Wake-up call: Get ready for new employment laws

23 February 2023
Wake-up call: Get ready for new employment laws

From carer's leave to working through strikes, Charlotte Rees-John has rounded up the new laws that will affect hospitality employers

Although it looks as though the government has abandoned the long-awaited Employment Bill, that doesn't mean 2023 is likely to be a quiet year for the catering sector when it comes to employment law. Here are some of the changes employers need to be aware of.

Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill

Under the European Union Withdrawal Act most UK laws in existence on or before 31 December 2020 were preserved.

The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill will repeal all EU-derived laws by the end of 2023 (although the government will be able to extend that deadline to 2026). It will then be able to make sweeping changes to established laws in respect of working time and holidays, discrimination, TUPE, agency workers, part-time workers, fixed-term employees and new parents.

The government will have to legislate to re-introduce (or adapt) the EU laws it wants to keep before that very tight deadline. It doesn't look as though employment protections are a priority for the government and it's possible that important rights will fall off the statute books without anything to replace them. This could result in an increase in staff dissatisfaction, industrial action and employment claims.

New law to limit strike disruption

The government has introduced new legislation that will require unions to take steps to ensure that certain members of staff don't take part in strike action in order to meet minimum service levels. The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill applies to a wide range of sectors: education, transport, health, fire and rescue, nuclear and border security. An employer facing a strike will be able to serve a ‘work notice' on the union identifying the employees that it needs to meet the service levels required. Once notice has been given, the union is under a duty to take all reasonable steps to ensure that all members of the union who are identified in the work notice continue to work. Any union that doesn't comply will lose its immunity from being sued and employees who refuse to turn up to work can be fairly dismissed.

Fair distribution of tips

The government is supporting a private members' bill – Employment (Allocation of Tips) Bill – which will ensure that tips, gratuities and service charges are allocated to workers.

The government has also said that it will publish a statutory code of practice setting out how tips should be distributed to ensure fairness.

New protection against redundancy

Pregnant women and new parents will receive additional protection from being made redundant under the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill.

Under current rules, before making an employee on maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave redundant, employers are obliged to offer them a suitable alternative vacancy (where one exists) in priority to anyone else who is provisionally selected for redundancy.

The new bill will extend protection to pregnant women before they start maternity leave and for six months after they return to work. It will also protect new parents returning to work from adoption or shared parental leave.

Carer's leave

The Carer's Leave Bill will introduce one week's unpaid leave to help employees with long-term caring responsibilities balance these with their paid work. It will be a ‘day one' right and leave can be taken in one single block or on individual days.

Combating workplace harassment

The government has ratified the International Labour Organisation's Violence and Harassment Convention, which comes into effect on 7 March. It has agreed to implement laws to "respect, promote and realise the right of everyone to ... work free from violence and harassment" – including third-party harassment.

The International Labour Organisation has published a practical guide for employers on how to prevent violence and harassment at work.

Last year, the government said that it would introduce a new duty on employers to play an active role in preventing workplace sexual harassment. It has recently confirmed that it will support a private members' bill – Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill – which will:

  • reintroduce liability for harassment caused by third parties'
  • put employers under an active duty to prevent sexual harassment; and
  • allow tribunals to increase compensation by up to 25% where staff have been subjected to sexual harassment.

Employers will be able to avoid liability if they can show they took all reasonable steps to prevent harassment.

Once in force, employers will have to update their diversity and inclusion policies, consider what additional steps they need to take to prevent sexual harassment and ensure that the training they provide to their staff complies with the new law.

Changes to rules on flexible working

The government has announced that it will make changes to the right to ask for flexible working. It will become a ‘day one' right and employees will be able to make up to two requests each year. The employer must deal with the application (and any appeal) within two months. Employers will still be able to turn down requests if they have a business reason for doing so on the same grounds as currently exist.

Charlotte Rees-John is a partner at Irwin Mitchell and head of the consumer sector

Photo: John Gomez/Shutterstock

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