Over the last few years, other than legislation relating to the Coronavirus, there has been little development in employment law. 2023 however, we are expecting to see the biggest change to employment legislation in decades following the introduction into parliament of the Retained EU Law (Reform and Revocation) Bill.
This Bill along with other Bills and legislation that we can expect to see progress on this year are set out below.
Retained EU Law (Reform and Revocation) Bill (House of Lords)
When the UK left the European Union, both parties signed the 2018 European Union (Withdrawal) Act which gave UK legal authority to continue operating legislation underpinned by European law, including case rulings.
What the Retained EU Law (Reform and Revocation) Bill would do if passed, would revoke legislation that derives from European law meaning the UK would no longer be bound by it, unless UK parliament agreed to retain it, or retain but with amendments.
Within the Bill, there is a clause that sets a date by which the UK would no longer be bound by European based legislation. This date is the 31 December 2023.
For employers, this Bill is significant and would bring fundamental changes to key areas of employment law including:
Agency Workers Regulations 2010
These regulations provide rights to temporary agency workers so that they have some basic protection regarding working and employment conditions. It came into force back in 2008 following the EU’s introduction of the EU Agency Workers Directive.
Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002
These regulations give fixed term workers the right to no less favourable treatment than a comparable permanent employee and covers all terms and conditions of employment, including pay and pensions. They are based on the EU Fixed Term Worker Directive.
Part Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000
Those who work part time are protected by these regulations from being treated less favourably than equivalent full-time workers. They were introduced following the introduction of the EU Framework Agreement on Part Time Work Directive.
Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006
The Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) – TUPE derives from the EU’s Acquired Rights Directive. The legislation provides protection to workers in the event of the business changing hands.
Working Time Regulations 1998
These Regulations derive from the European Working Time Directive and are primarily in place to protect workers from excessive hours. It ensures that working hours operate safely and to also provide employees with sufficient rest periods.
Strikes (minimum service levels) Bill (House of Lords)
This Bill, if passed, would mandate employees, working in 6 sectors, which includes health, education, and transport, to provide a minimum level of service when there is strike action. The exact detail of the what the minimum service level would be, are not yet defined, but would be set out later and will be part of the regulations.
It is thought that it would work by an employer being able to reasonably identify the staff that would be required to work during days when strike action is to take place so that they can ensure a certain level of service can still be delivered.
This Bill is currently at the House of Lords stage, before it progresses to the final stage for final considerations of amendments before receiving Royal Assent. It had its first reading in the House of Commons on the 10 January, and it has quickly progressed through the various stages, so we can expect to see this become legislation fairly soon.
However, the Government have stated that there must be a minimum 3-month gap between the regulations being made and when they come into force.
Employment Bill (House of Commons)
The Queen’s Speech back in December 2019 announced the Employment Bill, aimed at supporting workers and families by introducing various employment rights and enhancing existing ones.
Due to the pandemic, there has been little progress but in recent months, we have instead seen several private member bill’s being introduced specifically to deal with some of the areas that had been set out in the original Employment Bill. We do expect some of these Bills to be approved and become Acts at some point in 2023. Specifically, these include:
- Flexible working a day 1 right
- Neonatal leave and pay
- Carer’s leave
- Protection against redundancy for pregnant employees
- Allocation of tips in full
- To place a legal duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace
Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill (House of Commons)
The Government have recently concluded following a period of consultation, that it will introduce changes to existing flexible working rights.
Flexible working as a day 1 right is the main proposal and was initially introduced as part of the Employment Bill.
Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill (House of Lords)
Neonatal care is the type of care a baby receives in a neonatal unit if they are born premature, sick, or with a low birth weight. This Bill proposes to introduce new employment leave and pay rights for employees of parents of babies that are admitted into hospital as a neonate (28 days old or less).
Full detail is to be confirmed, but it is thought that the entitlement to leave will be from day 1 but the entitlement to pay will be subject to the employee having a certain amount of continuous service and minimum earnings.
Carer’s Leave Bill (House of Commons)
This Bill would give employees who are unpaid carers the statutory right to take up to one week (5 working days) of unpaid leave per year.
It is expected, although legislation is yet to be drafted, is that it will be a day one right for those with employee status (not worker status) and that the person they care for will broadly need to meet the definition of a dependant as per the right to time off for dependants.
The person cared for would need to have a long-term care need such as one that is long-term physical or mental, or an injury or disability, or issues related to old age.
Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill (House of Commons)
This Bill if introduced would extend existing legislation that provides employees on maternity leave to greater employment rights in a redundancy situation to any other employee. At present, the employee that is being made has a legal entitlement to be offered any suitable alternative role that is not substantially worse than the role that they are being made redundant from.
This entitlement is only in place during a period of maternity. What this new Bill would do, is to extend this right so that it continues for six months after maternity leave has finished.
Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill (House of Lords)
This Bill is to enable workers to receive tips, gratuities and service charges paid by customers that are earned in full, meaning that an employer would be required to pass on all tips without deduction.
If passed, it would also require an employer to have a written policy where tips are awarded on more than an occasional and exceptional basis. It is also expected that a Code of Practice would be published.
This Bill will have its second reading in the House of Lords on 3 March 2023, and it is likely that this legislation would be passed at some point in 2023.
Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill (House of Commons)
This Bill would amend the parts of the Equality Act 2010 that deal with harassment. Specifically, if passed, it would place a legal duty on employers to prevent the sexual harassment of its employees, and place liability on employers for harassment of its employees by third parties.
Other interesting areas of employment law to look out for
There are several other key areas that we could see developing this year:
- Trade Unions along with the Trade Union Congress have launched a judicial review that would overturn legislation that was introduced last summer that deals with strike action. The legislation at present, allows businesses to hire agency workers to cover for permanent employees who choose to go on strike. The unions are challenging this and believe it is unfair because there was no consultation with them.
- A new Code of Practice has been published regarding the practice of ‘fire and re-hire’, which was partly brought in following the P&O Ferries redundancy handling. The date of implementation is yet to be confirmed but the advice to employers is to consider as though it is.
- A new consultation has begun seeking views from businesses, unions and professional bodies on calculating holiday pay for those workers who work irregular hours or part year. This is following the Supreme Court ruling in the Harpur Trust v Brazel case.
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