Joanne Duck: Employment law changes on the agenda for 2019

Joanne Duck

As we embark upon a new year heaped with Brexit uncertainty, there is one thing we can be sure of: 2019 is set to be a busy year for employee benefits.

On 17 December 2018, the government published the Good Work Plan, which it describes as ‘the biggest package of workplace reforms for over 20 years’. While this is perhaps over-egging the pudding, there is no doubt that 2019 will see changes designed to increase the rights and benefits offered to all workers.

In order to avoid one-sided flexibility, caused by workers remaining in insecure working relationships for long periods of time, the government is proposing that after 26 weeks’ service, a zero hours or casual worker will be able to request a more permanent contractual relationship. The employer must consider the request within three months, and provide reasons for rejection.

We are also likely to see an increase in the gap required to break the continuity of employment, from one week to four weeks. This is important, as in the current system a casual employee that performs no work for one week will break their continuity of service, leaving them unable to accrue certain rights, such as the ability to bring an unfair dismissal claim, make a flexible working request or benefit from family-friendly rights.

In addition, all workers, not just employees, will be entitled to receive a statement of terms and conditions from the outset, as opposed to within their first two months of service. Similarly, from 6 April 2019, all workers will be entitled to receive an itemised pay slip, which must detail the number of hours worked for hourly paid workers; employers are encouraged to ensure their payroll systems are able to comply with this requirement.

For workers who do not have regular working patterns, holiday pay is calculated by reference to their last 12 weeks’ pay. However, in order to avoid a disadvantage due to a low level of pay in the 12 weeks’ preceding a holiday, the reference period is to be extended to 52 weeks.

Finally, as expected, from April 2019 there will be an increase in the rate of the national minimum wage, statutory sick pay and payment for family-friendly leave.

Joanne Duck is employment lawyer at Wright Hassall