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3 Things We Learnt In Law This Week (3 January 2019)

UK Government Annouces New Code Of Practice To Tackle Workplace Sexual Harassment 

A new statutory Code of Practice will be developed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission in order to guide employers on their legal responsibilities regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. This was one of 12 actions recently announced by the UK government as it makes confronting workplace harassment a priority.

The announcements are in response to the July 2018 recommendations of the UK Women and Equalities Committee, which called for (1) putting sexual harassment at the top of the UK government’s agenda; (2) requiring regulators to take a more active role in tackling harassment; (3) making enforcement processes work better for employees by setting them out in the Code; (4) cleaning up the use of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) used in employment contracts and settlement agreements; and (5) collecting robust data on sexual harassment in the workplace at regular intervals.

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Restricting employment allowance for illegal workers

In a move to crack down on illegal workers in the UK, the Government introduced a policy back in April 2018 that removes the eligibility for Employment Allowance for one year if an employer has been found guilty by the Home Office of employing an illegal worker.

In the budget of 2016, it was announced that from 2018 the Employment Allowance, which allows employers to claim a reduction on their annual National Insurance Contribution, would be removed for one year for those organisations who receive penalties for employing illegal workers. The Government is of the view that those who breach legislation by employing illegal workers should not benefit from the Employment Allowance. The purpose of this restriction is to ensure the allowance focuses more on the employers who are providing legitimate employment.

The effect of the change will only impact employers who have received a penalty from the Home Office for employing illegal workers and have exhausted their appeal rights in relation to that penalty. Early estimates suggest that approximately 2,000 employers will be affected by the new policy.

It is the responsibility of the employer who has been penalised and exhausted their appeal rights to amend their payroll software to ensure that they do not claim the allowance during the year in which they are not eligible.

If you need any help and advice in relation to the above, please do not hesitate to contact me or the employment team on 0113 350 4030 or at richard.newstead@scesolicitors.co.uk.

If you would like to be kept up to date on any Employment law changes, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter.

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SCE Solicitors is a boutique employment law practice based in Leeds which advises clients nationwide.  Please note that the information in this blog is to provide information of general interest in a summary manner and should not be construed as individual legal advice. Readers should consult with SCE Solicitors or other professional counsel before acting on the information contained here.

Parental Bereavement Bill

MP Will Quince’s Parental Bereavement Bill passed the final stage in the House of Commons last month, seeking to allow parents time to grieve after the death of their child and gaining unanimous cross-party support. Quince proposed the bill along with Kevin Hollinrake, after Quince’s son, Robert, was stillborn at full term in 2014, suffering from Edward’s Syndrome.

Current legal position

While it is expected of employers to be compassionate and flexible when their employees face difficult times such as mourning the loss of a loved one, there is no legal requirement for employers to provide leave or pay to employees who are grieving the loss of a child.

Under the Employment Rights Act, employees do have a day-one right to take a ‘reasonable’ amount of unpaid time off for emergencies such as making arrangements for the death of a loved one. However, this ‘reasonable’ threshold is highly subjective, and it is down to the discretion of the employer to make the decision as to what is deemed reasonable. The agreed length of time off will typically be agreed by the employer and employee dependent on the situation, and what is deemed most appropriate.

In a situation where the employee and employer are unable to agree with one another over what length of time is ‘reasonable’, the disagreement can be referred and dealt with through ACAS or via an Employment Tribunal.

The Bill

The Bill, dubbed ‘Robert’s Bill’ in honour of Quince’s son, guarantees bereavement leave and pay for those employees who have lost a child under the age of 18. Ensuring at least two weeks leave and pay for parents will become a legal entitlement. This bill will be a day-one right and employees with a minimum of 26 weeks’ continuous employment will be eligible for this statutory parental bereavement pay.

However, before the Bill will be officially passed and becomes legally binding on employers, it must undergo further scrutiny in the House of Lords. Quince said: “When members of the public, who in some cases have a bit of disdain for politicians, say ‘You MPs you do nothing, what do you do for us?’, well today we’re doing something for tens of thousands of bereaved parents up and down this country.”

This proposal is estimated to cost the government between £1.3m and £2m annually.

What to do until the Bill comes in

If an employer is unsure what procedure to following if an employee suffers a grievance, you can look to ACAS who have published good practice guidance on managing bereavement in the workplace.

If you need help and advice regarding managing bereavement in the workplace, please do not hesitate to contact me or the employment team on 0113 350 4030 or at hello@scesolicitors.co.uk.

The Implications for Employment Law if the UK votes to leave the EU

The possibility of a UK exit from the European Union (EU) – colloquially known as a Brexit – is high on everyone’s agenda. As we move ever nearer to the “in-out” referendum vote on whether or not the UK should remain a member of the EU, it’s time to consider the possible implications on UK employment law. This is because a significant proportion of the UK’s employment law comes from the EU, including discrimination rights, collective consultation obligations, transfer of undertakings regulations, family leave, working time regulations and duties to agencies workers.

In the event of a Brexit, the UK Government would regain parliamentary sovereignty and so would no longer be bound to have national legislation reflecting the many EU directives covering laws in the workplace. The UK would appear to be at liberty to abolish or amend existing its employment law that comes from the EU as it saw fit and the UK Courts and Tribunals would no longer have to defer to the European Court of Justice in cases involving EU law. Below we set out some thoughts on how this may operate in practice.

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