2020: The employment law changes

As we enter 2020, it is important to note that it is just not a time for new years resolutions but also a time for some key employment law changes to take place.

XpertHR has compiled a list of the most pivotal employment law changes coming in to effect this year.

The first one being the Leave and Pay Act, which is expected to be rolled out in April 2020. This parental bereavement leave right will give employees a period of time off from work following the death of a child under the age of 18 or a stillbirth. Employees who have been with a company for 26 weeks or more will be entitled to paid leave whereas other employees who have been with the company for a shorter period of time will be entitled to unpaid leave.

Another law to be introduced this year, again in April is the extension of the right to a written statement to all workers. This means all workers must receive a written statement from their employer on their first day. Currently, an employer has two months to give a worker such a statement. This means that companies should be preparing a written statement during the recruitment process.

2020 April will also see an increase in the holiday pay reference period rising from 12 to 52 weeks for workers who work different hours from one week to another. This means that “employers will need to look back over the past 52 weeks, discarding any weeks that a worker did not earn, to calculate their average weekly pay.”

As it stands, IR35 will be extended from the public to private sectors in April as well this year. During the General Election, all parties promised to review the legislation including Sajid Javid, Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, as there was no mention of reviewing IR35 within the Queen’s speech it led to the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) warning that the party must keep its promise. Either way, XpertHR advises that “employers should review the contracts and pay arrangements for their contractors to determine how the new rules will affect them.”

The Conservative win during Decembers General Election has seen Boris Johnson’s Brexit withdrawal agreement pass through the House of Commons, with the UK expected to leave the European Union (EU) on the 31st January 2020. This will lead to a new Australian-style points-based immigration system will be adopted in 2021. This will make the EU citizens subject to the same UK immigration controls as non-EU citizens. XpertHR also suggests that HR should write to employees who are European Economic Area (EEA) nationals to “urge them to apply for settled or pre-settled status, so they can remain living and working in the UK indefinitely.”

Ed Bowyer, partner and employment lawyer at Hogan Lovells a law firm, said:

We are expecting the pace of change to pick up in 2020, after a period of relative legislative calm over the last couple of years. In particular, the Employment Bill will include a raft of family friendly rights, including additional protection against discrimination for pregnant women and new parents, new leave rights for parents whose babies need neonatal care and for unpaid carers, and flexible working “by default” – although what that will mean in practice is still unclear. The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act was expected to come into force in April, although as the details of the entitlement have not yet been published for consultation, this may be delayed.

Gig economy” workers will receive extra protection. From April all workers will have to be given an expanded statement of terms and conditions and the Employment Bill will give workers with 26 weeks’ service a right to request more predictable working conditions.

Other trends employers will have to grapple with include a continuing uptick in #MeToo issues. Although the Government has proposed additional protection against sexual harassment and restrictions on the use of non-disclosure agreements, it is not clear whether this will be a legislative priority for 2020. Uncertainty also surrounds changes to IR35 and whether these will be rolled out in April as planned – comments from the Chancellor during the election campaign suggest that the reforms may be reviewed.

Finally, mental health in the workplace will continue to be a focus for employers. We may see the introduction of a right to request workplace modifications for employees with a health condition that does not amount to a disability as part of the Government’s national disability strategy. Such a duty would have significant implications for how managers handle sick and absent employees.