We asked David Plotkin, a lawyer specialising in HR and employment law, to explain what might be coming up this year and beyond.
A key development will be the impact of the UK leaving the EU. The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill means EU legislation will be repealed at the end of 2023 unless the UK chooses to retain it. However, if a clause is triggered the timeframe will be extended until 23 June 2026. Why does this matter? Because a considerable amount of our employment law comes from the EU.
It is not possible to say, at this point, what legislation will ultimately be revoked or retained, or when the issue will be settled. What is clear is that there is likely to be much said about this particular topic in the coming months, given the deadline in December and the potential impact that any changes will have on employees and employers alike.
Flexibility has become increasingly important to many of us over recent years. As the name suggests, The Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Bill aims to provide more flexibility to employees. It is a private members’ Bill which has the support of the Government. The changes proposed in the bill relate to flexible working requests, but what are they?
Flexible working requests are made by an employee to their employer. The request could be, for example, to change your start and finish times, to alter the days that you work on, adjust the number of your working hours, amend where you work, such as a request to work from home etc.
At present, employees only have a legal right to make one such request in a 12-month period, regardless of whether there is another unexpected change in circumstances.
It is also necessary for anyone making such a request to say how they think the requested change would affect the employer and how such impacts could be addressed. This can be particularly challenging for employees. They may not be able to express a view on the impact of the requested change, let alone comment on how that impact might be mitigated.
The changes that the bill would make to the current arrangements are:
At present an employee must work for their employer for at least 26 weeks before being eligible to make a flexible working request. Whilst not in the bill itself, it is anticipated that flexible working requests will become a day one right.
It is not possible to know when the bill will become law, but the importance of flexibility means that it is likely to be a topic that will continue to feature heavily throughout 2023.
Lastly, another private members’ bill, the Carer’s Leave Bill, would give unpaid carers the right to take unpaid leave from work. A concern is that carers may not be in a position to make use of it, due to it being unpaid.
The bills represent a further step towards employees having flexibility at work, whether that is needed for caring responsibilities or other commitments, and it will be interesting to see further developments in those areas.
Plotkin & Chandler works exclusively in the areas of HR and employment law and advises employees and employers.