Employment and Immigration Law Update - Quick fire March 2020

31 March 2020

New guidance on working from home, gender pay gap reporting and amendments to the Working Time Regulations 1998 all feature in this month's edition of Quick fire.

Acas: new guidance on working from home

With the Government now encouraging all those who can to work from home, Acas has published
new guidance for employers and employees, including advice on health and safety responsibilities, equipment and technology requirements and how to set clear expectations. It also touches on the tricky issue of combining working from home with childcare, recommending that employers should be sensitive and flexible towards the employee’s situation. See also our article on lone working.

Gender pay gap reporting – deadline suspended

The deadline for large companies to submit a report on their 2019/2020 gender pay gap is 4 April 2020 (30 March for public sector employers). However, the Government Equalities Office and Equalities and Human Rights Commission have announced that they will be suspending enforcement of these reporting deadlines, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  Over 3,000 employers have already reported, and of course employers can still opt to submit their report if it is already prepared, but no enforcement measures will be taken against those who do not provide a report this year.

Amendments to Working Time Regulations 1998

The Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR) have been amended with effect from 27 March 2020.
As a result of the Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020, the WTR have been amended to remove the previous restriction on carrying over any of the minimum four weeks’ statutory annual leave into the next holiday year. Workers will be permitted to carry over this statutory leave where it is not ‘reasonably practicable’ for them to take some or all of the leave in the leave year as a result of the effects of COVID-19. This scan include the effects of the virus on the worker, the employer or the wider economy or society. The leave carried forward will instead be allowed to be taken in the two years immediately following the leave year in which it was due.  In addition, workers will be entitled to a payment in lieu of any such leave carried forward, if their employment terminates.

It is already permitted for the additional period of 1.6 weeks’ statutory leave under the WTR and for any contractual leave entitlement to be carried forward, subject to the terms of the individual’s employment contract.

The amendment will mean that employers can legally refuse statutory leave requests in the current leave year and the untaken leave can be accrued and taken in a subsequent year.  This applies to all sectors but is likely to be particularly necessary for employers of key workers.

Employers should note that under the amendment Regulations employers will only be able to refuse a worker’s request to take carried-over leave on the days they have requested, if the employer has a ‘good reason’ for refusing the request. What amounts to a ‘good reason’ has not been defined.

This article is from the March 2020 issue of Employment and Immigration Law Update, our monthly newsletter for HR professionals. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. For further information please contact Liz Stevens or another member of Birketts' Employment Law Team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at March 2020.