Happy new year to all our readers.
There’s still no sight of the long awaited Employment Bill, but that doesn’t mean 2023 is likely to be a quiet year. The government is pushing ahead with the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill which, if passed, will allow it to “set fire” to all employment and health and safety legislation derived from the EU by the end of 2023.
It’s also putting its weight behind several private members bills which are currently going through parliament which will deliver benefits to pregnant women, new parents, carers and victims of sexual harassment.
Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill
Under the European Union Withdrawal Act most UK laws in existence on or before 31 December 2020 were preserved.
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill will repeal all EU derived laws by the end of 2023 (although the government will be able to extend that deadline to 2026). It will then be able to make sweeping changes to established laws in respect of working time and holidays, discrimination, TUPE, agency workers, part-time workers and fixed-term employees.
The government will have to legislate to re-introduce (or adapt) the EU laws it wants keep before that very tight deadline. It doesn't look as though employment protections are a priority for the government and it’s possible that important rights will fall off the statute books without anything in place to replace them. This will create uncertainty and could result in an increase in staff dissatisfaction, industrial action and employment claims.
New protection against redundancy
Pregnant women and new parents will receive additional protection from being made redundant under the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill.
Under current rules, before making an employee redundant who is on maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave, employers are obliged to offer them a suitable alternative vacancy where one exists in priority to anyone else who is provisionally selected for redundancy.
The new Bill will extend protection so that it applies to women from the point they tell their employer they are pregnant and for 18 months from the start of their maternity leave. It will also protect new parents returning to work from adoption and shared parental leave from the point they start leave and last for 18 months.
Paid time off for parents of sick and premature babies
The Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill will allow parents to take paid leave to enable them to spend more time with babies requiring care.
Neonatal care leave will be available as a “day one” right for parents of babies who are admitted into hospital in their first 28 days of life and who have been in hospital, without a break, for seven days or more. However, parents will only be eligible to receive paid leave if they have worked for their employer for 26 weeks. Separate regulations will set out how much time off they are allowed to take and the rate of pay they will receive.
The Carers Leave Bill will introduce one week's unpaid leave to help employees with long-term caring responsibilities balance these with their paid work. It will be a “day one” right and leave can be taken in one single block or on individual days.
New rules on combating workplace harassment
The government has ratified the International Labour Organisation's Violence and Harassment Convention which comes into effect on 7 March 2023. It has agreed to implement laws to ‘respect, promote and realize the right of everyone to ... work free from violence and harassment’ - including third party harassment.
The ILO has published a practical guide for employers on how to prevent violence and harassment at work to help them to address, prevent and respond to violence and harassment at work.
Last year, the government said that it would introduce a new duty on employers to play an active role in preventing workplace sexual harassment. It has recently confirmed that it will support a private members bill - Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill - which will:
- Reintroduce liability for harassment caused by third parties
- Put employers under an active duty to prevent sexual harassment
- Allow tribunals to increase compensation by up to 25% where staff have been subjected to sexual harassment
Employers will be able to avoid liability if they can show that they took all reasonable steps to prevent harassment.
Once in force, employers will have to update their diversity and inclusion policies, consider what additional steps they need to take to prevent sexual harassment and ensure that the training they provide to their staff complies with the new law.
Changes to rules on flexible working
The government has announced that it will make changes to the right to ask for flexible working. It will become a “day one” right, employees will be able to make up to two requests each year and the employer must deal with the application (and any appeal) within two months. Employers will still be able to turn down requests if they have a business reason for doing so on the same grounds as currently exist.
Extra bank holiday
To celebrate the coronation of the King, there is an additional bank holiday on Monday 8 May 2023. This date does not fall within half term and employers will need to decide if their staff are entitled to take an additional day’s paid leave either on that date or at another date in the holiday year.
We wrote a detailed blog which answers a number of FAQ's about the extra bank holiday granted to celebrate the Queen's platinum jubilee which will help you to navigate this, surprisingly difficult, issue. Please note: the School teachers pay and conditions document which was published in September 2022 hasn't yet been amended to reflect this new bank holiday. We anticipate that School Teachers Review Body will recommend that changes are made to the number of days and hours that teachers must be available to work as a result of the additional bank holiday on 8 May.
Changes to qualifications for overseas teachers
From 1 February 2023, the government is changing the way it awards qualified teacher status to teachers from overseas. A new professional recognition service, called ‘apply for qualified teacher status in England’ will set consistent standards to fairly assess the qualifications and experience of overseas teachers.
To start with, it will be limited to teachers wishing to work here from nine additional countries. However, the government has said that it will extend but will apply the same rules for the rest of the world.
National living wage and national minimum wage
There are some hefty wage increases employers will need to factor in. From April 2023, the following apply:
- Rate for people aged 23 and over - £10.42 per hour [a 9.7% uplift to the current rate of £9.50]
- Rate for 21-22 year olds - £10.18 an hour [a 10.9% uplift to the current rate of £9.18]
- Rate for 18-20 year olds - £7.49 an hour [a 9.7% uplift to the current rate of £6.83]
- Rate for 16-17 year olds - £5.28 an hour [a 9.7% uplift to the current rate of £4.81]
- Apprentice rate - £5.28 an hour [a 9.7% uplift to the current rate of £4.81]
- Accommodation offset - £9.10 [a 4.6% uplift to the current rate of £8.70]
Increase in employment related statutory rates
From April 2023 the rates for:
- Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay, Statutory Shared Parental Pay, Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay and Maternity Allowance will all increase from £156.66 to £172.48 per week
- Statutory Sick Pay will increase from £99.35 to £109.40 per week
We don’t yet know when most of these changes will come into force. In most cases, the government will need to introduce further regulations to enact the provisions set out in these bills. It’s therefore likely that some of these changes will roll over into 2024.
Want to know more?
We want senior leaders and HR professionals to get up to speed as quickly as possible with changes to employment law and are hosting a series of free webinars in January and February on various dates. Please contact me if you'd like to attend.
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We also have a fixed price employment law service. Please contact Gordon Rodham if you'd like to find out how we can help you avoid these sorts of problems with our fixed-fee annual retainer, or flexible discounted bank of hours service.
*This article was updated on 26 January 2023