Changes to employment law in the pipeline?
Date: October 08, 2019 by idu-net
At the end of 2018, the government published its Good Work Plan, setting out what it described as “the biggest package of workplace reforms for over 20 years”. Several proposals have been put out to consultation which could, if implemented, substantially update employment legislation in Great Britain. This article summarises some of the key proposals.
Extending redundancy protections for new parents and expectant mothers
Pregnancy and maternity discrimination is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010, and those on maternity leave have special protection in redundancy. However, this protection currently does not extend to women who have returned to work after their maternity leave has ended.
Government research revealed that one in nine women were dismissed or made redundant on their return to work after maternity leave, or that they were treated in such a way that they felt forced out of their job. The consultation on extending redundancy protection for new parents and expectant mothers concluded in April this year. Following the consultation, the government has committed to:
- Ensure the redundancy protection period applies from the point the employee informs the employer that she is pregnant, whether orally or in writing;
- Extend the redundancy protection period by six months once a new mother has returned to work
- Extend redundancy protection into a period of return to work for those taking adoption and shared parental leave
There is however no indication of exactly when these changes will be brought into law.
Stronger sexual harassment protection legislation
Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) or confidentiality clauses are often used by employers in contracts of employment and settlement agreements for legitimate purposes, such as protecting trade secrets and information about a company’s clients. However, in recent years there have been numerous examples of these agreements being abused by employers to prevent employees or former employees from revealing incidents of bullying and sexual harassment.
The proposed legislation follows on from a consultation in March this year, and it is anticipated that the new laws will focus on ensuring that employers make the limitations of confidentiality clauses clear to employees and will also require employees to take independent legal advice before an NDA becomes legally binding.
Improving protection for sick employees
The Department for Work and Pensions and Department for Health and Social Care have launched a consultation, which closes on 7 October 2019, seeking views on different ways in which the government and employers can act to help disabled people and people with health conditions stay in work. The proposals include giving employees with health conditions the right to request workplace adjustments on health grounds, entitling employees returning from a period of sickness absence to a flexible, phased return to work funded partly through their statutory sick pay (SSP) entitlement and partly through their usual wages and fining organisations that do not pay staff the SSP they are entitled to.