In this article we summarise recent employment law news including the Modern Slavery Bill, Exclusivity Clauses, Employment Tribunals and more!
The Queen’s speech earlier this month made no mention of the long-anticipated Employment Bill, and it is unclear whether the proposals have been dropped for good or simply delayed. We will keep you updated and for further information about the proposed contents of the Bill. However, it was announced that there will be a new Modern Slavery Bill published to strengthen the existing requirements. We will wait for the proposed content of the Bill and report further, but it is likely that the main changes will be:
- Making the reporting areas to be covered in modern slavery statements mandatory.
- Extending the requirement to public bodies.
- Introducing civil penalties.
If you would like any advice on your modern slavery reporting obligations, then please do let us know.
Exclusivity clauses were made unenforceable against workers on zero hour contracts in 2015 (these are clauses which restrict staff from working for multiple employers). The government is now proposing to extend this ban on exclusivity clauses for workers whose earnings are below £123 per week…watch this space!
Reducing the spread of respiratory infections
The UKHSA has published updated guidance for employers and workforce managers in England on reducing the spread of respiratory infections in the workplace, including COVID-19. Reducing the spread of respiratory infections, including COVID-19, in the workplace – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Guidance on fit notes
Updated guidance on fit notes has been published and the requirement for doctors to wet sign the note has been removed. Doctors can now add their name and position electronically. While this change is being rolled out, the previous version of the fit note that requires physically signing will still also be legally valid. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/fit-note-guidance-for-employers-and-line-managers/getting-the-most-out-of-the-fit-note-guidance-for-employers-and-line-managers
Menopause and the Workplace
The Fawcett Society has released a report entitled ‘Menopause and the Workplace’ on the effect that menopause has on women’s experiences in the workplace. The report sets out a series of recommendations on ways in which employers can help to support menopausal employees. Given that the report states that 10% of menopausal women who are or have been employed during the menopause have left their job due to symptoms, this is well worth a read.
A new ‘road map’ for listing and hearing Employment Tribunal cases
The President of the Employment Tribunals have published a ‘road map’ for listing and hearing cases for 2022-2023. In summary:
- The reform seeks to reduce the reliance on video hearings (currently 90% of hearings are being held via video). Although it is acknowledged that video hearings can be less costly and disruptive, the general view is that face-to-face litigation is preferable. The position now is that the hearings will be carried out via video unless it is one of the following:
- Preliminary hearings that cover complex points and require detailed evidence (e.g. the application of TUPE or whether a person has a disability in accordance with the Equality Act).
- Final hearings of short track claims (e.g. unpaid wages, notice, holiday pay and redundancy pay).
- Final hearings of standard claims (e.g. unfair dismissal) where the case involves significant disputed evidence and where there is not a significant backlog in cases.
- Final hearings of open track claims (e.g. discrimination and whistleblowing).
In a welcome shift to the digital age, the longstanding reliance on a paper-based tribunal process will be brought to an end and an electronic system will be introduced to the Employment Tribunal system. The idea is that parties and representatives will be able to access case information through an online portal (called MyHMTCS). The new online system is not yet open for everyone. Initially it will be limited to certain claims only and the first release is restricted to Leeds and Glasgow.
This is only intended to be a summary and not specific legal advice. If you would like further information or advice, please do contact a member of our team.