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Education Briefing - New section 1 statements for employees and workers from April 2020

  • United Kingdom
  • Education - Briefings

02-10-2019

From 6th April 2020, there will be important changes to the minimum written terms that must be provided to workers and employees in England and Wales and to the timing of when these should be provided to them. These minimum written terms are required by the Employment Rights Act 1996 and are often referred to as “a written statement of particulars” or a “section 1 statement”.

What is changing for section 1 statements?

Required recipients

All new employees and workers engaged on or after 6 April 2020 will be entitled to receive a section 1 statement (including new, additional information). Previously, this requirement applied to employees only.

Timing

From April, receipt of a section 1 statement in a single document becomes a “day one” right for employees and workers. However, the ability to provide certain information in instalments and by reference to other documents over the subsequent two month period is retained (e.g. referring the individual to where a disciplinary and grievance procedure can be found). Previously, employers were permitted two months to issue a section 1 statement.

New content

In addition to the existing information that must be included in section 1 statement, the following are added to what must be set out in a single document for all workers:

  • working pattern and if hours or days may be variable
  • entitlement to paid leave (including maternity and paternity)
  • any probationary period and its length
  • any mandatory training provided by the employer and training in for which the employer will not bear the cost

What about current workers?

These changes are not retrospective, so only apply to new engagements on or after 6 April 2020. However, institutions should be aware that current workers will also be entitled to request a section one statement (including the new, additional information) and such requests must be complied with within one month.

Why the changes?

The changes result from the government’s Good Work Plan that was published in December 2018. The recommendations are aimed at increasing transparency between workers and employers as well as improving the enforcement of employment rights.

What if employers fail to comply?

The existing mechanism for enforcing compliance with section 1 statement requirements will be extended to the new provision. Accordingly, a failure to provide a section 1 statement, or one that meets the requirements, may give rise to an employment tribunal claim from affected workers or employees. The tribunal will determine the relevant terms of engagement.

How can employers prepare for these changes?

To ensure compliance with the new provisions for employees, institutions should review their current section 1 statements (or employment contracts to the extent that section 1 statement information is incorporated) prior to 6 April 2020. Minor amendment may well be necessary before these are issued to new recruits, for example, to add express reference to the fact there is certain compulsory training – or none, if applicable.

It is important that institutions have updated section 1 statements available in readiness for April as these must now be provided to new employees on or before the day employment starts. Institutions should also be prepared for the possibility that current employees will exercise their right to request a statement which includes the new information and should have new statements available for this group also that meet the new requirements.

The greatest change in practice for employers is likely to be the extension of section 1 statement information to workers. Some of this essential contract information will already form a necessary part of the worker’s current contract of engagement. However, it is important that institutions now carry out a comprehensive review of section 1 statement requirements and then decide whether this information will be provided within a new template contract of engagement or in a standalone document.

Comment

Institutions may find it helpful to review section 1 statement information for employees against what is now required for workers, so that any aspects relevant to non-employees can be carried across or stated to be “not applicable”, as appropriate. This may also highlight areas where institutions may need to be clearer over employment status.

Aside from concern over an increased administrative burden that will result from these changes, some employers have expressed a worry that extending section 1 statements to workers could confuse their employment status, many of the terms being more associated with employment. It is fair to say that any tribunal claim over section 1 statements is likely to increasingly accompany a claim related to employment status. However, the purpose behind these changes is transparency, not alteration of worker status. Having terms clearly accessible in a single document is also perceived as advantageous.

Institutions also need to be aware that extending access to section 1 statements to all workers is likely to be only a first step towards even greater information for workers. Accommodating these latest changes now is therefore likely to reduce conflict but also prepare for the future as, looking ahead, there are already further government proposals in this area afoot.

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