New Code, New Consultation and New Delivery.

It has been quite a busy fortnight in the world of employment law, and here we summarise a few interesting and key developments.

Firstly, the Home Office has updated its Code of Practice on Preventing Illegal Working, which aims to make it easier for employers to check an individual’s right to work. The Code of Practice sets out the prescribed checks that should be carried out, and introduces a “Home Office Online Right to Work Checking Service” which, if used by employers, may establish a statutory excuse against liability for an illegal working civil penalty. A more straightforward checking process should hopefully mean those without the legal right to work are more identified easily and there will be a reduction in the number of illegal workers in the workforce.

Also, ACAS has published some new guidance on how to identify and avoid age discrimination in the workplace. The guide is designed to help employers manage an age diverse workplace and prevent bias against older or younger workers.

In the area of family friendly rights, and as a further response to the Taylor Review, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has launched a consultation to seek views on extending redundancy protection both for women and new parents. In particular, it suggests that the current protection afforded to those on maternity leave should be extended to include the period of pregnancy and also 6 months after maternity leave ends. The consultation also gives information about what the government is currently doing to try and reduce discrimination both during pregnancy and whilst a person is on maternity leave. This consultation closes on 5 April 2019 and it will be interesting to see if any extra measures are put in place as a result of the views put across.

Finally, it was widely reported in the media at the start of the week that the delivery firm Hermes has created a “self-employed plus” status for its workers, who can opt to receive up to 28 days of paid leave and select pay rates of at least £8.50 per hour. The deal was reached with the GMB union who described it as “a ground-breaking agreement”. In return for the guaranteed pay rates and holiday, the drivers that opt-in will supposedly have to follow set delivery routes determined by Hermes rather than choose the order in which they deliver parcels, in order to guarantee the most efficient routes are being taken.

However, employment experts including Mr Taylor (yes, of the Taylor review!) have raised questions about the tax implications of this arrangement and, in particular, whether workers that get the benefits of being an employee and employers who benefit from engaging these “self-employed plus” workers should each be paying national insurance contributions. It is therefore likely that HMRC will be closely watching how the agreement between Hermes and the union progresses.

The contents of this update are intended as guidance for readers. It can be no substitute for specific advice. Consequently we cannot accept responsibility for this information, errors or matters affected by subsequent changes in the law, or the content of any website referred to in this update.

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