Employment and Immigration Law Update – Quick fire February 2020
28 February 2020
National Minimum Wage, IR35 changes, Acas guidance on NDAs and guidance for employers on COVID-19 are all covered in this month’s Quick fire.
National Minimum Wage
The Government has responded to a recent consultation on salaried hours work and salary sacrifice, confirming an intention to make statutory amendments in relation to salaried hours work and to improve guidance in relation to salary sacrifice.
The proposed changes will mean that existing rules relating to salaried hours work will allow employers to pay salaried workers on different equal payment cycles (rather than just weekly or monthly), to choose a calculation year for their workers and to make premium payments to salaried hours workers. They will take effect from 6 April 2020.
The Government has decided against making any changes to the existing rules on salary sacrifice in relation to the calculation of the national minimum wage, but will be publishing new guidance for employers. It has also confirmed that it will waive financial penalties for technical breaches of the rules relating to salary sacrifice and pay deductions, requiring only repayment of any arrears.
The NMW ‘naming and shaming’ scheme will continue, with the Government planning to publish a quarterly bulletin highlighting common compliance issues and naming employers who fall foul of NMW rules more frequently.
Further details of the proposals are set out in the government response.
HMRC has published draft legislation implementing changes to the existing off-payroll rules applicable to medium and large businesses in the private sector. Consultation on the draft regulations closed on 19 February.
The new rules are due to take effect from 6 April 2020, but in a change announced on 7 February, the rules will apply in respect of services provided on or after 6 April and not, as previously thought, to payments made on or after 6 April in respect of services provided before or after that date.
Draft technical guidance on the changes has also been published by way of updates to the HMRC Employment Status Manual.
For further information please see our previous article.
Acas guidance on NDAs
Acas has published new guidance on the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in the workplace, aimed at helping employers and workers to understand what they are and when it might be appropriate to use these agreements.
The guidance makes it clear that NDAs (used during or on termination of employment) cannot be used to prevent someone from reporting discrimination or harassment at work or to the police, or from making a protected disclosure. Employers should consider alternatives to NDAs on a case by case basis rather than using them routinely. They should provide workers with a clear explanation of why one is being proposed and give them a reasonable time to consider the implications, taking trade union or legal advice if necessary. NDAs should be written in clear, plain English and businesses should have a clear and consistent policy on using them.
The Acas guidance is in addition to recent guidance on confidentiality agreements published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and follows a government commitment in response to a 2019 consultation to introduce new legislative restrictions on the use of NDAs. Draft legislation is expected for further consultation, but at present there is no confirmed timescale for these restrictions to take effect.
COVID-19: guidance for employers
On 25 February the Government issued its latest guidance for employers and businesses on COVID-19. The guidance provides advice on COVID-19 and how to prevent spread of respiratory infections. It is intended to assist employers in what to do if someone is suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 in business settings and what advice to give individuals who have travelled to specific areas. It also provides guidance on what actions to take if staff come into contact with someone either suspected or confirmed to have contracted the virus.
Acas has also published advice for employers on handling coronavirus at work, which includes guidance on whether or not an individual will be entitled to be paid sick pay if they are in self-isolation or quarantine. For more business guidance, read our article on the corona virus and force majeure here.
This article is from the February 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 February 2020.