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Important Employment Law Updates: Summer 2023

26 July 2023

Employers Liable for Third Party Harassment

The Workers Protection Bill is currently going through Parliament. This Bill, when passed, will introduce a duty on organisations to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment and makes employers liable for third-party harassment.

This new legislation, would go much further than the current protection for employees and workers as well as self-employed staff, placing greater responsibility on organisations to protect their staff. It will mean that employers will have to proactively consider how individuals could be harassed and take steps to prevent it.

Extending Protection During Pregnancy and Post Statutory Leave

Pregnant staff and new parents have extended protection when returning from maternity, adoption and shared parental leave in a redundancy situation as a result of The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill coming into force.

Previously, employees on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave were entitled to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy in priority to other employees. However, the Act has extended this period of protection to cover the period of time following their return from family leave. This additional time period will be calculated in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State but is likely to be 6 months. The 2023 Act comes into force on 24 July 2023, but we still await the regulations which are needed to bring the proposals into effect.

Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (TUPE)

The Government has been consulting on removing the requirement to elect employee representatives for the purpose of a TUPE consultation for businesses with fewer than 50 employees and transfers affecting less than 10 employees. The consultation closed on 7 July 2023.

At present only micro-businesses with fewer than 10 employees are exempt from the requirement to elect employee representatives.

Restricting Non-Compete Clauses

Currently there is no legislation which limits the use of non-compete clauses.

The Government believes non-complete clauses could inhibit workers from looking for better paid roles and limit the ability of businesses to compete and innovate. The Government therefore has announced that it intends to legislate to restrict the length of non-compete clauses to three months. It is estimated that this could affect up to 5 million UK workers.

The legislation will be introduced ‘when Parliamentary time allows’.

Promoting Flexible Working

The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill 2022-23, will amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 and change the current right to request flexible working in the following ways:

  • employees will be able to request flexible working from day one. Currently, this is only available to those who have worked for an organisation for a minimum of 26 continuous weeks;
  • remove the requirement for employees to explain their flexibility with applications and what effect they think the request will have on the employer;
  • allow employees to make two flexible working requests each 12 months instead of once a year;
  • require employers to consult with the employee before being allowed to refuse an application; and
  • reduce the deadline for an employer’s decision on flexible working requests from three months to two months.

This bill is likely to become Law in the Autumn, once it has completed the Parliamentary stages.

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