Following proposals outlined in the Queen’s Speech, the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill has now been published. It includes the following reforms:
- a ban on exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts (and power to make further regulations in relation to zero hours workers). So far this is the main response to the Government consultation on zero hours contracts, with the Government deciding to consult further on how to prevent rogue employers getting round the ban, remedy and a code of practice on the fair use of zero hours contracts (to be published by the end of 2014). The ban will be of no assistance to workers who are not subject to an express exclusivity clause but who nevertheless fear reprisals if they do look for other work; this issue may presumably be addressed in the code of practice. Continued focus on this issue means that employers using zero hours contracts may wish to review their use to check it is appropriate, that statutory entitlements are granted, and that the position of such workers is properly communicated.
- power to make regulations to require persons who are prescribed for whistleblowing purposes to produce annual reports of the disclosures made to them, but without identifying the workers or employers involved. This measure was announced in the Government’s response to its call for evidence on potential whistleblowing reforms, along with proposals to extend protection to student nurses and publish guidance (but no other significant legislative amendments). See our blog for further details.
- new financial penalties for unpaid employment tribunal awards or Acas-conciliated settlements (capped at £5,000)
- power to make regulations to restrict the number of times an employment tribunal can be postponed or adjourned and allow costs orders for a late application to postpone or adjourn
- the maximum £20,000 penalty for breach of the national minimum wage will apply in respect of each underpaid worker separately
- amendments to the Companies Act in respect of directors: prohibiting corporate directors, requiring companies to keep a public register of people with significant control over them, extending directors’ duties to shadow directors, and creating new grounds for director disqualification including conviction of certain overseas offences
- provisions for the repayment of exit payments made to public sector employees and office holders if they return to work for the public sector within a certain period.