Welcome to this month's briefing for HR teams and in-house employment counsel – bringing you this month’s employment law highlights in an easy-to-read package, and now with an easy-to-listen-to podcast too!
Podcast – right to work checks
Our new podcast starts this month, with a discussion on why employers need to check their employees’ right to work in the UK. Tom Marsom explains why this is a critical part of the on-boarding process, what documents need to be checked, and what the most recent developments are. There will be a link to the podcast in each forthcoming monthly briefing, but you can also subscribe to The Macfarlanes Podcast on your favourite podcast platform to hear this, plus more interesting content from other parts of the firm. If there are topics you’d particularly like us to cover, please feel free to reach out to us.
Unlike the September mini-Budget, the new administration’s Autumn Statement has little of interest for employment and HR teams. The only significant announcement was that the Low Pay Commission’s recommendation for next April’s increase to the National Minimum Wage has been accepted. The headline rate (for those aged 23 and over), will therefore increase from £9.50 per hour to £10.42.
Exclusivity clauses for the low paid
Workers on zero-hours contracts already have protection against being compelled to be available for a single employer; exclusivity provisions in their contracts are unenforceable. The same protection has now been extended to those on low wages – those earning below £123 per week, the “lower earnings limit”. Under the new Regulations, any provision that prohibits the worker from doing work or performing services under another contract is unenforceable. That potentially includes post-termination restrictions (non-compete clauses etc), although they are clearly not the target of the legislation. While non-competes are rare for this group, employers should ensure they do not fall foul of the new provisions.
Disability pay gap
The TUC has called for disability pay gap reporting to be introduced, alongside mandatory gender pay gap reporting obligation (for businesses with 250+ employees) and the increasingly common, but entirely voluntary, ethnicity pay gap reporting. According to the TUC, the disability pay gap is around 17% overall, with the largest gap in the financial and insurance sector. Unemployment rates for disabled workers are also higher than their non-disabled colleagues. The Office for National Statistics also publishes data on this issue, giving a slightly lower, but still substantial, pay gap. Some employers, including many public sector organisations, already publish their disability pay gap information, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission has some helpful guidance for employers who would like to consider introducing it.
A new campaign to promote awareness of the issues surrounding fertility treatment for employees has been launched. Employers can sign up to a "fertility workplace pledge", under which they commit to having a fertility policy, a fertility ambassador to whom employees can turn for support, training for line managers, and the ability to request flexible working arrangements to attend appointments. The list of employers who have taken this pledge so far includes Channel 4, Metro Bank and Zurich Insurance.
Home Office announces Autumn changes to the Immigration Rules
The Home Office tends to make big changes to the Immigration Rules twice a year, in spring and autumn, with smaller measures announced as required throughout the year. The Autumn statement of changes was presented to the UK parliament on 18 October 2022 on schedule but there were no significant announcements. It had been expected that there would be some changes around Investor visas plus an expansion of the Skilled Worker route, but the statement was silent on these routes. For further details, see our more in-depth note.