Employment Law and Budget 2023 Round Up

There are a couple of Employment Law changes that have been introduced that I need to make you aware of, as well as a whole list of others potentially on the horizon. I have therefore provided a quick (well as quick as I can make it!) round up below, along with a few key points from last week’s budget.

This update covers:

  1. Reminder: Statutory rate changes from 1st April 2023 
  2. Exclusivity clauses in low-income worker contracts are now unenforceable
  3. Government rejects Menopause disability / protected characteristic proposals
  4. Removal of EU Employment laws 
  5. Holidays for Zero Hours, Irregular Hours Workers and Term-Time workers – AGAIN!
  6. Bill to combat one-sided flexibility ie where workers are, effectively, constantly on standby in case they are called up for a last minute shift 
  7. Maternity / Parental proposals
  8. Flexible Working proposals (requesting changes to working hours, working from home etc)
  9. Also being considered….
  10. Budget 2023 – How will it help Businesses?
    1. Reducing childcare costs to support working parents
    2. More support for Occupational Health to keep people in work
    3. Apprenticeships for the over 50s – “Returnships” 
    4. Supporting the disabled into work, helping to fill vacancies 
  1. Reminder: Statutory rate changes from 1st April 2023 
  • Sick Pay: The rate of statutory sick pay (SSP) will increase from £99.35 to £109.40 per week
  • The rate for 2023 / 24 for statutory maternity (SMP), paternity (SPP), adoption (SAP), parental bereavement (SPBP) and shared parental pay (ShPP) will increase from £156.66 to £172.48 per week. 
  1. Exclusivity clauses in low-income worker contracts are now unenforceable

Employers are no longer able to enforce exclusivity terms in contracts where the worker’s earnings do not exceed the lower earnings limit – currently £123 a week. 

The cost of living crisis has been a driving force behind these Regulations, as many lower income workers take up second jobs to supplement their income.

The dismissal of an employee who earns less than the lower earnings limit, on the grounds of a breach of an exclusivity clause, is now automatically unfair and the employee will be entitled to bring a claim for unfair dismissal.

  1. Government rejects Menopause disability / protected characteristic proposals

The Government has confirmed that it does not intend to consult on making the Menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and that it will not be producing a model menopause leave policy.

However, it is important to note that sex and disability discrimination cases linked to the menopause can still be successful at a Tribunal.

Whilst the Government has said that it does not intend to introduce this protection, other initiatives, such as the Menopause Workplace Pledge, are gaining momentum.

  1. Removal of EU Employment laws 

A Bill to review and potentially remove all EU derived legislation by the end of 2023, including employment law, is currently going through the Parliamentary process. At this stage the Bill is intended to provide confirmation by the end of 2023 regarding which legislation will stay and which will go. Further details will be provided as and when more clarification is provided.

  1. Holidays for Zero Hours, Irregular Hours Workers and Term-Time workers – AGAIN!

I issued a number of communications towards the end of last year regarding the Harpur Trust v Brazel Employment Tribunal Case Supreme Court ruling, which confirmed holiday entitlements and pay calculations for those working irregular hours  (please see my last post here:   IMPORTANT: Contract amendments required for Zero Hours, Irregular Hours and Term Time workers )

However, it seems that the matter has not gone away. The government has now issued a consultation paper which aims to ensure that holiday pay and entitlement received is calculated in line with the time people actually spend working, with a proposal to calculate the 52 week reference period including (rather than excluding) the weeks where nothing was earned.

So watch this space as they say!

  1. Bill to combat one-sided flexibility ie  where workers are, effectively, constantly on standby in case they are called up for a last minute shift 

This proposed Bill will apply to all workers, including agency workers and employees. If the worker’s working pattern lacks certainty in terms of the hours or times they work, or if it is a fixed term contract of less than 12 months, then the worker will be able to make a formal application to change to a more predictable working pattern. This will not be a day one right – it is expected that a qualification period of 26 weeks will be required. It should also be noted that this is a right to request a more predictable working pattern not a right to insist on it.

  1. Maternity / Parental proposals

In summary, the new proposals include:

  • Supporting parents of babies who need neonatal additional care with paid neonatal care leave.
  • Offering pregnant women and new parents greater protection against redundancy.
  1. Flexible Working proposals (requesting changes to working hours, working from home etc)

The government has announced that it will be introducing reforms to the law around employees’ rights to make flexible working requests. The following reforms are expected:

  • Removing the current 26-week qualifying period so that employees will have the right to make a flexible working request from day one of their employment.
  • Requiring employers to consult with their employees on the available options before rejecting a flexible working request.
  • Increasing the number of flexible working requests an employee can make in any 12-month period from one to two.
  • Requiring employers to respond to flexible working requests within 2 months, rather than 3.
  • Removing the requirement for employees to set out how the effects of the worker’s flexible working request might be dealt with by their employer.
  1. Also being considered:
  • Entitling unpaid carers to a period of unpaid leave to support those most in need.
  • Requiring employers to ensure that all tips, gratuities and service charges received must be paid to workers in full.
  1. Budget 2023 – How will it help Businesses?

A number of initiative will be introduced that will support employers

  1. Reducing childcare costs to support working parents 

These reforms will increase the availability of childcare, reduce costs and increase the number of parents able to use it.

30 hours of free childcare will be made available by September 2025 for every child over the age of nine months This will be introduced in phases:

  • April 2024 – 15 hours of free childcare for working parents of two-year-olds. 
  • September 2024 – 15 hours of free childcare for working parents of children aged nine months to three years.

Schools and local authorities will also be funded to increase wraparound care to increase the availability of parents of school-age children. 

  1. More support for Occupational Health to keep people in work 

Greater Occupational Health support will be made available to employees with conditions such as a back pain, a mental health issue or long covid etc before they have to leave their job on grounds of ill-health.

The changes will have a particular focus on mental health, musculoskeletal conditions and cardiovascular disease. 

The plan is to bring forward two new consultations on how to improve the “instant availability” of Occupational Health support and associated funding for SMEs.

  1. Apprenticeships for the over 50s – “Returnships” 

In an effort to attract older workers back into the labour market, the government will launch a new type of apprenticeship for the over 50s, called Returnerships. 

The measures will focus on “flexibility and previous experience to reduce training length” and give people the support they need to find a pathway back into work. 

The wants and needs of over 50s may vary from those of younger workers, so these measures will be designed to meet their expectations.

  1. Supporting the disabled into work, helping to fill vacancies

With the increase in home working opportunities, a new voluntary employment scheme for disabled people and those with health conditions, called universal support, will be funded in England and Wales. Up to £4,000 per person will be invested to support 50,000 people per year to find a “suitable role to cater to their needs.

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