Amid all the political turmoil in July, employers will be forgiven for missing a flurry of proposed new employment laws revealed as Theresa May’s tenure in 10 Downing Street came to its end.
Many of the proposals are still under consultation, so it is unclear the extent they will be written into law – especially given the current political uncertainty around Brexit. But if they are taken forward they will fulfill some of the promises made in last year’s Good Work plan and strengthen workers’ rights in numerous areas.
1. Right to reasonable notice of work schedules and compensation for cancelled shifts
Under proposed rules under consultation until October, workers would be entitled to “reasonable” notice of their work schedule. What would be considered “reasonable” is as yet unclear, but the government has said employers would incur a penalty if they fail to do this.
If a worker’s shift or hours are cut at the last minute the worker would be entitled to compensation, under a new rule also contained in the “one-sided flexibility” consultation. Options for the level of compensation awarded include: the amount the worker would have earned from the hours or shift; their national minimum wage (NMW) rate multiplied by the number of hours cancelled; and a set multiple of their NMW rate.
2. Extended redundancy protections for new parents and neonatal leave
Parental leave and pay
New and expectant mothers, and staff who have adopted or are taking shared parental leave, will soon be protected against being made redundant until six months from the date they return to work. The redundancy protection period will also apply from the point they inform the employer they are pregnant.
However, the government acknowledged shared parental leave works differently to maternity and adoption leave in that it offers more flexibility around when the leave can be taken. The government will consider this when designing how protections can be implemented.
Parents of babies in neonatal care could receive neonatal leave and pay for as long as their baby is in hospital. One of the final consultations issued under Theresa May’s government is seeking views on whether the rights should be targeted at the parents who are most in need of the additional time off work, such as those whose children have spent a minimum of two weeks in hospital or are most seriously ill; and whether it should be a right from their first day in their role or after a qualifying period of employment.
3. ‘Flexible’ parental leave and family leave and pay transparency
A parental leave consultation introduces the idea of “flexible” parental leave, where parents can take their entitlement it in days, half-days or blocks separated by periods of work; introducing a leave and pay entitlement for all working parents, not just employees; and the ability to transfer leave between parents. The government is also considering creating more incentives to encourage certain parental behaviours, such as fathers taking a greater role on the care of their child.
Proposals include the requirement for organisations that employ 250 or more staff to publish their family leave and pay policies, including those related to flexible working. The government has also mooted the idea of a central database – similar to the gender pay gap reporting portal – for policies to be submitted. Employers could also be required to say whether flexible working was possible in their job adverts.
4. Banning NDAs from use in sexual harassment or discrimination cases
New legislation will be introduced to prohibit confidentiality clauses from being used to prevent individuals from disclosing information to the police, health workers or professionals such as doctors, lawyers or social workers. They will still be allowed for legitimate reasons, such as protecting trade secrets or other confidential information, but individuals signing an non-disclosure agreements (NDA) will be entitled to receive independent legal advice on the limitations of the contract.
Sickness absence and pay
5. Phased returns for workers on sick leave
Employees returning from a period of sickness absence will be entitled to a flexible, phased return to work, earning partly statutory sick pay (SSP) and partly their usual wages, under plans revealed in a consultation by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care. The government will also fine organisations that do not pay staff the SSP they are owed.
6. Right to request workplace adjustments
Employees with health conditions will also be given the right to request workplace adjustments on health grounds under the DWP’s and DHSC’s plans. An organisation would have to demonstrate it has a legitimate business case for its decision if a request is refused.
7. Modern slavery reporting in the public sector
Tougher measures to tackle modern slavery include extending the requirement to publish modern slavery statements to the public sector; ensuring organisations publish by a single annual deadline; and the requirement to publish statements on a single online registry. The Home Office consultation runs until September.
8. Ex-offenders no longer need to disclose certain lengthy sentences
New laws will be introduced to remove the requirement for rehabilitated offenders to disclose some sentences of over four years to employers after a specified time has passed. Currently where a sentence of more than four years is passed, people must disclose it for the rest of their lives. Detailed proposals will be released later this year.
The relaxation will only apply to non-sensitive roles, with stricter rules for those working with children or vulnerable adults, in national security roles, or positions of public trust.
9. Creation of a single employment enforcement body
The government has launched a consultation on the proposals for a new Single Labour Market Enforcement body saying it would create a strong, recognisable single brand and would make it easier for individuals to know where to go for help and make it easier to support businesses comply with the law.
10. Stronger sexual harassment protections
The Government Equalities Office has published a consultation on plans to strengthen protections against sexual harassment at work, including harassment from third parties. It is asking for views on whether it should introduce a new duty on employers to prevent staff from being harassed; whether legal protections should be extended to volunteers and interns; and whether the law around harassment by customers and other third parties should be clarified.