Consultations issued last month
Here's a brief overview of the consultations that have been issued in the last month (there are a surprising number of them!).
Sexual harassment in the workplace
The Government Equalities Office (GEO) has launched a consultation on how best to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace. It is considering the introduction of a new duty which would require employers to protect workers from harassment in the workplace. The government considers that it would be simplest to mirror current concepts in the Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) in so far as the new duty to prevent harassment is concerned, with the employer having to show that it has taken "all reasonable steps" to prevent the harassment taking place.
The way in which the duty would be enforced is something the consultation will consider. The government is also considering introducing new protections against third-party harassment into the EqA 2010 and is seeking views on the degree to which protection depends on the incidence of previous harassment having taken place and, if so, how many incidents are required.
The government is seeking views as to whether protection against harassment should be explicitly extended to volunteers and interns.
Consultation on reducing ill health-related job loss
The government has published 'Health is everyone's business', a consultation on a range of measures to reduce ill health-related job loss. The consultation closes on 7 October 2019 and seeks views on how employers can best support disabled people and people with long-term health conditions to stay, and thrive, in work.
Key proposals include a new right for non-disabled employees to request workplace modifications to assist their return from sick leave. This right would be supported by a new Code of Practice and would be enforceable in the employment tribunal. The consultation also proposes reforms to the statutory sick pay (SSP) system, including allowing for SSP to be paid on a pro rata basis during an employee's phased return to work after sickness absence, removing the concept of qualifying days and removing the lower earnings limit for eligibility.
Consultation on single enforcement body for employment rights
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Home Office have issued a joint consultation (which closes on 6 October 2019) on establishing a single enforcement body for employment rights. Under provisional proposals this body will be responsible for the national minimum wage, employment agency standards, umbrella companies operating in the agency worker market, gangmaster licensing, labour exploitation and modern slavery, and holiday pay for vulnerable workers.
The consultation seeks views on the effectiveness of the current system for enforcing the rights of vulnerable workers, and whether a single body with powers in relation to the proposed core remit would be an improvement. They also query whether other areas could fall within the body's remit, such as statutory sick pay, health and safety, discrimination and harassment in the workplace, and enforcement of employment tribunal awards.
Consultation on measures to address one-sided flexibility
BEIS has published a consultation, 'Good Work Plan: one-sided flexibility'. The consultation (which closes on 11 October 2019) seeks views on proposals put forward by the Low Pay Commission (LPC) in December 2018 to tackle the problem of "one-sided flexibility" which was identified in the Taylor Review, where some workers have unpredictable working hours and insecure income.
The consultation proposes the introduction of new rights for workers to be given reasonable notice of their working hours and to be compensated where their shifts are cancelled or curtailed without reasonable notice. The consultation also states that the government will adopt the LPC recommendation for workers to have a right to switch to a contract that reflects their normal working hours, although no timescale is given for when this right will be introduced.
Consultations published into Good Work Plan proposals for families
The government has published a consultation paper, 'Good Work Plan: proposals for families', on reforming the parental leave and pay system, introducing neonatal care leave, and requiring greater transparency from employers over their flexible working and parental leave and pay policies. Although these three separate consultations have been launched under the 'Good Work Plan' banner they are new proposals which were not previously set out in the original Good Work Plan strategy document.
The first consultation focuses on family-related leave and pay and closes on 29 November 2019. It aims for the system of family-related leave and pay to include increasing paternal involvement in childcare, giving families more flexibility, supporting mothers to return to work and stay in work, the prevention of discrimination, closing the gender pay gap and minimising business burden.
The second consultation proposes a new right to neonatal care and pay for parents of premature babies, but also for parents of any newborn requiring specialist neonatal care for two weeks or more. Meanwhile the third consultation explores how to increase transparency around employers' policies on flexible working and family-related leave and pay. Both these consultations close on 11 October 2019.