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Home / News and Insights / Blogs / Employment Law / 313: And finally a look forward to what’s happening in employment news for June 2021

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has outlined plans to update its anonymisation and pseudonymisation guidance and is seeking initial feedback prior to starting formal consultations and publishing refreshed guidance. This will also build on the ICO’s recently updated Data Sharing Code of Practice which provides guidance on how to share personal data in line with data protection law. Topics to be explored with industry, academia and other key stakeholders include: the legal framework for anonymisation; guidance on pseudonymisation techniques and best practices; accountability and governance requirements, including data protection by design and data protection impact assessments; and guidance on privacy-enhancing technologies and their role in safe data sharing. The ICO also plans to provide case studies to demonstrate best practice.

Employment Tribunal statistics for the quarter October to December 2020 indicate that multiple claims increased by 82% and single claim receipts by 25% compared with the same period in the previous year. This increase is likely to be due to the rise in unemployment, redundancies and changes in working conditions caused by the pandemic. However, tribunals expect to see a slowdown in new claims given the announcement that the furlough scheme will continue until 30 September 2021. The most common claims disposed of between October to December 2020 were working time claims, whereas in 2019 the most common claim in that quarter was unfair dismissal. There was also a sharp increase in the number of age discrimination claims.

With effect from 1 April 2021, the period for which employers must keep records sufficient to establish that they are paying workers at least national minimum wage rate has been doubled from three years to six years. This requirement was implemented in the National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2021 which also increased the national minimum wage rates in accordance with the Low Pay Commission’s annual recommendations, with effect from 1 April 2021. Employers are also required to keep records of furlough claim calculations under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for six years.

The Law Commission has published a consultation seeking help from the public to identify areas of the law of England and Wales that will shape its next programme of law reform. This highlights that as well as clarifying and modernising the law, reform may play a role in helping the country recover from the effects of the pandemic, and in addressing some of the legal consequences of leaving the EU. A key proposal is an overarching project to investigate areas of the UK statute book where legislative reform has the potential to bring the greatest benefits. Other possible projects include reviewing the law on deeds and variation of contracts; identifying areas of legislation most affected by leaving the EU; reviewing the legal framework governing the role of automation systems in public decision-making; evaluating the effectiveness of data-sharing and information law; and considering areas of law which the pandemic has revealed to be outdated. The consultation closes on 31 July 2021.

BEIS has published a consultation paper on restoring trust in audit and corporate governance, following on from the collapse of companies such as BHS and Thomas Cook. Reforms are proposed in relation to directors, auditors, and shareholders.  Suggestions to make company directors more accountable include: new directors’ duties on internal controls, risk management and reporting on anti-fraud measures; claw-back of bonuses if the company collapses or there are serious director failings within two years; and a new requirement to publish an annual resilience statement on the company’s mitigation of risks. There is also a proposal to create a new regulator, the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority, which will create a standalone audit profession with updated professional principles and an improved regulatory framework, with particular emphasis on diluting the dominance of the Big Four in the audit market. The deadline for responses to the consultation is 8 July 2021.

The draft Employment Rights Act 1996 (Protection from Detriment in Health and Safety Cases) (Amendment) Order 2021 is due to come into force on 31 May 2021. This will amend the Employment Rights Act to take account of the High Court’s ruling in R (Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions that limiting protection from detriment on health and safety grounds to employees amounted to a breach of the EU Health and Safety Directive. This means that health and safety detriment protection, and associated remedies and enforcement will apply to workers as well as employees. However, this will only apply to acts (or failures to act) that take place on or after 31 May 2021.

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