Mon 06 Jul 2020

What else is happening in employment law? (July)

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

Rumour has it that fees for employment tribunal claims may be making a return.    There were ripples in 2019 suggesting that tribunal fees may be re-introduced at some point in the future, however they appeared to fade away to nothing.  That was until June 2020, when a report appeared in the Times newspaper suggesting ministers intend to re-instate fees. This was after the newspaper had sight of correspondence between Whitehall officials and the head of the English Law Commission that asked the Commission to ‚Äúprovide recommendations for creating a coherent system for charging and updating fees in the future".  However, the Scottish and UK Governments were not aligned in their approach to employment tribunal fees even prior to the Supreme Court finding them unlawful in 2017, so it remains to be seen what impact recommendations emanating from the English Law Commission would have in Scotland.

A petition calling on the UK Government to introduce mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting reached the 100,000 signatures necessary for it to be considered for debate in Parliament.  A consultation on the introduction of mandatory reporting closed in January 2019, but no further action has been taken on it.  The petition calls for UK firms with 250 or more staff to be required to report, similar to the requirements for gender pay gap reporting.  For more on this see our blog on whether now is the time for ethnicity pay gap reporting.

As discussed by our newly accredited specialist in discrimination law, Sarah Gilzean in our weekly podcast with David Hossack, ACAS has published new guidance to mark the 50th anniversary of equal pay law.  This notoriously complex area of law received Royal assent on 29 May 1970 although it was a further five years before it came into force to give employers some time to prepare.  The guidance aims to help employers and employees better understand what is required by the legislation.  It includes new advice on the basics of equal pay law, steps on how staff can raise concerns at work and good practice guidance for employers.

Meanwhile, Business in the Community ("BITC") has reported that half of businesses chose not to report on the 2019-2020 gender pay gap.  The Government suspended the reporting requirement due to the pandemic despite it being only two weeks until the end of the reporting year.  BITC's analysis of those who did report showed a year on year increase in the gap from 11.9% in 2018/19 to 12.8% in 2019/2020.

Finally, the UK Government has announced a review of the support in the workplace for survivors of domestic abuse and opened a consultation.  This will include consideration of the availability of flexible working, unplanned leave and other needs to ascertain how survivors can be better supported at work.  It will also look to see how employers can help tackle economic abuse such as by paying wages into different bank accounts or making emergency salary payments to those in real financial hardship.  The consultation seeks evidence based on the following questions:-

  • what practical circumstances arise in relation to domestic abuse and work?
  • what support can be offered in the workplace to victims of domestic abuse?
  • what is possible within the existing framework?
  • what does current best practice look like?
  • what is the potential to do more?

The consultation will close on 9 September.

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