Mon 01 Mar 2021

March - what else is happening in employment law?

We look at what is happening in employment law away from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research conducted by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has revealed that 7.5 million employees started this year with no protection against unfair dismissal because they had not accumulated the required two years' service. This amounts to a quarter of UK employees. TUC figures also highlighted that the employees in the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic were the most vulnerable with 45% of employees in the hospitality sector and 32% of those working in retail being left without any protection. Similarly, BAME and young employees were found to be most at risk of not having any protection with 56% of employees between the ages of 20 and 24, 40% of employees aged between 25 and 29 and a third of BAME employees lacking eligibility for unfair dismissal protection. In light of this, the TUC has called on the government to make protection from unfair dismissal a day one right. Despite this, we consider it unlikely that the current two year qualifying period for ordinary unfair dismissal claims will be reduced, at least while the current UK Government is in place.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has launched a campaign calling for people to be given the right to request flexible working from day one of their employment. It has also requested that firms should advertise that jobs can be carried out flexibly. This was launched after the CIPD discovered that out of over 2000 workers surveyed, almost half of them did not have any form of flexible working arrangement. The survey also revealed that although Covid has brought a marked increase in home working, more than two in five employees have not worked from home since the beginning of the pandemic. This was largely due to the nature of their employment. In addition, a fifth of workers said that their employers do not offer any flexible working arrangements. The CIPD's chief executive has advocated that flexible working arrangements would "empower people to have greater control" in their working life.

On 15 February 2021, HMRC published a policy paper aimed at supporting organisations to comply with changes to the off-payroll working rules (IR35). The paper outlines HMRC's compliance principles which are illustrated by case studies. Those principles are outlined for public authorities and medium and large private sector entities (clients) that engage workers through prescribed intermediaries. They are also relevant for employment businesses and other third parties that supply workers to those clients. The paper helpfully confirms that a penalty will not be applied to organisations for inaccuracies in the first 12 months relating to the off-payroll working rules, regardless of when the inaccuracies are identified. It also confirms that HMRC will not charge a penalty if reasonable care has been taken to apply with the off-payroll working rules correctly.  However, some of the case studies in the paper are incomplete or seem to suggest additional steps that may need to be taken by clients which are not set out in the legislation.

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