UK Employers, These Are the Employment Law Changes You Need to Know About
Director, Product Marketing
So much change is occurring across the world, including big changes to the United Kingdom’s employment law, some of which are already in effect and others are to launch this April. We have highlighted some of the most impactful changes to your workforce. These include measures specifically in place to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the ongoing efforts to implement the “Good Work Plan” in a push to maintain and enhance employee rights (especially during the United Kingdom’s transition period out of the European Union).
13 March – Changes to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Eligibility Due to COVID-19
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 went into operation on March 13, 2020. The amendment expands eligibility of SSP to an employee who is self-isolating, provided the decision to self-isolate is in-line with government guidelines and the employee is deemed unable to work due to the isolation.
25 March – Statutory Sick Pay Eligibility from Day 1 when Related to COVID-19
Although the breadth of the Coronavirus Act 2020 is far-reaching, there are several provisions that impact employers specifically, including:
Statutory Sick Pay Amendments
Expanding the Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 described above, the Coronavirus Act 2020 gave the Secretary of State the power to disapply the waiting period for SSP from day 1, as opposed to day 4, for employees diagnosed with or self-isolating due to coronavirus. As a result, on 28 March 2020, the Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Suspension of Waiting Days and General Amendment) Regulations 2020 went into force to disapply the waiting period for individuals isolating due to coronavirus and deemed incapable of work. The is effective retrospectively to 13 March 2020.
In addition, the act includes amendments to The Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 that give Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HRMC) the power to fund SSP payments made by employers due to an employee’s incapacity to work related to coronavirus. Although the Coronavirus Act 2020 was granted ‘Royal Assent’ on 25 March 2020, these provisions are effective retrospectively from 13 March 2020 as well.
Emergency Volunteering Leave (EVL)
Employees now have the right to Emergency Volunteering Leave (EVL) that can be taken in a single two-, three-, or four-week block within the initial 16-week volunteering period provided for in the legislation. To be eligible, employees must give employers 3 working days’ notice and be issued an Emergency Volunteer Certificate by a local authority, the NHS Commissioning Board, or the Department of Health that confirms they have sufficient health or social care skills and working experience. Employers cannot deny EVL, but there are some exemptions, including microbusinesses with 10 or fewer employees, Crown employees, military personnel, the Police, and National Insurance Assembly and commission staff. The leave is considered unpaid statutory leave, but the Act does include provisions for the Secretary of State to create a UK-wide compensation fund to compensate eligible volunteers for loss of income and cost of travel and subsistence. This provision began on the day in which the act went into force, 25 March 2020.
1 April – Minimum Wage Increases1
On 1 April 2020, an estimated 2 million workers (7% of all workers jobs) who are paid at or below minimum wage in the UK will see their pay rate increase. The increase will be based on their age group and whether the worker is an apprentice. Adults aged 25 or older will receive the highest national minimum wage, also known as the National Living Wage (NLW). The UK government has been targeting the NLW to reach 60% of median earnings by 2020 which should be achieved with this new increase. Below is a table that details the increase in the national minimum wage for each age group and apprentice:
National Minimum Wage (NMW) by Age Group
|Age Group (in years)||At April 2019||At April 2020|
|25 older (NLW)||£8.21||£8.72|
|Note – Apprentice NMW applies to workers aged 19 or under or workers in their first year of an apprenticeship. Otherwise, the NMW for their age group applies.|
6 April – Legislation Changes Related to the “Good Work Plan” Go into Force
Agency Workers (Amendment) Regulations 2019 – Abolishing the “Swedish Derogation”2
The “Swedish derogation” or “pay between assignments” contract is no longer an option with the Agency Workers (Amendment) Regulations 2019. This is a well-known loophole that allowed temporary worker agencies (TWAs) to enter into contracts with agency workers where they would be paid between assignments and, ultimately, giving them employee status with the TWA. As part of these contracts, agency workers gave up the right to pay equivalent to their permanently employed counterparts at the same company if the assignment lasted a period of 12 continuous weeks or longer. As of 6 April 2020, all agency workers will be eligible for ‘pay parity’ with employees directly recruited by the same employer after working in the same assignment for 12 continuous weeks or longer.
Regulation 13A of the Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 (‘Conduct Regulations’)3
Another protection measure for agency workers, the introduction of regulation 13A of the Conduct Regulations, requires a key information document be provided to the agency worker before entering a contractual relationship with an employment business. At a minimum, the key information document must include the name of the worker, the contract type, the employment business, who pays the worker, the rate and timing of pay, deductions, fees, benefits, and leave entitlements.
Statement of Employment Particulars on Day 14
As part of the Employment Rights (Employment Particulars and Paid Annual Leave) (Amendment) Regulations 2018, employers are now required to provide a statement of employment particulars, also known as a Section 1 Statement, on or before day 1 of employment, instead of within 60 days of their start date. This regulation has also been extended to workers, individuals who work under contract to perform work or services by a customer or client. The particulars required to be disclosed include the name of the employee or worker, the start date, the renumeration including frequency, working hours, benefits, leave entitlements, and more.
Calculation of Holiday Pay for Variable Workers5
Another key regulation that was included as part of the Employment Rights (Employment Particulars and Paid Annual Leave) (Amendment) Regulations 2018 changes the reference period for calculating holiday pay from 12 to 52 completed weeks of pay data for employees with pay or hours. Since weeks without any renumeration do not count, the look back period to calculate 52 completed weeks of pay data can be as much as 104 weeks, but employers should not look back any farther than what it takes to get to 52 completed weeks. If there are not 52 completed weeks in the allowed lookback period, the holiday pay can be averaged for the number of weeks available.
Parental Bereavement Leave6
Starting 6 April 2020, employed parents who experience the devastating loss of a child will be entitled to 2 weeks of statutory pay for Parental Bereavement Leave if the child is less than 18 or the loss is due to a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. This is a day 1 right, and the employee’s length of service does not result in any proration of the time off available. Time off can be taken as a single 2-week block or two 1-week blocks during the first year following the child’s death.
In unprecedented times, like the COVID-19 pandemic and the transition period for the UK’s exit from the European Union, it is imperative for businesses to constantly monitor the everchanging labour laws in order to maintain compliance and ensure employee rights are protected. This means finding trusted partners and experts in employment law and best practices that can provide counsel, help establish processes, and ensure your internal policies align with your legal requirements.
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