employees, and general practitioners can still use the ‘Fit for work’ website, helpline and web chat service, the assessment service was closed on 31st March 2018, across England and Wales and on 31st May 2018 across Scotland.

National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage (Introduced on 1st April 2018)

One of the most significant changes made to the employment law in 2018 was the introduction of the new rates of National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage, starting 1st April 2018. Accordingly, the revised rates are as follows –

  • National Living Wage for Workers aged 25 and over will be £7.83 per hour
  • Workers aged 21 and over will get £7.38 per hour
  • Development rate for workers aged 18-20 increased to £5.90 per hour
  • Young workers rate for workers aged 16-17 became £4.20 per hour
  • Apprentice rate was revised to £3.70 per hour

Gender Pay Gap Reporting: First Report (Introduced on 4th Apr 2018 for Private and Voluntary Sector)

After the public sector in the UK both private and voluntary sector employers in England, Wales, and Scotland having a minimum of 250 employees, were required to publish information about the gender pay gap in their workforce. This report was based on the pay bill ‘snapshot’ date of 5th April 2017, under Gender Pay Gap Information Regulations 2017 of the Equality Act 2010. The deadline for the first reports was 4th April 2018. The provisions specified under the Northern Irish Employment Act 2016 are similar to these, except the fact that they include monetary fine up to £5,000 for any non-compliance and reports on disability and ethnicity pay gaps along with the gender pay gap.

Payslip changes (Introduced on 6th April 2018)

Two important changes pertaining to pay slip information came into force on 6th April 2018. They were as follows

  • Employers must include the total number of work hours completed, wherein the pay varies as per the hours worked (for example, under zero-hours contracts or variable hours)
  • Both workers and employees were to given the payslips.