25 Oct 2017

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

As businesses and politicians begin to digest the detail of the Taylor Review of Modern Working Practices, I have had a good opportunity in recent weeks to engage with clients and interested third parties about its recommendations. It is clear that, although there is some concern that the future world of work debate will be drowned out by Brexit negotiations and other important world events, it remains high on the list for many forward-thinking employers.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a ministerial roundtable discussion with Margot James MP, hosted by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. This brought together a number of interested stakeholders, including well-known employer organisations and business leaders from some of the companies caught up in recent worker status claims.

I was struck by the sense that the vast majority of employers are trying to do the right thing, but are being held back by the lack of clarity in the current system. There are exceptions of course, but research suggests that most individuals who take on casual, ad hoc assignments actively choose that type of work, either instead of or in addition to more regular, permanent employment. We need to find a way to preserve this flexibility, whilst providing sufficient protection to the most vulnerable workers.

The current confusion can give rise to some unintended consequences.To give just one example, some businesses would like to offer more comprehensive training programmes for those they consider as genuinely self-employed, but are fearful that this will lead to employment status that neither party wants. It is this kind of back-to-front approach that the Government now has the opportunity to address. Taylor Vinters’ submission to the Taylor Review set out our own proposals for reform in this area – I was pleased to be able to discuss these with fellow attendees and gather views from others at the sharp end of the debate.

Elsewhere, there have been some very interesting court decisions recently. My colleagues Alix Beese and Shelley King explore cautionary tales about, respectively, ambiguous non-compete covenants and automatically suspending employees facing disciplinary investigation. The notoriously difficult issue of calculating holiday pay has also resurfaced again recently, albeit we now have some more certainty around how to treat genuinely voluntary overtime and on-call payments.

Finally, Kirsty Devine gives us six top tips on protecting confidential information, a subject she also covers with Kate Ledwidge on our latest HR ListenIn podcast.

Our podcast is also worth listening to for the insight Kate gives into the international aspects of confidentiality and post-termination restrictions. My fellow partner Jo Edgley has just returned from the International Bar Association conference in Sydney, where she has spent a lot of time talking about our international credentials and catching up with our trusted local partner firms across the world. We are advising on these issues across jurisdictions more than ever before, as businesses with global footprints seek a consistent but enforceable approach to protecting their business interests, wherever in the world they might be.

Happy reading (and listening!).

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