22 Nov 2018

A round-up of developments in UK employment law which HR teams need to know about.

I thought I would introduce our latest employment update by sharing some current themes we are seeing in UK employment practice, from our experience in talking to and advising employers across various sectors.

First, there has clearly been a spike in employment litigation, following the abolition of employment tribunal fees last year. Unfortunately, both the tribunal system and ACAS appear to be struggling to cope with the additional workload.  Our experience is that hearings are now frequently being listed several months into the future and upcoming hearings are often postponed or moved to a different venue at short notice.  Although gradual steps are being taken to modernise the system and increase resourcing, there are no immediate quick fixes. Meanwhile, recent reports suggest that the Government may seek to introduce a new fees regime, although we have yet to see any details.

Our focus has been on helping clients to manage the things that are within their control.  This means taking early decisions on commercial strategy where possible and careful planning of tribunal preparation, to minimise any costs and loss of management time caused by current inefficiencies in the system.

Secondly, I have been reflecting on the first round of gender pay gap reports that were published earlier this year.  Whilst there is no doubt that the pay calculations are fiendishly (and unnecessarily) complicated and the statistics they generate are a somewhat blunt tool, the reporting regime seems to have been well-received by employers and business organisations (such as the CBI).  The option to provide an accompanying narrative gives employers an opportunity to explain statistical anomalies and highlight specific equality initiatives to existing staff, job applicants and the market in general.  There are now proposals for a similar ethnicity pay gap reporting regime.

Finally, we are having lots of great discussions with employers about the potential challenges and opportunities presented by the future world of work.  In our lead article this month, I look at what we have learned so far through contributing to this important debate and facilitating rich conversations through our own Zebra Project.  It is the first in a series of posts that will explore five key topics for planning a future workforce strategy – tech, location, people (specifically, skills and incentives), organisation and values – which I hope will provide some useful insights.

Elsewhere, there have been some interesting developments in the courts in recent months.  We assess the practical implications of a couple of important decisions on legal privilege and constructive dismissal (including a rare example of a strike-out application succeeding), together with an important decision on data breaches.  These sit alongside our guide on HR pitfalls to avoid (aimed at start-up founders but also relevant for more established organisations) and a useful reminder on how to conduct a fair disciplinary process.

For those of you who have enjoyed attending our previous HR Forum events, we have been busy behind the scenes working on a new series of events for next year, with some interesting topics and new formats in the pipeline.  We’ll be sharing more details shortly, so please watch this space.

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