Employment Law Themes and 2019
Last year saw some key themes develop when it came to employment law, so what did we learn and what do we think the rest of this year may have in store?
The issue of sexual harassment was firmly in the spotlight last year. Whilst it may have started off with allegations of sexual harassment in Hollywood, the #MeToo movement shows that it is a much wider issue and one which can affect people in many areas of their lives, including in the workplace.
The #MeToo movement seems to have empowered those who have experienced sexual harassment to speak out. This is likely to be a trend that we continue to see in workplaces in 2019. As employees are better able to recognise sexual harassment and there is quite rightly a growing feeling that this needs to be stamped out, employees are more likely to have the confidence to complain about such conduct.
As employers can be vicariously liable if an employee is sexually (or otherwise) harassed, prevention is better than cure. Not only because there is no limit on the amount an employee can be awarded if a tribunal finds they have been sexually harassed, but because everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace.
You can get the first quarter of the year off to a positive start by ensuring your managers and employees have received anti-harassment training, this should reduce the likelihood that harassment of any kind will occur in your workplace.
Mental Health in the Workplace
We have seen and will continue to see an increasing focus on mental health at work, both in terms of employers being encouraged to take steps to promote positive mental health and to provide support to those who experience mental health issues.
With statistics showing that 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year,* this continues to be a significant area of concern. One of the key messages that’s being promoted is that simple things, such as managers being empowered to have basic conversations with employees about mental health, can help to make a big difference when it comes to improving mental health in the workplace.
Interestingly, the House of Commons has recently debated the issue of mental health first aid in the workplace. There has been a call for the government to change statutory requirements to require a trained mental health first aider in workplaces. If you subscribe to our health and safety service, you will be kept apprised of any changes in this area by our health and safety division.
National Minimum Wage
Last year HMRC reported that they had achieved record enforcement results, identifying £15.6million of National Minimum Wage (NMW) underpayments. Some of the top reasons for failure to comply with the NMW were reported to be:
- Deducting wages for uniforms
- Using the wrong time periods for calculating pay
- Failing to pay travel time where required
- Underpaying apprentices
- Misusing the accommodation offset
The above are areas that you should keep a particular eye on as we move through this year to avoid accidentally falling foul of the law. Continuing to look ahead, the NMW will again be in the spotlight with new NMW rates coming into force in April 2019 and an appeal against the decision in Royal Mencap Society v Tomlinson-Blake anticipated. In Royal Mencap Society v Tomlinson-Blake the Court of Appeal had decided on the facts that sleep-in care workers were only entitled to the NMW when they were awake and “actually working”. They were not entitled to the NMW when they were asleep as they are then only “available for work”. We will keep you updated with developments in relation to this case. As for the actual hourly rates of NMW, from 1st April 2019 these will be:
- £8.21 – workers aged 25 and over (the National Living Wage)
- £7.70 – workers aged 21 – 24
- £6.15 – workers aged 18 – 20
- £4.35 – 16 and 17-year olds
- £3.90 – apprentices under 19 and those aged 19 and over in the first 12 months of their apprenticeship
Brexit. There we’ve said it. Love it, loathe it or just ‘Brex-hausted’ with it all, there’s no surprise that it will continue to be a key feature of this year. At the moment little change is expected to UK employment rights on 29th March 2019, whether or not a deal is reached. We will keep you updated with any employment law related Brexit developments as the year progresses.
If you have any employment law issues you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.
* McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey. The NHS Information Centre for health and social care.