As we enter a recession, we have been here before, and a key question is what did we learn and how can we benefit from that learning?
As Whitehall reverberates with new party leaders and the prospect of an autumn Brexit, there are some consultation papers and draft legislation worth noting;
Extending redundancy protection for women and new parents
Under Regulation 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave Regulations 1999, if a woman’s role is made redundant whilst on maternity leave, she is entitled to be offered a suitable alternative role with her employer or an associated employer. She will be given precedence over any other employee applying for that role who is not on maternity leave.
In January 2019, the Government consulted on a proposal to extend this period of “redundancy protection” from the date when an employee notifies her employer of her pregnancy, through to six months after her return to work. The Women and Equalities Select Committee have supported this proposal and strongly agree that this protection should be extended to those on shared parental leave and adoption leave. We await the draft regulations implementing this extended protection.
National Insurance contributions and termination payments
Following on from changes made last April, whereby a proportion of a non-contractual termination payment became taxable, the Government have drafted a bill whereby employers will now have to pay National Insurance contributions for termination payments over £30,000, as well as income tax. For the charge to apply, the termination payment must be made in connection with the termination of the earner’s employment.
The Government’s thoughts behind such a change are to stop employers categorising other payments as termination payments to benefit from the existing exemptions from National Insurance contributions. We await the progress of this bill into law.
Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC) calls for change on the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)
Following the public revelations that rocked, but maybe not shocked, the worlds of entertainment and certain major charities, coupled with the force of the #metoo movement, the Government has been prompted to address workplace cultures.
One practice that has come under fire for facilitating such toxic cultures is the use of NDAs. These agreements have been used historically to protect employers against employees disclosing confidential information about their employer, either during employment or after. More recently, NDAs have been used to “silence” employees from reporting sexual harassment suffered while in employment.
The WESC launched an enquiry into the use of NDAs back in November 2018 and has just recently published its report. It asks that the Government “reset the parameters” around the use of NDAs and goes further to request that the Government also address the perceived failings of the tribunal system, to ensure all employees who have experienced discrimination or harassment have a meaningful route for redressing their treatment. The report condemns the use of NDAs to circumnavigate investigations into allegations of discrimination and/or harassment, and highlights the pressure employees often feel to sign NDAs regardless of the legality and fairness of its contents.
The report recommends that the Government legislate so that NDAs cannot prevent legitimate discussions of allegations of unlawful discrimination and harassment and that plain English always be used. Other recommendations that have fallen on deaf Government ears previously include; imposing a mandatory duty on employers to protect employees from harassment and victimisation, and improving remedies at a tribunal, plus improving the costs systems for these type of claims to remove barriers to justice.
We await the Government’s response and whether they have the headspace, with all that is going on currently, to address this issue in any great detail or with any meaningful sense of purpose.
For more information
Our employment team regularly advises on a variety of contentious and non-contentious employment and HR matters. We also deliver training to our clients and their teams, helping them up-skill colleagues and provide updates on new legal developments.
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It is anticipated that as lockdown restrictions ease, and particularly with children and young adults returning to education, cases of meningitis will start to rise.
As we continue to emerge from lockdown measures and deal with local measures and the short and long term economic impact of Covid-19, local authorities will need to re-assess how services will be delivered for years to come.
The Government first announced plans for a shared ownership right to buy in October 2019. At the time the sector raised concerns about the impact the plans would have on housing associations ability to borrow. An election and a pandemic later the Government announced, during the CIH Housing Festival last week, the return of the right to shared ownership as part of its Affordable Homes Programme (AHP).
Two final pieces of the possession jigsaw have been published on 15 September 2020. Mr Justice Knowles’ working group on possession proceedings has issued its guidance on the “overall arrangements” for possession proceedings.
One change proposed by the Building Safety Bill is the introduction of a duty holder regime, which will see statutory responsibility for the safety of higher risk buildings placed on key individuals
Throughout this pandemic, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been publishing various “Statements on Coronavirus” (Statements) which provide guidance on consumer rights during this time.
A recent increase in COVID-19 cases in the UK means new measures are being put in place in an effort to reduce the risk of a second wave. Whilst the impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt, it is important to remain focused on the sector’s road to recovery.
Sometimes half an hour at a conference gives you the reality that has been staring you in the face all along. That was my experience watching “Change is on the Horizon”
Following our recent e-briefing on Possession Notices, Helen Tucker and Emilie Pownall from our housing litigation team discuss the impact of the changes on social landlords.
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