Getting your business ready for April 2020…new changes to employment law

By Catherine Kerr, Partner and Head of Employment. 

Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting a seminar on the changes detailed in the Good Work Plan to a number of employers and HR representatives from businesses around the North West.

The Good Work Plan was commissioned by the government back in 2016 as an independent review of employment practices in what we now call a “modern society”. It was born as a result of an independent review, the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, which was completed in July 2017. This review was then gradually broken down into 53 changes (many of which are interlinked) centring around three main aims;

  1. Fair and decent work
  2. More clarity for employees and workers
  3. Fairer enforcement

In short, the Good Work Plan has a keener focus on an employee’s job satisfaction and the wellbeing of the employee, and many of the changes it entails support this focus. Below, I have detailed just a couple of key changes that we will (or may have already) started seeing in the employment landscape…

(1) Right to a Written Statement of the Main Terms and Conditions of Employment (SMT) on or before the first day of employment, rather than in the first two months

From April 6th, employees must receive a written contract detailing all of the terms and conditions of their employment, including salary/wage details, contractual hours, employment processes, duration of employment, sick and holiday pay entitlements and probationary period. This will now also extend to workers, who can currently work without any written conditions; this will no longer be the case from April.

(2) Agency Workers (Amendment) Regulations 2019

This focuses on the abolition of Swedish Derogation, which is a special type of employment contract essentially involving a “pay between assignments”. This means that contractual workers rescind the right to receive the same pay as someone considered a “permanent employee” in return for the right to receive payment in between assignments.

From April, this type of contract will no longer be permitted, and agency workers whose current contract contains a Swedish derogation provision will be informed that this contract no longer applies. Workers/contractors will be entitled to pay parity and will also be entitled to a written statement detailing key information before agreeing to the terms with the work seeker.

This amendment is intended to encourage employers to take on more permanent employees, providing better job security.

(3) New regulations around Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) 

These regulations are intended to prevent workers from being forced or coerced into signing NDAs after a growing number of cases surrounding the misuse of gagging orders by organisations. The terms surrounding the implementation of NDAs must be clarified, and individuals are now actively encouraged to receive independent legal advice before signing a disclosure, should they feel it necessary.

This change will hopefully pave the way for improved avenues of communication for victims of sexual harassment or any form of discrimination in the workplace and will also dictate that individuals can disclose the details of an NDA to the police or relevant regulatory body, should they feel so inclined.

(4) Enhanced redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents 

Under the Good Work Plan, those on maternity leave as well as new parents will benefit from enhanced employment rights. Currently, women who are on maternity leave and are being considered for redundancy are automatically placed into a suitable, available role – as long as they are adequately qualified. This applies from the moment that they inform their employer that they are pregnant.

Under the Good Work Plan, this consideration will now be extended to encompass the six months following their return to work. Similar protection is also being extended to parents returning to work from both adoption and shared parental leave.

As mentioned, the above is merely a snapshot of the changes detailed in the plan, and many of these changes still don’t have official implementation dates. We have certainly seen a positive transition in the employment law landscape over the last few years, with more being done to support good mental health and wellbeing within the workplace, as well as fairer representation of minority groups.

Moving forward into what is sure to be a changing time in employment law, my advice to you would be to get to cracking on your paperwork sooner rather than later. Clean up your contracts by updating policies and procedures and ensure you are ready to welcome these changes, as and when they come into play.

If you would like any further information on any of the changes detailed within the Good Work Plan, or have a specific question relating to your own business, please do get in touch with me directly via catherine.kerr@primaslaw.co.uk

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