Two key policy objectives drive July’s rush of consultations

Five new employment law consultations were published in July, as well as two responses to consultation.  They can all be linked two overlapping themes which were priorities during Theresa May’s tenure at number 10: promoting “good work” and tackling gender inequality in the workplace.

Good Work

Three of the consultations are directly connected with the Government’s Good Work Plan, itself a response to the wide-ranging Taylor Review which Theresa May commissioned soon after she became Prime Minister and which reported in 2017.

Consultations earlier this month on workplace health and enforcement of employment law rights (brief details here) have been followed by a further consultation on “one-sided flexibility” which closes on 11 October. This explores how best to introduce new rules which would oblige employers to give minimum notice of work schedules, and to provide compensation if they are cancelled at short notice. The consultation does not address a proposed new right for workers on irregular hours to request a “more predictable and stable contract”, but the Government says remains committed to bringing forward new legislation to introduce this right, which is likely to be modelled on the right to request flexible working.

Gender equality

Gender equality could be considered as part and parcel of good work, but it is a wide topic in its own right.  At its broadest it extends from eliminating gender-based harassment and discrimination in the workplace to tackling the root causes of the gender pay gap.

Earlier this month the Government set out its plans to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace (see our earlier blog here for more details). This has been followed by a wide ranging consultation on reforming family-friendly leave:

  • The first part of the consultation (which runs until 29 November) considers the “benefits, costs and trade-offs” of the four main types of statutory leave: maternity leave, paternity leave, shared parental leave and parental leave.
  • The second part of the consultation explores proposals for giving an additional period of leave to the main carer of babies who require neo-natal care (closing date 11 October).
  • The third and final part (also closing on 11 October) looks at measures to increase the transparency of what employers offer by way of flexible working and family-related leave and pay.

There are two other groups of proposals where consultation was completed earlier this year, and the Government has recently published its response:

  • Pregnancy discrimination: the Government is proposing that special redundancy protection for new mothers should be extended for six months after they return to work. Those returning from adoption leave will be given the same protection.
  • Non-disclosure agreements: legislation will be passed “as soon as Parliamentary time allows” which will provide that a confidentiality clause cannot prevent an individual from disclosing information to the police, regulated health and care professionals or legal professionals. Such clauses will need to “clearly set out” these and other limitations to their scope (for example in relation to the rights of whistleblowers).

Next steps

No implementation timetable has been published for any of these proposals. That is understandable in the light of the current political uncertainties. 

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