April is always the busiest month of the year in employment law. For full details of increases to minimum wage, tribunal compensation and statutory benefits, along with legislation covering IR35 and Post Employment Notice Pay see our April 2021 employment law changes article.
After the announcement in February that the Restriction of Public Sector Exit Payments Regulations ("the UK Regulations") were to be revoked, the revocation Regulations came into force on 19 March 2021. The UK Regulations had been the subject of a number of judicial review applications arising from concerns around them clashing with the requirements of the Local Government Pension Scheme ("LGPS"). The revocation Regulations specify that anyone who received an exit payment that was subject to the cap (for any reason) will be entitled to an additional payment ensuring they receive the amount that would have been payable (together with interest) had the cap not applied. The cap introduced for devolved Scottish public bodies in September 2019 remains in force. It expressly excludes both pension benefits to which the employee is already entitled and mandatory payments made by the employer to the pension scheme to either top up or underwrite the actuarial reduction to allow early access to pension benefits. This therefore appears to avoid the primary issue that led to the judicial review applications that affected the UK Regulations brought in by the UK Government.
Following the Supreme Court decision issued in February that Uber drivers were workers and not independent contractors, Uber has announced that its UK drivers will be guaranteed a minimum wage, holiday pay and pensions. However, further legal action is reportedly being threatened as the new pay scheme ignores the ruling that drivers time should be calculated from the moment they log on to the app and are available for work, instead offering payment only when a driver accepts a job.
The CIPD has claimed that England's Apprenticeship Levy has failed on every measure. Key data from an analysis of the performance of the levy since it was introduced in 2017 has shown that the total number of apprenticeship starts in England has fallen, the number going to younger workers has fallen and overall employer investment, which the levy was supposed to boost, has also declined. The CIPD has suggested retaining the levy in its current form will have a damaging effect on investment in skills and the organisation is now urging the UK Government to reform it into a more flexible training levy.
The Government Equalities Office has published research showing that jobs advertised as flexible tend to attract more jobseekers. Job adverts featuring specific mentions of flexibility were equally more likely to be shortlisted by both women and men than those advertised as full time.
Figures from the Information Commissioners Office have shown that the UK's sickness absence rate declined from 1.9% to 1.8% in 2020, lower than at any time since 1995 when their records began. While coronavirus will have caused many sick days, the measures taken to contain it, including working from home, have helped reduce other common causes of absence. The figure reflects total hours lost as a proportion of total hours worked, so is unaffected by employees being furloughed.
A UK Government response to the consultation on transparency in supply chains which proposed changes to the Modern Slavery Act was published in September 2020. Amongst a number of other proposals, the Government response included legislating on the content of statements, introducing a single reporting deadline (30 September each year) and requiring organisations to publish their statements on a UK Government website. Although legislation is still pending the Home Office has launched a new registry service where organisations can voluntarily add their statements ahead of the legislative changes that will make doing so compulsory.
The final report of the Government backed Hampton-Alexander review has shown that it has reached its target of 33% of board positions in FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 firms being held by women by the end of 2020. The review has though fallen short of its second goal of 33% representation of women in FTSE 350 leadership teams. Further research looking at female directors in the UK's largest financial services firms shows a significant gender pay gap still exists, with the women being paid 66% less than male directors. The women largely (86%) held non-executive positions involving less day to day responsibility for running the business.
It has been reported that UK data protection laws are to depart from the EU's General Data Protection Regulation. The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, was reported in the Financial Times as saying that under the current regime too many businesses are reluctant to use data either because they don't understand the rules or are afraid of inadvertently breaking them. A new Information Commissioner is due to be appointed in October 2021 and Mr Dowden wants the new appointee to focus on use of data for economic and social goals as well as privacy.