Employment Laws HR Need to Know (UK)

Before anyone makes any sort of decision; we should first ask ourselves “is that legal?”, and within a business context, this consideration is especially crucial. Whimsical decisions we make in the office may at the time seem insignificant; but if those actions later turn out to be illicit – your company (and personal) reputation may be at serious risk. It is therefore imperative to be up to date all the regulations relating to your workplace, rather than learning them from hindsight. Here is a list of the important HR-related standards you need to know.

  • Equality Act 2010

Everyone should already know the correct way to treat others. However, there are protection rights in place that HR professionals need to be particularly aware of. The Equality Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race, age, disability, sexual orientation and religion, and is applicable to employers with 15 or more employees. This act is relevant right from the interview process all the way to ending of their contract. If at any point an employee feels they have been a victim of discrimination at work, they could choose to take legal action against the company. It is vital therefore, to monitor the mindset and behaviours of your staff towards each other, and to be strict in combating any instances of discrimination that may arise.  

  • Statutory Maternity Leave

Employees have a right to take up to a year of maternity leaveregardless of how long they’ve been working for their employer – however this does not apply to “workers”. A worker includes: someone who works for an agency (unless there has been an agreement stating employment by the agency), casual workers and people on a zero-hours contract.

 Employees can start their maternity leave any day from 11 weeks before their due date; unless the baby is born premature. However, SMP (Statutory Maternity Pay)begins automatically if an employee is off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before their baby is due. Workers also hold the right to return to work after their maternity leave and must not be dismissed during their time off.

It is also very important to note that an employee is still entitled to SMP if they experience a miscarriage, or stillbirth, after 24 weeks of pregnancy. The shortest maternity leave that can be taken is 2 weeks. This increases to 4 weeks if the person is stationed in a factory. SMP is paid for up to 39 weeks and must include:

  • 90% of a person’s weekly earnings (before tax) for the first six weeks
  • £148.68 or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks
  • Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974

This act was passed in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of people at work. Section 2 of this doctrine states “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his/her employees“. In order for your work and management procedures to align with the law, your organisation must:

  • Ensure all plant and systems of work do not impose any risk to employee’s health and safety.
  • Provide arrangements to ensure that the handling, storage and transport of articles and substance are absent of risk to your employee’s health and safety.
  • Provide the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision to your employees to avoid risk to their health and safety.
  • Provision and maintenance of a working environment for your employees which is practicable, safe, without risks to health, and adequate regarding facilities and arrangements for their welfare at work.
  • Perform testing and examination on articles supplied at work to ensure that their design and construct does not impose risk to an employees heath and safety.

The hourly rate for the minimum wage is dependent on the age of the employee. As it stands; The National Living Wage (applicable for employees aged 25 and above) is £8.21. For employees between the ages of 21 and 24 the minimum wage is £7.70. For employees between the ages 18 and 20 the minimum hourly wage is £6.15. The minimum wage for employees under the age of 18 is £4.35, and the National Minimum wage for an Apprentice is £3.90. These figures are due to increase for all employees and apprentices in April 2020.

  • Upcoming changes to the law

As well as being vigilant towards existing UK work legislations, it is also a good idea for the be prepared for the new worker regulations being introduced. With Brexit due to go ahead on 31st January 2020, here are some HR amendments you should be aware of:

  • Executive Pay Ratio Reporting (Companies Act)

It is now a legal requirement for UK listed companies with more than 250 UK employees to provide an annual and written statement regardingthe pay gap between their chief executive and their average UK worker. The first of these reports are due in 2020.

  • Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay

The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Act has now been passed by Royal Assent and is expected to come into force in April 2020. It will give all employed parents or those with parental responsibility, the right to 2 weeks leave if they lose a child under the age of 18 or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy. Parents will also be able to claim pay for this period, subject to meeting eligibility criteria.

The reference period for calculating holiday pay for workers who do not work regular hours will increase from 12 to 52 weeks on 6 April 2020.

Although there are numerous labour rights in act, these are the laws we believe HR need to know.

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