In this article we focus on the upcoming changes to employment law this year, including changes to the rights of workers set out in the new Employment Bill and implementation of some of the proposals set out in the Good Work Plan. We also look at some of the major employment cases that will come before the Supreme Court in 2020. 

The new Employment Bill 

This was mentioned in the Queen's Speech in December and includes the following provisions:

  1. One enforcement body for the labour market, which will deal with non-compliance. This aims to ensure that vulnerable workers know their rights, and are able to take steps to enforce them.
  2. A requirement for employers to pass on all tips and service charges to workers and to ensure that they are distributed fairly.
  3. The right to request a more predictable contract, mentioned in the Good Work Plan, which would enable all workers to request a stable and predictable contract after 26 weeks' service.
  4. The extension of redundancy protection, to reduce pregnancy and maternity discrimination – this will cover the time from the employee's notification of her pregnancy up to six months after the end of her maternity leave.
  5. There will also be leave available for neonatal care, for parents of premature and sick babies.
  6. A new right to a week's leave for unpaid carers will be introduced.
  7. Flexible working will become the norm.

The Bill has not been published yet so no further details are available at the moment. The timescale for implementation of these proposals has not been given.

Parental bereavement leave 

Leave will be introduced for parents who lose a child under the age of 18 or who suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. They will be entitled to two weeks leave, which can be taken as a two week period or two periods of one week, within 56 weeks after the death. The right to leave will apply from day one of employment. Parents with more than 26 weeks' service who meet minimum earnings criteria will have the right to parental bereavement pay, which will be paid at the same level as statutory paternity pay. This will be implemented on 6 April 2020.

The Good Work Plan

This was published in December 2018 and aimed to improve the rights of workers. The proposals that are being implemented on 6 April include: 

  • Written terms must be provided to all workers before the first day of employment. Extra information will have to be given.
  • An increase in the reference period for calculating average pay for the purposes of holiday pay from 12 to 52 weeks.
  • The abolition of the Swedish derogation, meaning that all agency workers will have the right to pay parity with permanent employees after 12 weeks. By no later than 30 April, temporary work agencies must provide agency workers with a written statement explaining that these provisions no longer apply. 
  • The provision of a key information document for agency workers.

Off-payroll working rules 

These are expected to be extended to large and medium-sized companies in the private sector on 6 April 2020, subject to the Finance Bill being passed. A client or end-user who uses services supplied by a contractor via a personal service company will be responsible for deciding if the rules apply. If they do, payment to such individuals will be treated as payments of income from employment, so will be subject to income tac and NICs. 

Tax on termination payments 

From 6 April 2020, all termination payments above £30,000 will be subject to class 1A NICs (employer liability).

Key cases

A number of important cases will be considered by the Supreme Court this year. They include:

1.    Royal Mencap Society v Tomlinson-Blake 

Should sleep-in workers be entitled to the national minimum wage while they are asleep or only while they are awake and working? The Court of Appeal held that care workers who had to sleep at or near their workplace to be available for work were not entitled to the national minimum wage for the whole sleep-in shift. The appeal is due to be heard on 12 and 13 February 2020.

2.    Ali v Capita Customer Management Ltd and Hextall v Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police

Is it sex discrimination to pay men on shared parental leave the statutory rate of pay, where women on maternity leave receive enhanced pay? The Court of Appeal rejected these claims and a hearing date in the Supreme Court is awaited. 

3.    Various Claimants v Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc  

Was an employer vicariously responsible for a major data breach by a disgruntled employee? The Court of Appeal held that it was, in a decision that extended the reach of vicarious liability to acts carried out by an employee at home. The case was heard on 6 and 7 November 2019 and judgment is awaited.

With a number of legislative developments expected, as well as the usual stream of cases due to be heard by the courts, 2020 is shaping up to be a busy year for employment lawyers and HR professionals.

Karen Plumbley-Jones, with thanks to Rebecca Dennis