Developments in Employment Law since Brexit and What’s Next?

Farringford Law, one of our trusted business partners, outlines the main developments in Employment Law since the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union and what other changes we should expect in the future.

With the UK’s Brexit deal having come into effect on 31 December 2020, the UK is no longer required to adhere to EU employment law. Whereas previously, the UK had to follow decisions made by the European Court of Justice, including having to make laws to reflect any new EU Directives, Parliament now has the ability to both alter and overturn legislation previously enforced by EU case law, and no longer has to make laws to follow any new EU Directives made after 31 December 2020.

This has inevitably led to much speculation about what Brexit would mean for UK employment law. However, one of the conditions for agreeing a trade deal which is free from tariffs and quotas was a commitment by both the EU and the UK to ensure a “level playing field” in policy areas such as employment.  This is to ensure that there is “open and fair competition” between the UK and the EU.

As a result, both parties to the deal agreed that the high levels of employment protection which had been a part of UK law as of 31 December 2020 (when much of UK employment law was underpinned by EU directives) cannot be lowered in a manner affecting trade or investment between the parties.  In addition, the UK and EU agreed that they both shall continue to strive to increase their respective labour and social levels of protection.  This principle is described as the “non-regression” principle.

Until now, there have been relatively few changes in UK employment law since the Brexit deal, meaning that employers have had a period of relative stability in terms of the law.

What should small businesses be aware of in terms of employment law changes in 2022?

It is important for small businesses to be aware of any changes to employment laws, so as not to inadvertently fall foul of them. Here is a summary of some of the main changes brought in so far this year:

National minimum wage rises: on 1st April 2022, hourly minimum wage rates rose as follows; age 23 and over by £0.59 to £9.50, age 21-22 by £0.82 to £9.18, age 18-20 by £0.27 to £6.83, age 16-17 by £0.19 to £4.81.

Increase in statutory family-related pay (3rd April 2022) and sick pay (6thApril 2022): weekly rates of paternity, maternity, adoption, shared parental and parental bereavement pay increased to £156.66 from £151.97.

Statutory redundancy pay update: For employees with a minimum of 2 years’ service, redundancy pay has now increased from £544 to £571.

Changes to right to work checks: The ability for employers to check employees’ right-to-work documents remotely, rather than in person, was due to expire in April 2022, but has been extended to September.

Some of the most significant changes for employers and employees alike, however, are expected to come into force when the long-awaited Employment Bill finally comes in front of Parliament.

The Bill was first proposed in late 2019 but the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that there has been insufficient parliamentary time since then to introduce the Bill. There was widespread disappointment when the Government announced it would not be included in the Queen’s Speech in May. However, having had a second reading in Parliament in March 2022 it is expected to progress into law at some point in 2022.

So, what are the key reforms promised in the Bill?

  • Making flexible working the default position.
  • The establishment of a single enforcement body responsible for enforcing basic rights for vulnerable workers.
  • Requiring employers to pass on all tips and service charges to their workers.
  • Extending redundancy protection, namely the right to be offered suitable alternative employment, to pregnant employees and for six months after the return from maternity leave, as well as to those taking adoption leave or shared parental leave.
  • A new right for carers to take one week of unpaid statutory leave each year.
  • A new right for parents to take statutory leave of up to 12 weeks for neonatal care.

What’s next?

Other possible measures being discussed in terms of employment law changes include:

  • The introduction of a statutory code of practice on sexual harassment at work, a mandatory duty on employers to prevent harassment in the workplace and a push to strengthen and clarify the law on third-party harassment
  • New legislation relating to post-termination non-compete clauses, on which the Government is currently consulting;
  • An extension of the ban on exclusivity clauses beyond zero hours contracts, to contracts where the workers’ guaranteed weekly income is less than the Lower Earnings Limit of £120 a week, on which the Government is also currently consulting
  • Compensation for those whose shifts are cancelled at short notice, an entitlement to reasonable notice of allocated shifts, and protections for those who refuse last minute shifts
  • New legislation to protect against “firing and rehiring”
  • Tackling the misuse of confidentiality agreements in the workplace
  • Large public sector organisations will need to publish their modern slavery statements

To find out more please contact the team at Farringford Legal on 020 8941 7324 or email info@farringfordlegal.co.uk.