UK: new family-friendly rights proposed

In July 2019 the Government published its response to a consultation on extending redundancy protections to those on family leave, but without specifying any particular timetable for doing so.

Currently women on maternity leave are given priority over any suitable alternative vacancies should their role be made redundant. An employer’s failure to offer any such available vacancies renders the consequent redundancy dismissal automatically unfair. The Government has committed to extend this right of priority over vacancies to apply from the point at which the employee notifies the employer – whether orally or in writing – that she is pregnant, until six months after the end of maternity leave (even if the mother does not immediately return to work due to taking another form of leave at that point).

Similar protection will be available for those taking adoption leave. The Government intends also to provide protection for those taking shared parental leave, proportionate to the amount of leave taken and the threat of discrimination, but has yet to determine exactly how this will work. No additional protection will apply to paternity leave.

The Government will also establish a taskforce of employer and family representative groups to make recommendations on improvements to the information available to employers and families on pregnancy and maternity discrimination, and to develop an action plan to facilitate pregnant women and new mothers staying in work.

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The Government also published Good Work Plan: Proposals to support families setting out three new consultations on:

  • a new right to neonatal care leave from ‘day one’ of employment, with flat rate statutory pay conditional on 26 weeks’ service at the 15th week before the baby is due. Where a newborn is in hospital for neonatal care for at least 2 continuous weeks, the number of weeks, capped at a limit to be specified (suggested options are 2, 3, 6, or 12 weeks), would be added on to the end of maternity or paternity leave. Consultation ends on 11 October 2019.
  • whether larger employers (with 250 or more employees) should be required to publish their policies on flexible work and family related leave and pay on their websites, possibly with key information to be included on the government’s gender pay gap reporting portal; the consultation also asks whether and how (all) employers should be required to set out their approach to flexible working in job adverts. Consultation ends on 11th October 2019.
  • the case for a potentially radical reform of family leave and pay, including possible changes to paternity, shared parental and maternity leave and pay and their possible replacement with a single ‘family’ set of entitlements, with the aim of encouraging greater sharing between mothers and fathers of leave and childcare responsibilities. The consultation closes on 29th November 2019. The Government is currently evaluating the shared parental leave regime and expects to report on this later in 2019.

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The Government Equality Office has published Gender equality at every stage: a roadmap for change, which mentions some of the initiatives above but also confirms plans to consult on a new right to carers’ leave, review the enforcement of equal pay legislation (including consideration of when mandatory equal pay audits could be appropriate), and assess the effectiveness of gender pay gap reporting with consultation on any changes by 2021. The roadmap also mentions the possibility of requiring employers to publish retention rates for employees returning from parental leave.

Anna Henderson
Anna Henderson
Professional Support Consultant, London
+44 20 7466 2819

UK: Diversity Developments – presentation of pay gap data, proposals on parental leave and dress code guidance

  • The Government Equalities Office has published the findings of a commissioned study (here) concluding that the clearest and most accessible way of presenting gender pay gap figures is to display them visually as coins or as the amount which women earn for every £1 men earn (rather than percentages). The latter approach has now been added to the data on the government’s pay gap website, which also now includes bar charts to show the gender split by pay quartile and displays an employer’s data all on one page. The study also found that benchmarking improved comprehension, so may lead to pressure on the government to add visual benchmarking to the published data in future.

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UK: April 2018 changes to statutory benefits, tribunal compensation, minimum wage

From 6 April 2018, the cap on the unfair dismissal compensatory award increases from £80,541 to £83,682 and the cap on weekly pay (used to calculate the unfair dismissal basic award and statutory redundancy pay) increases from £489 to £508. This gives a maximum unfair dismissal award of £98,922. Note that since 29 July 2013 there has been an additional cap on the compensatory award of 12 months’ pay.

The bands for injury to feelings awards have also been increased for claims presented on or after 6 April 2018;  the lowest band starts at £900, the middle band at £8,600, and the highest band starts at £25,700 with a cap of £42,900 (save in exceptional cases).

From 6 April 2018 the weekly rate of statutory sick pay increases to £92.05 per week (from £89.35) and from 1 April 2018 the weekly flat rate of statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay increases to £145.18 per week (from £140.98).

The national minimum wage rates increases from 1 April 2018. Workers of 25 years and older will be entitled to be paid a minimum national living wage of £7.83 per hour (increased from £7.50).

Singapore: Focus on fixed-term employees

On 31 July 2017 the Tripartite Alliance issued the Tripartite Standard on Employment of Term Contract Employees (First Standard), (Tripartite Standards). The Tripartite Standards are the first of five new standards seek to encourage fair and progressive labour practices in certain areas. The remaining four standards are expected to be put into place over the next few months.

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South Korea: new government announces proposals to increase support for work-life balance

South Korea's new President Moon Jae-In has announced the Government's support for greater work-life balance for Korean employees, including proposals to curb Korea's notoriously long work days, broaden parental leave and ease the burden of childcare costs.

Following President Moon Jae-In's election on 9 May 2017, the Korean Government has pledged to introduce a variety of measures to help curb long working hours and improve work-life balance for ordinary Koreans.

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UK: April 2017 changes – apprenticeship levy, tribunal compensation limits, national minimum wage, statutory benefits and immigration skills charge

From 6 April 2017 UK employers with an annual pay bill of or over £3 million will be required to pay an apprenticeship levy at a rate equivalent to 0.5% of their payroll costs, subject to an offset allowance of £15,000. Employers in England that pay the levy will be able to access funding through a digital service which is expected to open from 1 May 2017. Updated guidance is available here. The offence of wrongly advertising work as a statutory apprenticeship also came into force on 1 April 2017.

From 6 April 2017, the cap on the unfair dismissal compensatory award will increase from £78,962 to £80,541 and the cap on weekly pay (used to calculate the unfair dismissal basic award and statutory redundancy pay) will increase from £479 to £489. This gives a maximum unfair dismissal award of £95,211. Note that since 29 July 2013 there has been an additional cap on the compensatory award of 12 months’ pay.

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