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Bitesize HR updates

Following the Government’s Good Work Plan, there are several changes coming into force on 6 April 2020 which HR professionals and all businesses should be aware of. In this article I have highlighted the upcoming changes and provided a general update on recent changes that you may have missed.

Timing of providing contracts of employment

The first key change that employers should be aware of relates to the timing of when a contract of employment needs to be provided to an employee.

From April 2020, employment contracts will need to be given on or before the first day of an employees’ work. The change applies to all employees and workers who start work on or after 6 April 2020, therefore there is no requirement to re-issue existing staff with contracts on this day. This means that all employees or workers are to be supplied with a contract, regardless of the length of their employment.

Whilst most of the information must be supplied on or before the first day of employment to an employee in a single document, the following particulars can be provided in a separate statement no later than two months after employment commences:

  • Pensions and pension schemes

  • Collective agreements

  • Training entitlement (compulsory training or training paid by the worker must be included in the initial statement)

  • Disciplinary and grievance procedures

Equal Pay Bill giving employees the ‘right to know’

The House of Lords have introduced the Equal Pay Bill which, if enacted, will give women who suspect that they are not receiving equal pay the ‘right to know’ how much a male colleague doing the same work is being paid. The petition led by the Fawcett Society to support the Bill has received over 56,000 signatures (and counting).

A person making a right to know request will be able to ask their employer for information about a comparative colleague of the opposite sex, which can date back to six years prior to the request. An employer must provide the information within 20 working days from which the request was received, unless there are exceptional circumstances as to why they cannot do so.

In addition, the Bill will also require organisations employing 100 or more people to publish figures about the pay of employees of different ethnic origins.

The bill has not yet been passed into law, however it is worth employers keeping it on their radar. You can follow the progress of the Bill here.

Tougher penalties for underpaying staff

Research published by the Resolution Foundation indicates that over the last two years, there has been an increase of businesses failing to pay national minimum wage (NMW), with the majority getting away with it. The research also highlights the fact that there are insufficient deterrents through penalties and enforcement regimes in relation to underpayment.

As with every NMW increase in April, it is anticipated that there will be a spike of workers underpaid as rates increase. In an attempt to avoid this underpayment, it recommends that the government:

  • Introduces a single enforcement agency to improve intelligence sharing, thereby increasing the chance of catching underpaying businesses

  • Makes more use of the available criminal prosecutions and director disqualifications

  • Ensures non-compliance penalties are imposed by employment tribunals

  • Increases penalties imposed by HMRC

Employers should ensure they are ready for the NMW increase in April and budget accordingly for the change. The full research conducted by the Resolution Foundation is available here.

Guidance for complying with DSARs

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has amended its guidance relating to the timescale for compliance with a data subject access request (DSAR), where the controller has requested clarification from the data subject.

The amended guidance now prevents the start of the one-month time period (or three months for complex requests) being paused even when the controller requires more information to enable them to respond.

This unwelcome development will cause issues where a data subject takes significant time in responding to the controller’s request for more information, as even though the response is required to complete the request, the clock will continue to run.

We have seen DSAR’s being used more and more as a tool in employment tribunal claims and with potential ICO financial punishment should employers fail to respond to such a request in time, this new guidance appear to put employers further on the back foot.

Unpaid Work Experience (Prohibition) (No.2) Bill

The House of Lords have made a further attempt to prohibit employers from exploiting individuals seeking work experience with an employer for a period exceeding four weeks. The Unpaid Work Experience (Prohibition) Bill will mean that, if enacted, individuals undertaking work experience who have ceased compulsory school age, but has not reached the age of 26, will be entitled to national minimum wage for their age.

The bill has not yet been passed into law, however it is worth employers keeping it on their radar. You can follow the progress of the Bill here.

New statutory rates

The government has announced that rates for statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave will increase from £148.68 to £151.20 per week, as of the first Sunday in April (5th April 2020). Any employee earning less than the statutory rate will continue to receive 90% of their average weekly earnings.

In addition, on 6 April 2020, statutory sick pay will increase from £94.25 to £95.85 per week.

What do you need to be doing now?

Employers should be prepared for the upcoming April changes by ensuring that their contract of employment templates are compliant with the new law and that HR and payroll are ready to implement the new statutory rates from 6 April.

It is also important that employers are aware of the amended guidance on responding to DSARs in the event that they are faced with a request.

Finally, with respect to the outlined proposals, we will continuously monitor their progress and any developments will be available on our bulletins, twitter feeds and via our monthly articles, as soon as we hear further developments.

 

These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.

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