It looks deceptively all quiet on the new employment law front, other than the usual April updates to statutory payment rates. However the end of the year could see the biggest shake-up in employment law for years if the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill is enacted and comes into force. We are also seeing the Government giving its support to a range of private members’ bills in order to implement a number of earlier policy commitments, which were expected to be included in an Employment Bill.
Increases in statutory payment rates
Employers should prepare for increases on the following dates:
1 April 2023 – National Minimum Wage
• Increase in the national living wage (for workers aged 23 and over) from £9.50 to £10.42 per hour.
• Increase in the national minimum wage for age 21 – 22 from £9.18 to £10.18 per hour.
• Increase in the national minimum wage for age 18 – 20 from £6.83 to £7.49 per hour.
• Increase in the national minimum wage age 16 – 17 from £4.81 to £5.28 per hour.
• Increase in the apprentice rate from £4.81 to £5.28 per hour.
2 April 2023 – family-related statutory pay
• The statutory payment rates for statutory maternity pay, statutory paternity pay, statutory adoption pay, statutory shared parental pay, and statutory parental bereavement pay, increase from £156.66 to £172.48 per week.
6 April 2023 – statutory sick pay
• The rate of statutory sick pay increases from £99.35 to £109.40 per week.
6 April 2023 – statutory redundancy pay
• The statutory cap on a week’s pay for calculating redundancy pay is due to increase in line with the RPI with effect from 6 April. The projected increase is from £571 to £643.
Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill – a sunset on European employment law?
The end of the year could see significant changes in employment law. When the UK left the EU, European law as in place of the date of the UK’s exit from the EU on 31 December 2020 remained part of UK law as ‘retained EU law’. These laws continue to have force in the UK unless repealed or replaced by later UK legislation.
If enacted, the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill will have the effect that, unless specifically decided otherwise by Government, retained EU law will automatically expire after 31 December 2023. This is referred to as the ‘sunset’ provision. Government figures on the retained EU law dashboard currently indicate 3,745 pieces of affected legislation, but this is considered by many to be an incomplete list.
A wide range of employment legislation could potentially be caught by the automatic revocation of retained EU law, such as the Working Time Regulations, the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations (“TUPE”) and the
Agency Worker Regulations.
The Bill is currently at the report stage in the House of Lords. The Government is facing significant pressure, including from the House of Lords Committees to postpone the sunset date which as it stands is considered to exacerbate the difficulties in identifying what legislative measures should be revoked, restated or replaced, and the risks of some retained EU law being missed and revoked by accident.
New employment laws through private members bills
The Government originally promised to introduce an Employment Bill in the Queen’s Speech in December 2019, with its stated aims including to encourage flexible working, to introduce leave entitlement for paid carers, to promote fairness in the workplace and to introduce better support for working families. The introduction of the Bill was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and it is has been omitted in subsequent programmes of Government legislation ever since.
In recent months, the Government has adopted the method of giving its backing to private members’ bills in order to implement its previous policy commitments, and consequently these bills have a good chance of becoming law. These private members’ bills include:
- A bill introducing a duty on employers to protect employees from sexual harassment by third parties, and to make employers liable for third party harassment.
- A bill requiring employers to pass on 100% of tips to their staff (other than tax deductions).
- A bill introducing one week’s unpaid leave for carers.
- A bill granting neonatal leave and pay for up to 12 weeks, for parents whose babies require neonatal care.
- A bill changing the regime for requesting flexible working in the employee’s favour, such as allowing two formal requests to be made in any period of 12 months and reducing the period for the employer to decide the request from 3 months to 2 months.
- A bill extending the protection given to employees on maternity leave, adoption leave or shared parental leave during a redundancy situation up to 6 months after the employee’s return to work.
- A bill giving zero-hours and variable hours workers the right to request a more predictable working pattern.
These bills are mostly at their second reading or report stage in the House of Lords, so stand good chances of becoming law during the current parliamentary session, which runs until autumn 2023.
Consultations on proposed changes to legislation
The Government is consulting over a proposal to make holiday entitlement under the Working Time Regulations 1998 proportionate to hours worked. This is in response to the decision of the Supreme Court last year (Harpur Trust v Brazel) concerning the holiday entitlement for “part-year workers” on permanent contracts that their leave entitlement could not be reduced to take account of periods when no work was done. The consultation closed on 9 March 2023.
The Government is also consulting on a draft Statutory Code of Practice on Dismissal and Re-engagement. The objective of the draft Code is that employers take all reasonable steps to explore alternatives and engage in meaningful consultation before they dismiss and re-engage (“fire and rehire”) as a way to introduce new terms and conditions. Consultation on the draft code closes on 18 April 2023.
For further information contact Patrick Glencross on 01227 763939.
Please note: This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice.