Wed 24 May 2023

Employment Law Round Up - June 2023

Our monthly employment law round up.

Right to disconnect

Angela Raynor, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, has indicated that the "right to disconnect" is likely to be contained in the Labour Party's manifesto at the next election.  If legislated for it would prevent employers from contacting workers by phone or email outside of working hours.  A similar right has already been introduced in France, Portugal and Ireland, and the Scottish Government has previously committed to having "meaningful discussions" about introducing it for government employees and those in devolved agencies.

"Summer Fridays"

As we look towards the better weather, a number of large multinationals are joining a growing trend of offering summer working hours.  Organisations including Kelloggs, Asos and PWC are reportedly allowing employees to leave at lunchtime on Fridays, albeit subject to various caveats such as having already completed a full week's working hours and workload otherwise being manageable.  Anticipated benefits include happier employees, improved retention and increased productivity.

Long-term absence at record high

Following on from last month's news that working days lost to sickness absence reached a record high in 2022 comes more information from the Office of National Statistics ("ONS"), this time confirming that 2.55 million people in the UK are not working due to long-term sickness.  The statistics, reported in the ONS May 2023 UK labour market overview show that both mental health and musculoskeletal issues - the latter possibly due to home working - have seen noticeable increases as the causes of absence. 

Nearly 60% of women experience harassment at work according to TUC poll

A recent TUC poll has highlighted the amount of work still required to be done to protect women from harassment in the workplace, finding that 58% of respondents had experienced harassment, bullying or verbal abuse at work.  The figure for younger women (25 to 34 years old) is slightly higher at 62%.  In the most recent cases of harassment, 39% reported that the perpetrator was a third party and not a colleague.  The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill 2022-23 which aims to both tackle third party harassment and create a duty on employers to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace is currently making its way through Parliament and is expected to come into force in 2024.

Ethnicity pay gap reporting guidance published

It was confirmed last year that ethnicity pay gap reporting would not become a mandatory requirement, for the time being.  The UK Government has now published guidance for employers who wish to report on a voluntary basis.  The aim of the guidance is to develop a consistent, methodological approach to ethnicity pay gap reporting which will then lead to meaningful action.  The guidance covers how to measure, report on and address pay differences within the workforce.

41% of large businesses likely to make redundancies in the next 12 months

A new study published by ACAS has revealed that 41% of large businesses (over 250 employees) are likely to make redundancies in the next 12 months. Although the figure is lower for small and medium (SME) sized businesses at 20%, both figures are up from last year when they were 30% of large employers and 10% of smaller employers.

House of Lords makes significant amendments to Strikes Bill

The House of Lords has made four significant amendments to the Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill.  These are:-

  • The powers to specify any minimum service levels may not be used until they have been scrutinised by a committee of each House of Parliament, following consultation;
  • An employee failing to comply with a work notice will not give grounds for dismissal or detriment, nor amount to a breach of contract;
  • The provision enabling employers to seek injunction or damages from a trade union that fails to take reasonable steps to ensure employees comply with work notices will be removed; and
  • The extent of the Bill will be limited to England only, it will not apply to Scotland or Wales.

Clearly these are very significant changes and are likely to impact on the timescale for progression of the Bill through the Houses of Parliament.

Tips legislation receives Royal Assent

The Employment (Allocation of Tips) Act 2023 is expected to come into force in May 2024.   This legislation requires employers to fairly allocate tips over which they have control ("qualifying tips") and pay them to workers within a month of the tip being paid by the customer.  Where qualifying tips are paid regularly, employers must have a written policy setting out how they will be dealt with.  A statutory Code of Practice setting out how tips can be fairly and transparently distributed will be issued in due course, following a consultation.  Employers must also record how qualifying tips are allocated and retain the records for 3 years.  Workers will have the right to request information about an employer's tipping record and complain to an employment tribunal within 12 months should employers fail to comply with these new duties.

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