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Who says New Year resolutions don’t stick? Here’s my 2019 employment law watch list to prove it

Who says New Year resolutions don’t stick? Here’s my 2019 employment law watch list to prove it

As somebody who starts each week with a to do list, I’m sure you can imagine my delight when a good friend’s Christmas present to me was a book about getting the most out of your year by making lists and making plans. Yes, I know, how very “millennial” of me, but with new years’ resolutions and forward planning at the forefront of our minds, what better a time of year to receive a gift like this? (Disclaimer: two of my resolutions were to read more books and make more plans…)

With that in mind, I’m putting my present to good use and starting 2019 as I mean to go on with a forward plan of some of the key employment law matters to have on your radar this year.

Brexit

It is not yet clear what restrictions employers will face when employing EU citizens after the UK has left the EU and any transition has ended. Initial recommendations are that some form of sponsorship will be required by employers and employers should keep an eye on those discussions.  

More immediately, employers should be aware of the new EU Settlement Scheme and should be thinking about how best they can support employees through the registration process. The scheme is currently open to those who hold biometric passports and is expected to be fully open to everyone by March 2019. 

EU citizens already in the UK will be able to apply for either settled status or pre-settled status, depending on how long they have been in the UK. The scheme will close on 30 June 2021, or 31 December 2020 if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, and by that date, it is expected that all EU nationals living in the UK will have registered.

Pay Reporting (Executives, Ethnicity and Gender)

Companies with 250 or more employees will be required to report on the ratio between its CEO pay and its average staff pay.  This requirement will be effective for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2019 and the first pay ratio reports will be published in 2020.

The Government has closed its consultation on ethnicity pay reporting by employers.  Time will tell what type of reporting regime will be brought into force (the options ranged from a single pay gap figure to several pay gap figures for different ethnic groups) but, in the meantime, employers may wish to think ahead and start to implement measures which will encourage individuals to provide their ethnicity data to employers. 

Gender pay gap reporting was a hot topic of conversation for 2018 and 2019 is unlikely to be any different.  With companies due to publish their second round of figures, it is important for employers to be properly engaging with their staff and explaining the progress (or otherwise) which has been made over the last year.

Statutory code on harassment

Dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace remains high on this year’s agenda. Not only has the government asked the Equality and Human Rights Commission to develop a statutory code of practice dealing with sexual harassment, but it has also confirmed that it will be consulting on a new legal duty to protect workers from sexual harassment, tackling third-party harassment and the better regulation of non-disclosure agreements.

Itemised payslips

As of 6 April 2019, not only will all workers have the right to an itemised pay statement (at present, this right is applicable to employees only), employers will also need to include the total number of paid hours worked in situations where an individual’s pay varies in direct relation to the amount of time worked. 

The Good Work Plan

At the end of 2018, the Government published its Good Work Plan, setting out a number of key commitments to improve working life and employment rights in the UK. 

A couple of particular points which have captured the attention of employers to date are (i) the Government’s commitment to ensuring that workers (as well as employees) will be entitled to a statement of their rights on appointment (with additional mandatory information to be provided in addition to what is already required); and (ii) that the holiday pay reference period will be extended from 12 to 52 weeks.

2019 looks set to be an exciting year, and my list could go on and on.  However, my book tells me that your lists should be as short as possible, so I propose to cover one final area which I predict will gather real momentum this year…

Mental Health in the Workplace

With approximately 1 in 4 individuals in the UK expected to experience some form of mental health problem this year, employers must have appropriate procedures in place to create a working environment in which staff can discuss and manage these types of problems. 

On 7 February this year, Burness Paull is taking part in Time to Talk Day which seeks to open conversations about mental health.  If this is a matter on your organisation’s agenda this year, this type of initiative is a great place to start.

By Laura Fitzpatrick

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Burness admin