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December 2018 Newsletter

Posted on Friday 21st Dec 2018

Good work Plan
Clients wrapped up in Christmas preparations may have missed some of the HR and H&S measures proposed by the government in what has been an unusually busy December. 

On 17 December 2018 the government published its proposals to take forward some of the recommendations in the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices (the Good Work Plan). This Newsletter explains the key proposals and the draft legislation which has already been introduced in some of the key areas.

New legislation, to be unveiled by business secretary Greg Clark, will, among other things:

  • extend to workers the right to be given a written statement of rights on the first day of work (rather than within two months) and to extend the information required for workers and employees (e.g., to cover eligibility for sick leave and pay and details of other types of paid leave);
  • extend the holiday pay reference period from the present 12 to 52 weeks. The reference period is used to calculate holiday pay where there are no set working hours or where additional payments are regularly earned;
  • extend the time required to break a period of continuous service from one week to four weeks;
  • the maximum fines handed out at employment tribunals to employers that have shown malice, spite or gross oversight will quadruple from £5,000 to £20,000.

There are a number of measures relating to agency workers.

  • Companies will be obliged to provide specific information to agency workers, to include: the type of contract the worker is employed under, the minimum rate of pay to expect, how they are to be paid, if they are paid by an intermediary company, any deductions or fees that will be taken, and an estimate or example of what this means for their take-home pay;
  • The government will repeal the so-called Swedish derogation, which allows organisations to pay agency workers on cheaper rates than permanent staff;
  • Penalties will be imposed on employers who breach employment agency legislation, like non-payment of wages.

Sexual Harassment: new statutory code planned
On 18th December 2018, the government announced that it will take action in response to the Women and Equalities Select Committee report on Sexual harassment in the workplace (published July 2018), including a new statutory code of practice on sexual harassment, which will be developed by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) under its Equality Act 2006 powers.

Among other things the government is committed:

  • to consult on how best to regulate on non-disclosure agreements so it is clear to a worker what rights have been given up by signing one; 
  • to consult on “how best to strengthen and clarify the laws in relation to third party harassment” to ensure that employers “.. take reasonable steps to protect their staff from third party harassment where they know that their staff are at risk” and proposes;
  • to amend whistleblowing legislation to make the EHRC a prescribed organisation and will consider further whether to add the police to the list. 

Tougher Laws on High Rise Fire Safety
On 20 December 2018 the government agreed to introduce a new regulatory framework to improve fire safety in high-rise residential tower blocks. Housing minister James Brokenshire confirmed on 18 December that the government will implement all the recommendations made by Dame Judith Hackitt in her Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, published in May 2018 following the Grenfell Tower fire of June 2017.

The new regime will mandate named dutyholders for fire safety compliance at the design, construction and occupation stages of residential buildings of 10 storeys or more. 
Hackitt’s report called for serious penalties, including prison and unlimited fines for construction contractors who were found guilty of flouting fire regulations. The government will consult further in spring 2019, specifically on the proposals for enforcement and sanctions to support the new regime.

In addition to setting out its implementation plans, the government is seeking views on the future technical guidance contained in Approved Document B (fire safety). The consultation closes on 1 March.

Finally may we wish all our clients a very Happy Christmas and a prosperous and peaceful New Year. As usual we shall make a donation to two of our charity clients in lieu of sending Christmas cards.

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