As a small business or start-up owner, what employment law developments do you need to be aware of for 2019?
The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March 2019. The government has prepared a series of technical notices for a ‘no deal’ scenario and back in August, published “Workplace Rights If There’s No Brexit Deal”, where it’s stated that the government “firmly believes in the importance of strong labour protections”. UK workers will continue to be entitled to the rights they have under UK law which derive from EU law – for example, paid annual leave and family leave entitlements.
That commitment appears clear enough, but the gloomy economic forecasts, problems with recruitment and loss of EU workers in key sectors such as health may result in some employers facing challenging issues in the months ahead.
- Sexual harassment – cleaning up the use of non-disclosure agreements and a statutory code of practice to specify the steps employers should take to prevent and respond to sexual harassment were just some of recommendations made to the government in 2018. Proposals to tackle this high-profile issue are expected in 2019.
- Data protection – the GDPR introduced significantly higher penalties for data protection breaches: €20m or four per cent of total worldwide annual turnover (whichever is greater). It will be interesting to see the Information Commissioner’s approach in 2019, when the first fines for non-compliance may be issued.
- Modern Slavery Act 2015 – the effectiveness of the Act and areas for improvement formed part of an independent review and a report to the home secretary is expected by the end of March 2019.
- Gender pay reporting – with the 30 March and 4 April 2019 deadlines for reporting fast approaching, gender pay will continue to be a hot topic and the 2019 reports will be read with interest.
- Ethnicity pay reporting – a current consultation exercise on mandatory ethnicity pay reporting ends on 11 January 2019. If implemented, this is likely to be a much more complex exercise than gender pay reporting. There are many different ethnic groups, many employers don’t have details of their staff’s ethnicity and many staff are unwilling to disclose it.
From 1 April, the hourly rate of the national living wage and national minimum wage increases for workers aged:
- 25 and over from £7.83 to £8.21
- 21-24 from £7.38 to £7.70
- 18- 20 from £5.90 to £6.15
- 16- 17 from £4.20 to £4.35
The apprenticeship rate increases from £3.70 to £3.90.
From 6 April, statutory sick pay (SSP) increases from £92.05 to £94.25 a week.
From 7 April, the statutory rates for family-friendly leave increases from £145.18 a week to £148.68.
Changes to the way employers issue payslips will also come into force on 6th April 2019 as from this date onwards the legal right to a payslip will be extended to include those who are recognised as ‘workers’. Employers will also be obliged to include the total number of hours worked on payslips for employees whose wages vary depending on how much time they have worked. It is important that employers work with their payroll departments to ensure the correct procedure is in place ahead of April’s deadline.
The government’s Flexible Working Task Force – co-chaired by the CIPD and made up of policy makers, employer groups, trade unions and professional bodies – will evaluate the effectiveness of the Flexible Working Regulations in April 2019.