103: And finally a look forward to what’s happening in employment news for July 2018
On 1 April 2018 the Wales Act came into force, meaning that Wales now has broadly the same model of devolution that is already in place for Scotland and Northern Ireland. The National Assembly for Wales has moved to a ‘reserved powers’ model and is therefore now able to legislate on all matters except those which are explicitly reserved to Westminster. A schedule to the Act lists all the areas which are reserved to the UK Parliament. These include employment and industrial relations, industrial training boards, job search and support, and immigration.
The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has confirmed that it intends to take enforcement action against firms who do not comply with the new gender pay gap reporting obligations. Employers who fail to publish the required information will initially be given 28 days to comply. They would then face further action including investigation; an unlawful act notice requiring the breach to be remedied; and ultimately an unlimited fine decided by the courts. The EHRC has also confirmed that it will publish details of companies who have failed to comply with the reporting requirements.
The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on zero hours contracts includes figures from the latest Labour Force Survey and the survey of businesses in November 2017. Zero hours contracts are defined by the ONS as contracts that do not guarantee a minimum number of hours. The number of zero hours workers in November 2017 was 1.8 million, representing 6% of all employment contracts. The equivalent figure for November 2016 was 1.7 million, although the share of total contracts used is unchanged. According to the latest data, on average, people on a zero hours contract work 25.2 hours per week, and 25.3% would like more hours. People on zero hours contracts are more likely to be young, part-time, female or in full-time education when compared with other people in employment.
Following extensive consultation in 2017, the European Commission has recently proposed a new directive to harmonise the protection of whistleblowers throughout the EU. Currently only a few EU member states have comprehensive whistleblowing legislation. The new directive would require common minimum standards providing protection against retaliation for reporting breaches in a range of areas, including product safety, personal data and privacy, financial services, public procurement, and money laundering. The new obligations would apply to all private companies with more than 50 employees or an annual turnover over €10 million; all financial services companies; and all national and regional administrations. Member states would be required to ensure that employers set up internal confidential reporting channels and designate a person or department to receive and follow up reports within three months. The proposed Directive is likely to be adopted within the next year. Although it will only come into force after Brexit, the new requirements may be part of key standards which the UK is required to agree to in a future trade deal with the EU.