HomeInsightsRecent and upcoming changes to Employment law – May 2020

Whilst you could probably be forgiven for thinking that we’ve had more than enough new employment law to grapple with over the past few weeks what with the introduction of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, there are a few other recent and upcoming employment law changes which employers need to know about.

These changes will require updates to your contracts and employment policies.  If you haven’t already done so, the current lockdown period may prove to be an ideal time to make the necessary changes so that all your paperwork is in order by the time some semblance of normality returns.

We have set out these key changes and the action that you will need to take below:

Employment and Freelance Contracts

Prior to 6 April 2020, employers had to issue their employees with written confirmation of certain details of their terms and conditions of employment (known as a ‘written statement of employment particulars’) within 2 months of their start date. The relevant information was usually included in the contract of employment.

From 6 April 2020, the rules changed so that:-

  • the written statement/contract must be provided before the individual starts work (rather than within 2 months of their start date);
  • the right to receive a written statement of particulars has been extended to freelancers/contractors who qualify as ‘workers’ (rather than just employees); and
  • the details that must be provided have been extended to include new information such as whether or not the contract is subject to a probationary period, details of any fringe benefits, entitlement to paid leave (including statutory leave) and details of any training that will be provided by the employer.

To ensure compliance with the new rules, we are recommending that clients review and update their template employment and freelance contracts as soon as possible to ensure that any contracts issued include the required information.

Employee Handbooks – Parental Bereavement Leave

The statutory right for employees to take one or two weeks of parental bereavement leave following the death of a child under 18 or a stillbirth came into force on 6 April 2020.

In accordance with the above changes to the information that now has to be included in contracts of employment, employees need to be provided with details of the paid leave (including statutory leave) that they are entitled to.

If you haven’t already done so, you may wish to use this opportunity to review and update your handbook to include a policy on parental bereavement leave.

Postponement of the Off Payroll Working Rules

As you will no doubt be aware, the Off Payroll Working rules, which were due to come into force on 6 April 2020, have been delayed until 6 April 2021 as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The rules are designed to make medium and large private sector companies responsible for IR35 tax compliance in relation to payments made to freelancers working via personal service companies. Their postponement is a helpful reprieve for companies at what is obviously a very difficult time.

However, it is important to remember that this is a postponement of the rules and not a withdrawal. We understand that the Government remains committed to their implementation and, at present, it therefore seems likely that they will come into force on 6 April 2021, at which point companies will struggle to argue that they haven’t had sufficient time to prepare.

We would therefore recommend that companies use the next few months as an opportunity to assess their readiness for the new rules and to put in place new arrangements if required.

As a reminder, at the very least, we are recommending that clients which engage “off payroll workers” take the following action:

  • Review and update their template freelancer agreements;
  • Ensure they have appropriate procedures in place to carry out and communicate the necessary status determinations; and
  • Adopt a status dispute procedure for dealing with any disputes that arise from the determination process.

We are very happy to advise in further detail on any or all of the above.  In the interests of helping our clients prepare for the changes, we are able to offer fixed fees on the majority of instructions where possible. For further information, please do contact any member of our team.