You may be forgiven for thinking just one thing is dominating our political and legal landscape at the moment…don’t worry – we won’t mention you-know-what in this blog! Instead, we take a look at a few matters of interest on the horizon, looking forward into 2020, which employers should keep in mind and consider whether they need to take any action now.

  1. Good Work Plan changes to employment law

Following the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, the Government set out its Good Work Plan, aimed at improving the quality of work in the UK.

There were many recommendations made in the Taylor Review, which were responded to in the Good Work Plan and some changes have now been tabled for 6 April 2020, in particular all employees having the right to a statement of terms of employment from day 1 on the job. The requirements for this statement will also be updated.

There are also changes to the holiday pay reference period, agency worker laws and the penalties an employer can face for aggravated breach of employment laws.

In advance of these changes, employers can take the opportunity to have a full review of starter documentation to ensure it is compliant with the new laws and that the process for taking on new employees or workers includes being given a section 1 statement of terms from the first day of employment.

  1. Use of NDAs in workplace harassment and discrimination cases

New legislation is being introduced to tackle to misuse of Non-Disclosure Agreements in the workplace, in response to high profile cases and concerns that they are being used to cover up sexual harassment, racial discrimination, and assault.

In employment, you’re more likely to find confidentiality provisions in Settlement Agreements rather than stand alone NDAs. Settlement Agreements tend to include clauses whereby the parties agree to keep the terms and existence of the agreement confidential, as well as events leading up to it. Confidentiality clauses can also be included to prevent the employee from disclosing the nature of their complaints to any one else.

New legislation will prohibit clauses which prevent individuals from disclosing information to the police and other relevant bodies, ensure that employers make clear the limitations of a confidentiality clause and that employees are specifically advised about the clauses, and introduce enforcement measures.

Where a situation might end up with a settlement agreement, employers should ensure they have an up-to-date agreement drafted to make sure it’s compliant with any change in the law, and also that it is fit for purpose. Using an old agreement or taking some clauses off the internet could risk the entire agreement being unenforceable.

  1. Pregnancy and Maternity Redundancy Protection Bill

The Government has previously committed to ensuring protection from redundancy applies to a woman as soon as she informs her employer she is pregnant and for 6 months after she returns to work from maternity leave. The Government had not drafted new legislation for this and, in response to concerns this might fall by the wayside, a 10 minute Bill was introduced in May 2019 to try and ensure this protection ends up law.

Women on maternity leave are already entitled to suitable alternative employment in a redundancy situation. Whilst the 10 minute Bill may not eventually make it through parliament, it is clear that this is an area where the Government and parliament want further protections so employers should keep an eye on future developments.

As well as understanding the current protection for women on maternity leave, employers should also ensure they are aware of the inherent risks redundancy processes pose where employees are on maternity leave, long term sick leave, or have other complicating factors.

  1. Tax changes – IR35

From April 2020, it will be down to medium and large businesses to determine the tax status of contractors engaged via a personal service company, rather than the individual contractor being responsible.

Employers will need to look at the arrangements they have with contractors and determine if the new off-payroll rules will apply for any contracts which extend into April 2020 or beyond. Employers will also need to consider how they will determine the tax status for future engagements, including who will be responsible for the decision and how the payments will be made to contractors within the off-payroll rules.

  1. Consultations on future proposals

There are a number of open consultations at present, which could lead to future changes in the law.

Two of the biggest in relation to employment law are around proposals to support families and proposals to reduce ill-health related job loss.

The consultation on proposals to support families looks at parental leave and pay, neonatal leave and pay, transparency in relation to flexible working and family leave and pay policies. This consultation is open until 29 November 2019.

The consultation about ill-health job losses seeks views on different ways in which government and employers can take action to reduce ill health-related job losses. It proposes a range of measures whereby the Government and employers can work to change the workplace for disabled people and people with long-term health conditions. The consultation is open until 7 October 2019.

Employers should watch for developments in these areas as the results of the consultations are likely to be followed by changes to the law, including obligations on employers.

As always, employment law is ever changing and employers can be caught out by developments. For up to date employment law advice, please speak to Farleys’ employment solicitors on 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email.

We also offer a full employment law package, HR Advantage which can be tailored to the needs of your business and provide legal advice and support when you need it.