We’re coming to the end of the year and it’s been an eventful twelve months. Here, we look back at the predictions we made last December about what was going to happen in the world of HR and employment law in 2019. Here’s how we got on.
The United Kingdom was meant to leave the European Union on 29 March. However, Prime Minister Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement was voted down an unprecedented three times by the House of Commons.
The UK’s exit date was then pushed back to 31 January 2020 after Parliament decided her successor Boris Johnson’s renegotiated deal needed greater scrutiny.
Workers from EU countries living in the UK have been able to apply for settled status, allowing them to remain indefinitely in the UK following the end of the Brexit transition period scheduled for the end of 2020. With that, the right to work in the UK will continue to apply.
Applicants must be able to prove they have been living in the UK for five years, but anyone who doesn’t meet this requirement can apply for temporary status until they have accrued enough residency to be granted settled status.
With Johnson now commanding a majority in Parliament following the recent general election, it looks likely that Brexit will finally happen.
At this moment, it looks like the rights of EU citizens in the UK and British nationals in the EU are unlikely to change until the end of the transition period as negotiations continue.
National Minimum Wage
On 1 April, the National Minimum Way increased to £8.21 as expected.
Other National Minimum Wage rates also increased, with hourly rates rising to £7.70 for workers aged at 21 to 24, to £6.15 for workers aged 18 but under 21, and to £4.35 for workers aged under 18 who are no longer of compulsory school age. The hourly apprentice rate also increased to £3.90.
Mental health and wellbeing continued to be a priority for employers in 2019. Last year, we predicted that Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP) would become more prevalent in workplaces.
While awareness has certainly increased, with initiatives such as World Mental Health Day and Mental Health Awareness Week gaining a lot of attention on social media, there is still a shortfall in how employers manage mental health-related issues.
Research by insurance company Towergate Health showed how this is the case; although three-quarters (76%) of firms offered access to an EAP, just 10% of HR professionals polled felt this was valued by their staff. Only 5% said their EAP was actually being used.
This shows that although the tools are being provided by many employers, there is still a stigma attached to mental health that makes employees reluctant to use them.
The Good Work Plan
In the Queen’s Speech in October, the government outlined that they were rolling out the ‘Good Work Plan’ first announced in December 2018.
Although the Plan was initially put on hold due to Brexit uncertainty, the government returned to it and should start implementing it in 2020 after their recent election win.
Described as the “largest upgrade in a generation to workplace rights”, the Plan was created after Matthew Taylor’s Review of Modern Work Practices. There is no set timescale yet, however.
Gender Pay Gap
Gender Pay Gap reporting continued into its second year, as employers with 250 or more employees on the “snapshot date” had to report their gender pay gap annually within 12 months of either 30 March (public sector) or 4 April (private and voluntary sectors).
Research suggests that there is still work to be done to close the gap; figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicated that in the year to April 2019, the gender pay gap for full-time workers rose to 8.9% – up from 8.6% the previous year.
Changes to payslips
In April 2019, the right to an itemised pay statement was extended to workers as well as employees.
Previously, payslips included the gross amount of wages or salary, the amounts of any variable elements and any relevant fixed deductions, the purpose for that deduction, and the net amount of wages.
Since April, employers now need to state the number of hours for which they are paying the employee in cases where an employee’s wages vary according to how much they have worked.
In the upcoming days, we’ll be revealing our top priorities for 2020.