The Government has dubbed the Good Work Plan “the biggest overhaul in employment law in 20 years”, although it may not feel like that at the moment. However, don’t let these new changes catch you out…
From 6 th April 2020, all employees and workers should receive a written statement on or before their first day of employment. Workers don’t always have a written contract with their employer and they don’t have to accept the work their employer offers, they have fewer rights than employees.
Employees on the other hand always have a written contract of employment and have to accept the work their employer gives them. As an employee, they get flexible working rights, protection from dismissal, and the right to raise grievances.
After 26 weeks of employment, workers and employees can request a clearer, more certain contract. For example, they can ask you for a guaranteed number of working hours or fixed working days. You’ll have to approve or reject their request within three months. If you reject it, you’ll need to have a genuine business reason to back up your decision.
From 6th April 2020, the continuous service gap increased to four weeks.
New agency workers must be provided with a 'Key Facts Page' to tell them more about a job before they accept a role. The Key Facts Page can’t be longer than two A4 pages and must explain:
- The type of contract;
- The minimum rate of pay;
- The person who pays the wage;
- That workers get the same pay as permanent staff after 12 weeks’ service.
From April 2020, the Agency Workers Regulations were amended so that agency workers with 12 weeks’ continuous service are paid the same amount as permanent staff.
The Working Time Regulations 1998 have also been amended to increase the reference period for determining an average week’s pay (to calculate holiday pay). Where a worker has been employed by their employer for at least 52 complete weeks, the reference period is increased from 12 weeks to 52 weeks.
Where a worker has been employed by their employer for less than 52 weeks, the reference period is the number of weeks for which the worker has been employed. This development makes it fairer and much easier to calculate holiday pay and protects workers who work irregular hours.
The National Living Wage (for those aged 23 and over) and the National Minimum Wage rates change every year on 1 April. From 1 April 2021, the period that an employer must retain records sufficient to prove it is paying a worker the correct rate is now six years. The current rates are:
- NLW will increase from £9.50 to £10.42 per hour (for those aged 23 and over);
- NMW 21 to 22-year-old rate will increase from £9.18 to £10.18 per hour;
- NMW 18 to 20-year-old rate will increase from £6.83 to £7.49 per hour;
- NMW 16 to 17-year-old rate will increase from £4.81 to £5.28 per hour;
- NMW apprentice rate for those aged under 19 or in their first year of an apprenticeship will increase from £4.81 to £5.28 per hour.
The real Living Wage is higher than the government's minimum, or National Living Wage, and is an independently calculated hourly rate of pay that is based on the actual cost of living. From 24 October 2023, the current rates are:
- £12.00 in the UK
- £13.15 in London
- Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) increases from £99.35 to £109.40 per week;
- The Lower earnings limit remains at £123 or more per week
- Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental and parental bereavement pay increases from £156.66 to £172.48 per week.
The annual Employment Tribunal aware limit changes effective from 6 April 2023. For cases involving dismissals, the figures apply where the effective date of termination falls on or after 6 April 2022.
The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal will rise from £93,878 to £105,707. The cap on the compensatory award is the lower of the compensatory award limit (£105,707 from 6 April) or a year's pay (based on the Claimant's gross salary before dismissal including employer pension contribution but excluding benefits in kind and discretionary bonus).
There are a limited number of exceptions where the cap does not apply. These are dismissals for whistleblowing or for raising certain health and safety issues.
In addition, there is no limit to the award that can be made where dismissal is related to unlawful discrimination. The limit on a week's pay (used for calculating statutory redundancy payments and the basic award for unfair dismissal) will increase from £571 to £643 meaning the maximum basic award and maximum statutory redundancy payment increases to £19,290.
Guidelines for injury to feelings awards
An award for injury to feelings is made to compensate for injury to feelings caused by discrimination. The award is separate from an award to compensate for financial loss and can be made even where no financial loss has been suffered. To assist Employment Tribunals, the Court of Appeal previously set out guidance for quantifying awards for injury to feelings, known as the Vento bands.
From 6 April 2023, the Vento bands increase as follows:
- Lower band (less serious): £1,100 - £11,200
- Middle band: £11,200 - £33,700
- Upper band (more serious cases): £33,700 - £56,200
Gender pay gap reporting
All employers with 250 or more employees are required by law to comply with gender pay gap reporting under the specific duties of the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017. Employers must report their gender pay gap data on the snapshot date each year which is 31 March for most public authority employers and 5 April for private, voluntary and all other public authority employers. Further guidance on gender pay gap reporting can be found on the gov.uk website.
The gender pay gap is the difference between the average (mean or median) earnings of men and women across the workforce.
Changes to IR35 in the private sector - came into force on 6 April 2021. The rules shift responsibility for determining the status of a contractor for tax purposes onto the client.
Post-employment notice pay
Changes to the calculation of Post-Employment Notice Pay (PENP) took effect on 6 April 2021 which resulted in a more consistent calculation.
PENP is the amount of a 'relevant termination award' paid to a departing employee that represents a payment in lieu of all or part of their notice entitlement. It is calculated using the statutory formula, based on the employee's basic pay and the number of days (or months) in the individual's period of unserved notice (the post-employment notice period).
This amount is subject to deductions for income tax and National Insurance contributions, therefore PENP can no longer be paid free of tax.
The 6 April 2020, saw the introduction of the new statutory entitlement and payment of parental bereavement leave, aimed at supporting parents who lose a child under the age of 18 years.
The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 specifies that a 'bereaved parent' can take statutory bereavement leave and applies to employees who suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy or lose a child aged below 18. A 'bereaved parent' is defined based on the employee's caring responsibilities for the child to avoid excluding those who are not the child's legal parents. Further information on statutory parental bereavement pay and leave can be found on the gov.uk website.
The government has published its plans for the new points-based immigration system which will apply from 1st January 2021 to both EU and non-EU migrant workers.
Under the new system, all would-be Tier Two (General) migrants must speak English and will need an offer from an approved sponsor, for a role at the required skill level (i.e. a role requiring qualifications equivalent to A levels) and at the required salary.
The minimum salary threshold will be set at £25,600 (with no regional variation across the UK). However, in certain circumstances, the minimum salary threshold will be reduced to £20,480. There will be no need to advertise a role and no cap on Tier Two work visas.
Acas has published new guidance on non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). These commonly form part of settlement agreements with departing employees. This is the latest in a series of developments and, although the guidance does not have the same force as a statutory code of practice, it may be used as evidence in legal proceedings.
The Acas guidance discourages the routine use of NDAs. It also states that a worker should be given a reasonable time to consider the agreement carefully and makes it clear that NDAs should not be used to stop someone from:
- Reporting discrimination or sexual harassment at work or to the police.
- Disclosing a future act of discrimination or harassment.
Details of the government’s proposed legislation on confidentiality clauses are awaited.