08 Aug 2019
There’s no doubt that our new Prime Minister has a lot to think about.
Now, as he settles in to Number 10, we explore legal developments previously set into motion that he’ll need to address in the coming months.
Six Challenges for Number 10
1. Improving regulation of confidentiality clauses
Recently, there’s been a lot of discussion (and controversy) surrounding NDAs.
For those of you who aren’t aware—a non-disclosure agreement (sometimes known as a confidentiality or ‘gagging’ clause) is a legal contract where one or more parties agree not to disclose confidential information.
It has come to light that these contracts have been used to silence those who have experienced sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.
In response to this, the government have committed to producing legislation designed to tackle the misuse of confidentiality clauses in employment.
Although they have not yet confirmed when this will become law, the legislation will include the following:
- no provision in a confidentiality clause will prevent individuals from disclosing to the police or regulated health, care and legal professionals
- any limitations on disclosure will be clearly set out in contracts and settlement agreements
- enforcement measures for any clause that does not comply with the new rules
2. Enhancing redundancy protection for new parents
Another consultation explored ways to prevent discrimination faced by working parents.
Currently, we don’t know when these changes will take effect, however the areas committed to include:
- extending redundancy protection for new mothers and those on adoption leave to last for six months after they have returned to work
- extending redundancy protection for those on shared parental leave
- setting up a taskforce to develop an action plan for additional steps that can be taken
3. Protecting employees from sexual harassment
A consultation is currently seeking views on whether the current laws protecting employees from workplace sexual harassment are going far enough.
It’s exploring whether to take the following action:
- Clarify the law so it’s clear that employers should protect their staff from being harassed by third parties e.g. clients/customers
- Evaluate whether interns and volunteers are adequately protected
- Give individuals longer to take a complaint to the employment tribunal (ET)
4. Assisting fathers on parental leave
Another consultation is considering what changes can be made to current paternity leave entitlements to assist fathers and partners in child caring commitments.
Specifically, it’s evaluating:
- Ways to prevent fathers and partners relying on annual or unpaid leave if their child is in hospital for longer than the paternity leave period
- Whether to introduce a Neonatal Leave and pay entitlement for parents of premature or sick babies who need to spend a prolonged period in neonatal care following their birth
5. Combat abuse of one-sided flexibility
One-sided flexibility arises where there is a misuse of atypical working patterns by employers, such as cancelling zero-hour worker shifts at short notice.
This can create unpredictability in working hours, cause income insecurity and make workers reluctant to assert their basic rights. This consultation is therefore considering:
- if workers should have the right to switch to a contract with more regular hours instead of just being able to request this
- if workers should have the right to a ‘reasonable’ notice of their hours, and what this notice should be
- if workers should receive compensation for shift cancelation or curtailment
6. Consultation on a single enforcement body
Finally, the government is also consulting on whether establishing a new single enforcement body for employment rights could improve enforcement for vulnerable workers and create a level playing field for the businesses who are complying with the law.
Note for employers
Whilst it’s clear that change is coming, it does remain to be seen what form this will take and when the changes will take effect.
With the uncertainty of Brexit once again on the horizon, these issues could undergo radical change or get swept under the rug, only time will tell.
In the meantime, employers should make sure they are up to date with all developments as they come.
Because—like Boris—they may soon find themselves making key changes to some pre-established processes.
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