Key Changes within Employment Law in 2020 that you must know about

by Noor Haider

April tends to be a busier time for employers and HR consultants as they have to ensure that they are compliant with the latest round of amendments. This year, many new changes have been introduced and it is vital that both employees and employers are aware of them. This article will explore some of the laws which have been the driving force behind them, such as, Parental Bereavement Act 2018, the amended Employment Rights Regulations 2018 and the Good Work Plan.

New Parental Bereavement Leave

Prior to the enforcement of these new guidelines, there was no legislation regulating parental bereavement leave and pay. Previously employees had a right to a ‘reasonable’ period of leave, but the employer had discretion of whether or not to pay during the leave.

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 took effect on 6 April 2020. It requires employers to offer a 2 weeks’ statutory leave to employees who have lost a child, on or after 6 April 2020, under the age of 18, or suffered a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. Such employees are entitled to take this leave together or in separate one-week blocks, but it must be taken before 56 weeks have passed since the date of the child’s death. If an employee has lost multiple children at the same time, then they are entitled to leave for each child.

The right to leave applies to biological and adoptive parents, the parent’s partner and individuals who are due to become legal parents through surrogacy (intended parent). Eligibility arises if the child or baby was living with the partner or parent for 4 continuous weeks and if they had day to day childcare responsibilities.

The employee must be employed at the time of the child’s death and needs to give notice to their employer before using their leave. This notice should include when they want the leave to start, whether they want to take 1 or 2 weeks off, and the date their child died. If this notice is given in the first 8 weeks, then the employee can start their leave as soon as the notice is given. If it is given after the first 8 weeks, then the employee needs to give a week’s notice to the employer.

To qualify for statutory parental bereavement pay, the following conditions must also be satisfied:

  • The parent employee must have had 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employer
  • They must earn above the lower earnings limit (£120 a week for 2020/2021)

The eligibility for such pay needs to be confirmed by completing a declaration form to confirm the employee’s relationship to the  child. The amount paid is the minimum amount employers pay eligible staff. This can either be £151.20 a week or 90% of their average weekly earnings. This amount can be enhanced upon the employer’s discretion.

Minimum wage increase

Minimum wage is a figure set by the government which is the minimum amount a worker must be paid on an hourly basis. This is known as National Minimum Wage (NMW), which is regulated by the National Minimum Wage Act 1998, or National Living Wage (NLW) for those aged 25 or over.

From 1 April 2020, a pay rate increase was introduced to workers paid the minimum wage. This increase is based on their age group and whether they are a worker or apprentice.

Age group

Previous rate

Current rate

25 and over

£8.21

£8.72

21 – 24

£7.70

£8.20

18 – 20

£6.15

£6.45

Under 18

£4.35

£4.55

Apprentice

£3.90

£4.15

Extended right to written statement of particulars

A written statement of particulars, otherwise known as an employment contract, summarises the main terms of their employment. It is made up of a principal statement and a wider written statement. The principal statement includes most of the information such as pay, working hours, holiday entitlement, date of employment, and pay date. The wider written statement includes information to do with pension schemes, disciplinary procedures and non-compulsory training. Such information can be made available through a staff handbook or company intranet.

Previously, this statement had to be provided within the first two months of employment and could be given in instalments. Only employees who had been in employment for more than a month were entitled to it. However, as a result of the amended Employment Rights Regulations, this information must be provided on or before the first day of employment, regardless of the time the employee has been employed for, and cannot be given in instalments and should instead be in one single document.

The information to be included has also been expanded and must now include;

  • Details of probationary period
  • Training entitlement provided by employer
  • Any other paid leave and benefits
  • The terms and conditions relating to days of the week the worker is required to work and if this variable.

Updated agency worker rights

An agency worker has a contract with an employment agency who places them with a company for a temporary period of time. Such workers have initial rights such protection against discrimination, national minimum wage, and a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ holiday entitlement.

The Agency Worker Regulations 2010 states that agency workers are entitled to the same pay and basic working conditions as employees once they have fulfilled 12 weeks of continuous service in the same role. However, there was an exception to this rule known as the ‘Swedish derogation’. If the agency worker had a permanent contract with the employment agency and was being paid by the agency for periods in between assignments, then such workers were not entitled to the right of equal pay.

From 6 April 2020, the Swedish derogation has been removed, therefore entitling agency workers to the right to equal treatment of pay once they have satisfied their 12-week qualifying period. This includes the right to the same basic pay, holiday pay, commission, overtime pay, individual performance-related bonuses and allowances for working shifts. Other rights granted after 12 weeks include – sick leave, pensions, holiday and parental time off.

Changes to holiday pay calculations

Employees who are on holiday should receive their normal working pay. If their working patterns are fixed, then they are paid according to their usual pay rate. If the employee’s working patterns are unfixed, such as working on a zero hour contract, then a reference period of 12 weeks would be taken to determine the average weekly pay.

As a result of the new guidelines, this reference period has been in increased to 52 weeks. This means when the holiday pay is being calculated for an employee with unfixed working patterns, a working period of 52 weeks will now be taken instead of 12 to determine the average weekly pay. If the employee has been employed for less than 52 weeks, then the number of complete weeks for which they have been employed will be averaged.

Maternity, Paternity and Sick pay increased

Time taken off from work to have a baby is known as maternity leave which can be paid for up to 39 weeks. Time taken off from work to support one’s partner who is having a baby is known as paternity leave and can be paid for up to 2 weeks.

The weekly pay for statutory maternity and paternity pay has been increased from £148.68 to £151.20 or 90% of the employee’s average weekly earnings.

The rate of statutory sick pay has also increased from £94.35 to £95.85. To be eligible for this pay, the employee has to be unwell for at least 4 days in a row, earn £120 a week on average and  have informed their employer within a set deadline, or 7 days if a deadline has not been set.

Non-compliance by the employer

If there has been a failure by the employer to comply with the work and pay rights, then the employee should first attempt to resolve this issue through an informal discussion with their employer. If this is not effective, then a formal complaint can be filed against their employer, known as raising a grievance. The employee can further file a complaint to the HMRC who has the power to investigate such complaints, fine the employer and take them to court if they refuse to pay. As a last resort, the employee can directly make a claim to an employment tribunal and if this is successful, they will be entitled to compensation.

This article is intended for guidance only and must not be relied upon for specific advice.

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