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Global employment briefing: United Kingdom, June 2017

  • United Kingdom
  • Employment law

01-06-2017

UK general election

When the 2017 General Election was announced, many expected Brexit and the economy to take centre stage. However, employment policies have also grabbed attention, with the Labour Party manifesto announcing a 20 point plan to end the ‘rigged economy’ in work and the Conservative Party manifesto promising a range of employment changes including a new rights to carer’s leave and child bereavement leave, executive pay ratios, corporate reporting on employee engagement mechanisms, changes to disability discrimination and new ethnicity pay gap reporting. If the Conservatives win, employers should assess their readiness to calculate ethnicity pay gaps and executive pay ratios, in practical and reputational terms. Read our briefing on the 2017 manifestos.

Brexit

Exit negotiations will commence in June but the outcome remains unclear. The main political parties have committed to maintaining all EU-derived workers’ legal protections after Brexit. The status of EU workers in UK is seen as a priority issue as well as immigration restrictions after Brexit. In the meantime, employers need to consider auditing the EEA makeup of their workforce, assessing the effect of a potential ending of freedom of movement, communicating with employees and drawing up contingency plans.

Employment status, ‘contractors’ and the gig economy

In Pimlico Plumbers v Smith, the Court of Appeal upheld an Tribunal’s decision that a plumber was entitled to holiday pay and protection from discrimination, notwithstanding that he was self-employed for tax purposes (read our briefing: Court of Appeal ruling on employment status). In addition, the Government appointed Taylor Review of Employment Practices in the Modern Economy (looking at evolving working models and their employment implications) will report in June and is expected to result in legislative change, regardless of which political party wins the election.

The Review together with ongoing employment status litigation mean that employment status will remain a ‘hot topic’ in the UK. Employers should review the employment status of their freelance and contracting workforce to avoid the risk of misclassifying their status, with related exposure to unpaid holiday, pension and other entitlements.

Industrial action changes

Changes to industrial action balloting and picketing laws introduced by the Trade Union Act 2016 were implemented on 1 March 2017 (read our briefing: Strike changes: 1 March 2017 implementation confirmed). As a result of these changes, unions may ballot less, wary of not meeting the thresholds, may be more tactical about defining the ballot constituency and may apply alternative forms of pressure on employers (e.g. protests).

Modern slavery and trafficking reporting

The end of March marked the first anniversary of the modern slavery reporting duty for medium and large businesses (read our guide to the Modern Slavery Act and our briefing: Modern slavery reporting: the verdict - one year on). To identify and address slavery risks, businesses are expected to put in place policies, training (see our e learning), risk assessments and due diligence processes.

Gender pay gap reporting

The gender pay gap reporting duty is now in force and requires larger private and voluntary sector employers and public sector bodies in England to publish pay differences between male and female workers (read our FAQs). Now that the hourly pay data has been collected (private sector: on 5 April, public sector: on 31 March), employers have up to a year before they must report and should use this time to prepare a communications plan and to decide how to address any gaps.

NB This update covers England, Wales and Scotland. It does not cover developments that apply only in Northern Ireland.

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