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Employment

Private sector employers with more than 250 employees must publish their Gender Pay Gap Report by 4th April 2019. This is the second year of the operation of the new regime. With the deadline fast approaching, companies who made commitments to narrow the pay gap following the first round are called upon to evidence their progress through results.

Gender pay gap reports indicate the difference in average pay between men and women within an organisation and their publication aids comparisons across different sectors and industries. For a full explanation of the concept see previous Stronachs Insight:

New Government Consultation on Confidentiality Clauses

Following the report on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace by the House of Commons Women and Equalities Commission which we discussed in our Insight of last July, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has published a consultation on measures to prevent misuse of confidentiality clauses in situations of workplace harassment or discrimination. The consultation runs until the end of April and invites comments from interested parties on a number of proposals.

The recent Employment Tribunal decision in the case of Jolly v Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust has been in the news partly due to the fact that the Claimant (aged 86) is thought to be the oldest ever person to win an age discrimination case in the UK. The case is a stark reminder for employers of the dangers of allowing processes to be tainted by age related stereotyping.

Facts

Mrs Jolly worked for Berkshire NHS Trust as a medical secretary for a Consultant for many years (having commenced employment for the Trust’s predecessor when she was 61).

There appears to be continuing momentum behind moves to extend legal protections for women against pregnancy and maternity discrimination. This has been fuelled by a number of recent reports providing a basis for arguments that such discrimination, although clearly unlawful, is still prevalent in UK work places. In March 2016 research carried out by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) suggested that 77% of women responding to their survey reported negative experiences at work related to their pregnancy or maternity.

With increasing numbers of people engaged in more unconventional and innovative working arrangements and with individuals becoming more aware of their rights and entitlements, the difficulty in determining “employment status” has become a hot topic that continues to burn bright. As mentioned in our previous Insight, the Government are now proposing to improve clarity on employment status to make it easier to determine who is an “employee” and who is “worker” and what rights they are entitled to, by aligning this with the test for employment status in relation to taxation.

Despite the apparently all-consuming BREXIT agenda the Government has just announced a package of measures designed to tackle sexual harassment at work. The topic has, no doubt, been pushed up the agenda because of the #metoo movement and surrounding media exposure throughout 2018. The proposals build on the previous recommendations of the Women and Equalities Committee (discussed in our previous Insight). Some involve consultation on specific amendments to the law, whilst others are simply announcements about future initiatives about which no details are yet known.

In July 2017, an independent but government sponsored review of modern working practices was published by Matthew Taylor, which put forward a number of recommendations on the issues arising out of the so-called “gig economy”. The government responded early in 2018 following substantial delay, launching a number of consultations on how to best implement some of the recommendations set out in the report. Following further delay, the government at the end of December confirmed that it proposes to make a number of changes to employment legislation to better protect individuals who work flexible and unpredictable patterns or who do not have guaranteed hours of work.

Although it is becoming less common, many employers still offer generous insurance benefits to employees that provide financial assistance should they become unable to carry out their role due to long-term sickness or disability. Such permanent health insurance policies allow the employee to recover the benefits payable provided that the employee meets the often strict criteria imposed by the insurer. Such schemes are clearly of great value to affected employees: as long as the employee remains unable to work (as defined in the terms of the individual policy), benefits may continue up to normal retirement age. This can potentially be many years. Most of these policies will require the employee to remain in employment in order to get the benefit of the PHI policy.

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