14 April 2015

Last gasp laws: a round-up of the latest employment law legislation

This article was written by Carl Richards (partner), Wyn Derbyshire (partner), and Tamsin Rickard (professional support lawyer).

Just prior to the dissolution of Parliament, a number of important employment law provisions completed their legislative passage.

Here is a round-up of some of the key provisions, and where to find more information.

Zero Hours contracts

Last year, we updated you about the coalition government’s proposal to tackle the perceived widespread and unfair use of zero hours contracts.

The relevant provisions of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 have now received royal assent. As per the original proposals, any provision in a zero hours contract which prohibits the worker from doing work or performing services under any other arrangement (or doing so without the employer's consent) will be rendered unenforceable. However these provisions are not yet in force and no implementation date has been announced.  Draft regulations were also issued to tackle the perceived likelihood of employers seeking to avoid the new law (eg by using very low minimum-guaranteed hours contracts, rather than zero hours) but these were not passed before the dissolution of Parliament.

More details are still to come. The legislation allows for further regulations to be issued, which could deal with:

  • modifying zero hours contracts, non-contractual zero hours arrangements or other workers' contracts. 
  • imposing financial penalties on employers.
  • requiring employers to pay compensation to zero hours workers.
  • conferring rights on zero hours workers.

We also understand that Acas plans to develop further guidance on the use of zero hours contracts for employers and workers in the course of this year.

Until we have further details, it is difficult to fully assess the impact on employers. However, it seems that this may be only the start of the process by government to tackle this topic, and of course, a new government could introduce a change of tack on this issue. With zero hours contracts still high up the political agenda, we will keep you posted.   

Other provisions

Other employment provisions passed in the final days of the last Parliament are as follows (although for the most part still awaiting implementation dates):

  • Mandatory gender pay gap reporting and publication for employers with 250 employees or more. For more information, please see our previous article on the subject. 
  • New financial penalties for unpaid tribunal awards and settlements
  • New restrictions on the number of times that a party can postpone or adjourn an employment tribunal hearing
  • Extension to the financial penalty for failure to pay the national minimum wage
  • Tribunals will no longer have the power to make wider recommendations in successful discrimination cases.

The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 also introduced major company law changes. For more information please see our recent article.

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