Despite current political uncertainty, clients should be preparing for a range of employment law changes that we know are going to come into force this year, as well as a number of significant Supreme Court and Court of Appeal decisions.

  • Gig economy – From April 2019, all workers will be entitled to payslips, including extra information where a worker's pay varies according to hours worked. Tribunals will also be able to award penalties of up to £20,000 (in comparison with the current maximum of £5,000) where employment law breaches have "aggravating features". Over the course of the year we are expecting proposals for legislation to clarify employment status and to introduce the right to request a more stable contract.
  • Sexual harassment – The government has confirmed that the EHRC will be asked to draft a Code of Practice on sexual harassment. Further consultation is expected on the introduction of a mandatory duty to prevent harassment, third party harassment, additional protection for volunteers and interns and in relation to the use of non-disclosure agreements.
  • Ethnicity pay gap reporting – The government consultation on ethnicity pay gap reporting closed on 11 January and we are waiting for a response. Hogan Lovells submitted a response to the consultation exercise and we will cover any response from the government in a future update.
  • Tribunal hearing structures – The Law Commission consultation on tribunal hearing structures also closed on 11 January. It remains to be seen whether the proposals in the consultation paper will be taken forward. The extension of time limits for bringing claims and wider scope for tribunals to hear breach of contract claims are likely to be the proposals with the greatest impact for business.
  • Parental bereavement leave – The new right to two weeks' parental bereavement leave is expected to come into force in April 2020. More detail about how the right will operate in practice will be contained in Regulations that are likely to be published in the course of 2019.
  • IR35 – From April 2020 large and medium sized end-users in the private sector will be responsible for assessing whether contractors fall within the scope of IR35 and if so for deducting tax and employee NICs and for paying employer NICs. A further consultation exercise on the extension is expected in 2019.
  • Key cases – This year the Supreme Court will decide whether a non-compete clause that prevented a minority shareholding in a competitor business was too wide to be enforceable, as well as the appeal in the long-running Jhuti case. The Court of Appeal will consider when a suspension amounts to a repudiatory breach of contract and whether paying enhanced maternity pay but only statutory shared parental pay can be direct or indirect sex discrimination. The European Court of Human Rights is looking at the boundaries of employee surveillance and the right to respect for private and family life in the Lopez Ribalda case.