The official guidance remains that employees should work from home if they can, but the prime minister recently announced that this will change on 1 August 2020. Employers will be able to ask employees who have been able to work from home since the lockdown to return to their workplace, provided that they have taken steps to ensure that the workplace is COVID-19 secure and social distancing measures are in place.
COVID-19 is causing many employees to ask if they can work from home for an extended period overseas (eg, because it is their home nation or because their family is based there). Employers should consider a variety of issues – including the tax, social security, immigration and employment implications – before agreeing to an employee's request to work from home when home is not in the United Kingdom. This article discusses the issues and sets out practical steps that employers can take to minimise risks.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme may have been extended until 31 October 2020, but employers should already be thinking about what their workforce might look like following the end of subsidised furlough and a return to more normal working patterns. This article answers key questions on options for restructuring workforces, including with regard to ending or extending furlough, notice and redundancy payment rights during furlough, changing terms and conditions and dealing with redundancies.
In a decision with implications for unfair dismissal law generally, the Supreme Court ruled that it is not always necessary for a dismissing manager to know about whistleblowing disclosures made by an employee in order for that dismissal to be automatically unfair. The facts of the case were extreme, involving a manager who had deliberately created a false picture of inadequate performance which the dismissing manager had then believed, but the decision nonetheless has significant wider implications.
In a surprise decision, with potentially wide-ranging ramifications, an employment tribunal has found that workers, as well as traditional employees, transfer under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006. The decision is employment tribunal level only, so it has no binding precedent weight and may be appealed. Nonetheless, it raises some immediate practical considerations.
The EU Work-Life Balance Directive introduces new rights for carers and working parents. If the United Kingdom needs to comply (or if it chooses to do so), UK employers must make several changes to their existing family leave and pay framework. For example, although the United Kingdom provides a right to paternity leave and pay, both rights are currently subject to a six-month service requirement. To comply with the directive, the service requirement for paternity leave (although not pay) would need to be scrapped.
The High Court recently dismissed a judicial review challenge to a finding by the Central Arbitration Committee that Deliveroo riders are not workers. Although permission for judicial review had been granted on limited grounds, the judgment provides important guidance on what constitutes an employment relationship in the context of EU human rights law and emphatically endorses Deliveroo's position that riders are genuinely self-employed.
The government says that it is "time to move to mandatory ethnicity pay reporting" and recently launched a consultation on a possible new law. The consultation seeks feedback on the sort of information that employers should be required to publish. It sets out some different ways in which this could be done, including by having a single pay gap figure of 'white versus non-white' or multiple pay gap figures for all of the different ethnicities or by publishing pay information by £20,000 pay band or by quartile.
Although massively contentious, the government's white paper proposals on the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union post-Brexit add some flesh to the bones of what future interrelation between the two entities may look like. But what are the key points for employment lawyers?
The EU Withdrawal Bill has received royal assent and become the EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018. As a result of the act, it is now law that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union at 11:00pm on 29 March 2019, with the European Communities Act 1972 being repealed. Only fresh legislation could delay or overturn the United Kingdom's departure. What does this mean from an employment law perspective?
In the latest development regarding worker status and the gig economy, and applying the recent Supreme Court decision in Pimlico Plumbers, the High Court has rejected the Independent Workers of Great Britain trade union application for a judicial review of the Central Arbitration Committee's decision that Deliveroo riders are not workers based on the terms of Deliveroo's substitution clause.
The government intends to introduce legislation that requires all UK-listed companies with more than 250 employees in the United Kingdom to report annually on the difference in pay between their chief executive officer and their average UK worker. However, compiling the data required to produce the reports will be another headache for overstretched legal, human resources and payroll teams.
In the latest decision on employment status in the gig economy, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has dismissed Addison Lee's appeal against an employment tribunal decision that its cycle couriers were workers and therefore entitled to holiday pay. The EAT upheld the tribunal's findings that the established practice and expectation of both parties was that the couriers would carry out work as directed, which was sufficient to prove that they were workers under the legal test.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission is adopting a rigorous approach to the enforcement of the gender pay gap reporting regime. It recently confirmed in a Freedom of Information Act request that it has sent 1,456 letters to employers that it believes have failed to comply with the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 and indicated that it will be investigating every company that has failed to comply.
The government has published its Good Work Plan in response to Matthew Taylor's review of modern working practices. While the response sets out the government's intention to proceed with nearly all of the review's recommendations, it lacks specific proposals and much of the detail will be subject to further consultation. Acknowledging that employment status in particular is a complex area, the government has put forward no firm proposals.
The Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) has rejected an application from the Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain for collective bargaining rights in respect of Deliveroo riders. In the first high-profile worker-status decision to find in favour of a company in recent times, the CAC held that Deliveroo's riders have a genuine right to use a substitute to perform deliveries before and after they have accepted a job, which riders take advantage of in practice.
Only 80 of the estimated 7,000 employers with 250-plus employees have uploaded their gender pay gap reports to the government's website. The snapshot from these reports reveals that the mean, mean pay gap and the mean, median pay gap are lower than expected. Further, the data shows a steady progression from a preponderance of female employees in the lowest paid quartiles to a preponderance of male employees in the highest paid quartiles. However, these statistics may not be reliable.
The government recently announced that it will take forward a number of proposals for corporate governance reform relating to employment, including proposals on executive pay ratio reporting, which echo the new gender pay gap reporting requirements. However, it remains to be seen whether the government will take on board some of the lessons of gender pay gap reporting or whether this will become another public policy initiative which produces misleading results and does little to tackle the underlying problem.
The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that the legislation requiring fees to be paid for bringing employment tribunal claims is unlawful and should be quashed. In one of the most remarkable employment law judgments of recent times, the court held that employment tribunal fees interfere unjustifiably with the right to access to justice and discriminate unlawfully against women.
The Review of Employment Practices in the Modern Economy – commissioned by the prime minister and chaired by Matthew Taylor – has produced its long awaited report, which contains extensive analysis of the UK jobs market and how it is likely to evolve in an era of automation and robots. If carried forward to legislation, Taylor's recommendations will have profound implications for all employers; particularly those using contractors and zero-hours and agency workers.
The government may argue in the Supreme Court that its Article 50 notice to leave the European Union could be revoked, which would contradict its argument in the High Court. While this may be a question of high politics, it highlights an issue that employment lawyers are often called to advise upon – can notice, once served, be withdrawn or rejected?
In many civil law countries – France, Germany, Spain and Italy to name but a few – it is normal to pay for restrictive covenants during the term for which they are in force. For some time there has been debate about whether the United Kingdom might one day converge towards the continental norm. The High Court has now confirmed that the answer remains a resounding "no".
The Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority have published long-anticipated new rules aimed at encouraging whistleblowing. The new rules reflect the regulators' commitment to put mechanisms and protections in place to encourage a culture of reporting concerns and challenging poor behaviour.
The Insolvency Service recently pressed charges against the chief executive officer of Sports Direct for failure to file Form HR1. While a considerable degree of caution should be exercised before drawing conclusions from a single case, the decision may indicate the government's increasing willingness to press charges against individuals for breach of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992.
The controversial Trade Union Bill has had its first reading in Parliament. The business secretary, Sajid Javid, has proposed reforms which have been called "the biggest crackdown on trade union rights for 30 years". If passed, they will be the most radical changes to the law on strikes and picketing since the 1980s.
The European Court of Justice has issued its judgment in the long-running Woolworths case concerning collective redundancy consultation, ruling that the approach under UK legislation of treating each physical establishment of the employer separately for these purposes is consistent with EU law. This outcome is beneficial for multi-site employers, as it makes their collective redundancy obligations easier.