Employment Law Round Up – June 2022

Our monthly employment law round up.

Ban on exclusivity clauses to be extended

Exclusivity clauses, which restrict workers from working for multiple employers, were banned for workers on zero hour contracts in 2015. The UK Government announced on 9 May that the ban is to be extended to contracts where the guaranteed weekly income of the worker is on or below the Lower Earnings Limit of £123 a week. It is anticipated that this will enable 1.5 million workers to top up their income with extra work if they choose to do so. Legislation to implement these reforms is be laid before Parliament “later this year”.

Real living wage announcement brought forward in response to rising living costs

The Living Wage Foundation has confirmed they will be announcing the “real” living wage in September this year rather than waiting until November’s Living Wage Week. The real living wage is a voluntary hourly pay rate, that employers can sign up to, calculated on the basis of what people need to afford as a minimum. It is different from the statutory living and national minimum wage rates which employers must comply with. Currently the real (non-statutory) living wage is £9.90 per hour in the UK and £11.05 in London. The statutory national living wage for employees aged 23 and over is £9.50 per hour.

Plans to legislate for workers to keep tips reportedly dropped

According to reports in the Financial Times, the plans to legislate for workers to keep tips have been dropped. The legislation was expected to be included in the Employment Bill which itself has no definitive date for implementation.

Future of Work review announced

The UK Government have announced a review into how they can support a “thriving future UK labor market”. This will involve a high level assessment of key strategic issues including existing commitments contained in the response to the Taylor Review followed by a more detailed assessment of selected areas of focus. The review is to be conducted over Spring and Summer 2022 with a report going to the Prime Minister thereafter.

Report on NLW and NMW enforcement and compliance published

BEIS have published a report – National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage: government evidence on enforcement and compliance – covering the 2020-21 financial year. The report identified £16.8 million in arrears of wages that were due to over 155,000 workers. The average arrears per workers was £108 and 139 employers were “named and shamed” during the same period.

Call to end salary history questions

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation together with the Fawcett Society have launched a campaign to end job applicants being asked about their salary history. Recent research found that 60% of women believed being asked about prior earnings damaged their earning potential in a new position. The campaign is intended to eradicate gender, ethnicity and disability pay gaps.

Disability pay gap widened since 2014

Office of National Statistic (“ONS”) figures have shown that the UK disability pay gap has increased from 11.7% in 2014 to 13.8% in 2021. That translates to disabled employees earning a median of £12.10 per hour in 2021 compared to non- disabled employees earning a median of £14.03 per hour. Drilling down into these figures showed that the median for disabled men was £1.34 per hour more than the median for disabled women. The disability gap varied depending on the type of impairment suffered, with the largest gap being for disabled employees with autism.

Sickness absence rate rises to highest since 2010

The Office for National Statistics, who publish sickness absence rates annually, has announced that the rate in the UK in 2021 increased to 2.2%. This equates to nearly 150 million days being lost to sickness or injury. Covid-19 was the biggest single contributor, accounting for 24% of all absences, up from 14% in 2020.

Hybrid working increasing productivity and increasing in popularity

Recent CIPD research has found that at the end of 2021 41% of employers believed hybrid ways of working have increased productivity or efficiency, up from 33% the previous year. Concurrently the number of employers saying that hybrid working has had a negative impact on productivity has fallen from 23% to 18% over the same time period. Currently 51% of employees say they have flexible working arrangements in their current role, with more than 37% of employers saying they have seen an increase in requests for flexible working. Statistics from the Office of National Statistics Opinions and Lifestyle Survey has shown an increase in the number of people preferring to work primarily from home and sometimes in the workplace from 30% in April 2021 to 42% in February 2022. The proportion of people planning to return full time to their place of work has fallen from 11% to 8% over the same timeframe.

Laws requiring minimum numbers of rail staff during strikes to be introduced

The 2019 Conservative Party manifesto included a pledge to require minimum service operation during transport strikes. The UK Government has now announced the intention to introduce legislation to require minimum staffing levels during rail strikes, with any industrial action being illegal if those requirements are not met. Unions have said they will strongly oppose the new laws.

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