What’s next for employment law?

Posted on 2 Jun 2015 by The Manufacturer

Lisa Gettins, equity partner at BPE examines the future of employment law after a shock win for the Conservative Party at the 2015 General Election.

Lisa Gettins, equity partner - Employment, BPE Solicitors LLP
Lisa Gettins, equity partner – Employment, BPE Solicitors LLP.

The usual fast pace of change in employment law always tends to slow before a general election.

However the unexpected Conservative majority, plus two recent cases on working time and holiday pay, both of which will impact the manufacturing sector, indicate that things are already returning to normal.

A majority government means that the employment law policy commitments are likely to be seen sooner rather than later and the main areas which affect the manufacturing sector include:

  • Zero hours contracts. These were always going to be a key area once the dust settled and draft regulations are in place imposing the much talked about “exclusivity ban”. The Conservatives are committed to greater guidance and transparency over the use of these contracts, but were not in favour of the more generous proposals akin to zero hours workers having similar rights to agency workers. We expect clarity soon.
  • Strikes and industrial action. Changes to the law regarding these have been proposed. The most useful change is the proposal to end the ban on using agency staff to cover for essential striking workers, but the proposals also include a requirement for a minimum 50% turnout to vote in all ballots.
  • Gender pay gap. Regulations dealing with this must be in place by April 2016 as a result of the change to legislation prior to the dissolution of Parliament. This is expected to mean that employers with more than 250 employees will have to reveal differences between the average pay of men and women; however this issue was championed by the Liberal Democrats with some conservative opposition.
  • National Minimum Wage. An increase is expected to be above inflation rates;
  • Voluntary Work. Employers who have more than 250 staff will be required to give them up to three paid days off per year to do voluntary work.

Meanwhile, the Working Time Regulations continue to cause controversy.  The Employment Appeal Tribunal has just confirmed that time spent attending meetings in the capacity of a trade union or health and safety representative does count as “working time” for the purpose of those Regulations.  This is a broader approach than previously adopted and has implications on not only pay, but also rest breaks.

Additionally, the calculation of holiday pay is to be looked at again, following the appeal brought by British Gas in the “Lock” case, which dealt with whether commission payments should form part of holiday pay.

The nature of the appeal means that the earlier “Bear Scotland” case which confirmed that non-guaranteed overtime should form pay of the holiday pay calculation, is now being reviewed.

This continues the ongoing uncertainty in this area of calculating holiday pay and dealing with potential back pay claims.

For more information contact Lisa Gettins, Partner at BPE Solicitors on [email protected] or 01242 248237