What has happened recently in employment law?
UK GDPR: Help is on its way!
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is in the process of publishing updated topic-specific guidance for employers which aims to provide clarity and practical advice on complying with the UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018. Drafts of the different topic areas are being released in stages. Two drafts are currently out for public consultation.
The draft guidance includes advice on:
- The lawfulness of monitoring;
- automated decision-making;
- different types of monitoring;
- the use of biometric data; and
- information and consultation requirements.
All responses must be submitted by 11 January 2023.
The second draft guidance covers workers’ health and topics covered include:
- The lawfulness of processing;
- sharing health information;
- how to handle sickness and injury records;
- occupational health schemes;
- medical examinations and testing; and
- health monitoring.
All responses on this guidance must be submitted by 26 January 2023. The ICO also plans to create a guidance hub for employers and workers which will include additional practical tools and checklists.
Equal pay: What does the latest data reveal about the UK’s gender pay gap?
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has published its 2022 gender pay gap data as compiled from its Annual Survey for Hours and Earnings. The ONS calculates the gender pay gap as the difference between average hourly earnings (excluding overtime) of men and women as a proportion of men’s average hourly earnings (excluding overtime). It covers all jobs in the UK, not the difference in pay between men and women doing the same job.
In 2022, the gap among full-time employees increased to 8.3%, up from 7.7% in 2021 (but still below the gap of 9% before the coronavirus pandemic in 2019). Amongst all employees, the gender pay gap decreased to 14.9%, from 15.1% in 2021 (17.4% in 2019). In 2022, the occupation group for managers, directors and senior officials has seen the largest fall in its gender pay gap figure (10.6%) since the pre-pandemic April 2019 figure (16.3%). This reflects signs of more women holding higher-paid managerial roles. The gender pay gap is higher in all English regions than in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Other trends seen in 2021 remain the same; the gender pay gap is much higher for full-time employees aged over 40 years (10.9%) than those aged below 40 years (3.2%) and higher earners experience a much larger difference in hourly pay between the sexes than lower-paid employees. Nonetheless, the ONS has warned that its 2020 and 2021 data should be treated with caution due to the impact of the Covid pandemic and difficulties collecting accurate data
Suffering in silence: How well equipped is your business to support women through menopause?
A recent YouGov survey, commissioned by Acas, asked British businesses how well equipped they feel to support women going through the menopause. The poll found that 33% of respondents do not feel well-equipped, 46% feel well-equipped and 21% do not know. Businesses were also asked how confident they feel that the managers within their organisation have the necessary skills to support women. Over a third (37%) are not confident, 46% are confident and 17% do not know. Acas has advised employers to implement a menopause policy explaining what support is available, provide awareness training for managers, and consider practical issues such as appropriate temperature controls.
A recent report published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Menopause also calls on the Government to coordinate and support a campaign to raise awareness of menopause in the workplace and to provide advice for employers on best practice policies and interventions.
Care for all: What rights will the Carer’s Leave Bill give employees?
The Carer’s Leave Bill, a Private Members’ Bill, has passed its second reading in the House of Commons with Government support. This Bill will introduce a new entitlement of one week’s unpaid leave per year for employees who need to provide or arrange long-term care for a dependant. The new right will be available to eligible employees from the first day of employment and leave may be taken flexibly to suit individual caring responsibilities with minimal procedural requirements For example, employees will not need to provide evidence of how their leave will be used or who it will be used for. Employees will also have the same employment protections that are associated with other forms of family-related leave, including protection from dismissal and detriment as a result of having taken time off.
Government backs new law to help pregnant women and new parents stay in work
The Government has expressed its support for the Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill, another Private Members’ Bill which has now passed its second reading. Under current rules, before being made redundant, employees on maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave must be offered a suitable alternative vacancy where one exists. If enacted, the Bill will amend the Employment Rights Act 1996 to extend this protection to cover the period from when a woman tells her employer she is pregnant until 18 months after the birth. This will mean that a mother returning from a year of maternity leave will have an additional six months’ redundancy protection.
AI accountability: What’s in store for AI governance in the UK?
The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has recently held a call for evidence on the governance of artificial intelligence (AI). Responses will help the Committee examine the effectiveness of AI governance and the Government’s proposals for reform, which are expected to be set out in a white paper by the end of this year.
Although AI brings significant benefits, there are a number of concerns including the possibility of biased algorithms, a lack of transparency, and unexplained decision-making. The Committee has asked for submissions on the strengths and weaknesses of current AI governance, how decisions made by AI should be reviewed and scrutinised in both public and private sectors, how AI should be regulated, and whether the legal framework is fit for purpose.
DWP to support small businesses in managing staff health conditions and disabilities
The Government has announced a new online service to assist employers in managing staff who are disabled or have long-term health conditions. This is part of an investment package which aims to expand employment support for these workers to enable them to remain in work. The “Support with Employee Health and Disability Service” will provide advice on employers’ legal obligations, accessibility, and making workplace adjustments. It is currently at the testing stage but will be developed and updated over the next three years. Although the service will be free and available to all employers, it is aimed at smaller organisations which may lack in-house HR and access to occupational health services.