16 July 2019

Law at work - hot topics

Government consults on employer duty to prevent sexual harassment

The government has published a consultation on sexual harassment in the workplace. It covers:

  • How employers should take all the steps they can to prevent harassment from happening.
  • How the law should be changed, to make it clear that employers should protect their staff from being harassed by clients, customers, or other people from outside their organisation. This might include a new mandatory duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment of their employees and/or reintroducing specific protection from third party harassment.
  • The question of whether interns and volunteers are adequately protected by current law, which could include creating new legal definitions. While the government believes interns and some volunteers should be protected by the Equality Act, it is concerned of the effect this will have on small or entirely volunteer-led organisations.
  • Whether people should be given longer to take a harassment, discrimination or victimisation claim to an Employment Tribunal. Should the current three month time limit to bring a claim to an employment tribunal be extended to six for some claims?

The consultation does not deal with the controversial use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) or confidentiality clauses.

Showing the wider public interest in #MeToo, there are two ways to respond: an online questionnaire for individuals and a technical consultation for organisations. Both close on 2 October.

IR35: expansion of off-payroll rules to the private sector

Following our article last month on business preparation for the IR35 changes, the government has published further details, including draft legislation, of the off-payroll rules which will apply to the private sector from 6 April 2020. The government estimates that around 170,000 individuals working for 60,000 medium and large-sized businesses and 20,000 agencies will be affected by the changes. In the public sector, where similar rules have applied since April 2017, HMRC estimates that an additional £550 million was raised in income tax and National Insurance contributions in the first 12 months of operation.

IR35 (the off-payroll working rules) have been in place since 2000 to ensure fairness between individuals who work in a similar way. They are designed to make sure that an individual who works like an employee, but through their own personal service company, pays broadly the same income tax and National Insurance contributions as other employees. The rules do not apply to the self-employed.

From 6 April 2020, the off-payroll rules will apply to contracts entered into or payments made under existing contracts. The party paying the worker’s personal service company is treated as an employer for the purposes of Income Tax and Class 1 National Insurance contributions and the amount paid is deemed to be a payment of employment income, or of earnings for Class 1 National Insurance contributions for that worker.

This will be covered in more detail in forthcoming editions of Law at Work.

Chain reaction: modern slavery in the fashion industry

In the latest edition of Download, our media and tech law blog, Melissa Jones looks at rules on modern slavery and at how the fashion industry can comply.

Home Office advised to radically expand the UK’s Shortage Occupation List

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the advisory body that makes recommendations to the UK government about immigration policy, has released a report on the Shortage Occupation List (SOL).

The report proposes a significant expansion to the scope of the SOL. If the Home Office accepts the proposals, it will make the process of sponsoring Tier 2 work visas considerably easier for some employers. Charlie Pring and Vikki Wiberg examine this in greater detail here.

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