Employment law landscape shifts

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Further legislative change is on the horizon and hospitality sector employers must keep up to speed, writes lawyer Laura Salmond

Laura Salmond, partner at BTO Solicitors
Brexit is set to impact on the hospitality industry, says Laura Salmond.

FROM increased claims of sexual harassment in the workplace to numerous landmark decisions, 2018 was an eventful year for employment law.

With a largely part-time, seasonal and high-turnover workforce, the hospitality sector continues to face a number of challenges in this area; and 2019 is shaping up to be another busy year, with updates, new legislation, and the UK’s imminent withdrawal from the EU all set to impact employers in the industry.

Brexit day

A great deal of uncertainty around the conditions of the UK’s exit from the EU continues, with a new deadline set for October 31 at the latest. In an industry which relies heavily on migrant workers, there is understandably a high level of concern over potential staffing shortages, as well as changes to workers’ rights. Although we can presently only speculate on the impact it will have on day-to-day lives, the government has advised that existing workers’ rights will be maintained post-Brexit. The government’s Good Work Plan (which was published in December 2018) also discusses the proposed enhancement of rights.

Increase in statutory rates

As of April 1, the National Living Wage for those aged 25 and over increased from £7.83 to £8.21. The National Minimum Wage rate for workers increased as follows:

• For workers aged 21 to 24, hourly pay increased from £7.38 to £7.70.

• For workers aged 18 to 20, hourly pay increased from £5.90 to £6.15.

• For those over compulsory school age but not yet 18, hourly pay increased from £4.20 to £4.35.

• The hourly apprentice rate also increased from £3.70 to £3.90 and the daily accommodation offset increased to £7.55.

Pay slip changes

Previously, only employees were entitled to an itemised payslip. However, from April 6, 2019, employers have been obliged to provide pay slips to workers as well as employees. ‘Workers’ covers agency staff, casual staff and zero hours staff. Pay slips now also need to state the total number of hours worked where pay varies according to the hours worked. It is therefore important that employers work with their payroll departments to ensure the correct procedures are in place. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has published guidance aimed at helping employers and workers understand the new rights and entitlements.

Tips

The government has undertaken to introduce new legislation “at the earliest opportunity” to ensure that tips left by customers go to workers in full. Although there is no confirmed date for this change yet, employers should consider formalising a tips policy now, both in preparation for the legislation and to avoid any potential litigation that may arise from backdated claims in future.

Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment was reported widely in the news in 2018, creating a real movement forcing employers to look at what they are doing to combat it in the workplace. In recognition of this, the government is working closely with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to produce a statutory code of practice for employers – watch this space.

NDAs

When an employee signs a Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA), they agree to remain silent on anything from company secrets to instances of sexual harassment or discrimination, preventing victims from speaking out about their experience and warning others. The Women and Equalities Commission is currently enquiring into the use of non-disclosure agreements and whether they are lawful. The Solicitors Regulatory Authority has put out a warning notice to set out how far such clauses should be drafted, and employers are urged to take care to prevent their unethical use.

• Laura Salmond is a partner at BTO Solicitors.