23 Jul 2019

Every year there is a rush to publish policy announcements and consultation papers before the summer recess (Parliament's summer holiday) begins. This year has been no different, despite the election of a new leader of the Conservative Party and therefore a new Prime Minister. These documents give us an insight into how employment law will develop in the future.

The Government is consulting on a number of proposals, many of which form part of the Good Work Plan. Here is a summary.

Good Work Plan: addressing unfair flexible working practices

DBEIS is seeking views on proposals made by the Low Pay Commission to address the issue of one-sided flexibility, where employers misuse flexible working arrangements. The consultation seeks views on providing a right to reasonable notice of working hours, providing workers with compensation for shifts cancelled without reasonable notice, and what guidance Government can provide to support employers and encourage best practice. It closes on 11 October and details are here.

Good Work Plan: proposals to support families

DBEIS is seeking views on proposals to better support parents to balance work and family life. The paper covers three areas:

  • High level options for reforming parental leave and pay to help parents balance the gender division of parental leave (closing date 29 November)
  • Proposals for a new leave and pay entitlement for parents of babies that require neonatal care after birth (closing date 11 October) and
  • Whether employers should have a duty to consider if a job can be done flexibly and make it clear when advertising the role, as well as options for requiring employers with 250+ employees to publish their family related leave and pay and flexible working policies (closing date 11 October).

The consultation paper is here.

Good Work Plan: a new single enforcement body for employment rights

DBEIS and the Home Office are carrying out a joint consultation on establishing a single enforcement body to improve enforcement of employment rights, which will cover the national minimum wage, employment agency standards, umbrella companies operating in the agency worker market, gangmaster licensing, labour exploitation and modern slavery, and holiday pay for vulnerable workers. Views are sought on whether other areas could be covered as well. The consultation, which closes on 6 October, is here.

Sexual harassment in the workplace

The Government Equalities Office has issued a consultation on whether the current laws on protecting people from sexual harassment in the workplace are effective. The issues that may be tackled as a result of the consultation include making it clear that employers should protect their staff from being harassed by clients, customers and other third parties, whether interns and volunteers are adequately protected by current laws, and whether people should have longer to bring a claim for discrimination or harassment. Closing on 2 October, the consultation is here.

Proposals to reduce ill health-related job loss

The Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care have issued a joint consultation on a package of measures to encourage early and supportive action by employers for their employees with health conditions. Proposals include improving advice and information for employers, improving the occupational health (OH) market, and putting financial support in place to help smaller businesses and self-employed people access OH. The consultation is here and closes on 7 October.

Policy papers

A handful of policy papers have also been published, which may be subject to consultation in the future. They include:

  • New legislation to tackle the misuse of non-disclosure agreements in the workplace
  • Enhanced redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents
  • Criminal record reform to help ex-offenders into work and
  • A gender equality roadmap for change, which sets out actions to tackle the drivers of inequality.

It is likely to be some time before any of these proposals is reflected in new legislation. We will have to wait and see whether the new Government makes any changes to them before they are introduced. Despite the fanfare made around the Good Work Plan, and references to it being "the largest upgrade to workers' rights in a generation", these proposals represent tinkering around the edges of employment law rather than wholesale change.