We hope you all had a great summer!

Autumn is in the air, the leaves are falling, it’s getting chillier, I’m looking forward to crisp sunny mornings, lots of walks, log fires… it’s my favourite season.

In this newsletter we catch up with changes in employment law and also remind you about World Mental Health Day.

Mental health problems can affect anyone on any day of the year. Our mental health is just like our physical health: everybody has it and we need to take care of it.

Mental health problems affect around one in four people in any given year. They range from common problems, such as depression and anxiety, to much rarer problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

People often feel afraid to admit that they are struggling with their mental health. This fear of prejudice and judgement stops people from getting help and can destroy families and end lives. Thankfully, things are changing; talking about good mental health and what that means is no longer a taboo subject.

Helping your employees to have good mental health should be a key part of your wellbeing policy. Do you have a wellbeing policy? If you would like more information on wellbeing, please do talk to us, we have lots of experience in helping clients with this.

Let’s bring you right up to date with changes that have already happened that might be of interest to you…

Covert recordings
You may have previously been asked by employees if they can record a meeting at work. Technology means it is really easy for any of us to do this. However, the Employment Appeal Tribunal has concluded it is generally misconduct for an employee to covertly record a meeting.

Action point
You must ensure that employees know that covertly recording meetings is a potential misconduct offence and could even deemed to be gross misconduct dependent on the circumstances. Disciplinary procedures will need to be updated to show that covert recording is an example of gross misconduct and you will need to let employees know about this change. You’ll also need to include information about covert recording in relevant correspondence regarding various formal meetings, but we can help you with this, please get in touch for further information.

Holiday pay and overtime
This issue continues to rumble on and earlier this year when looking at a specific case, the Court of Appeal concluded that voluntary overtime should be considered when calculating holiday pay as long as it is sufficiently regular and settled.

It’s a confusing area, which continues to change and develop as more cases are looked at by Tribunals. However, we do know that when calculating holiday pay for an employee, you should consider certain types of bonuses, commission and overtime. If the overtime is genuinely ad-hoc and infrequent (i.e., is not sufficiently regular and settled), is it unlikely that it should be included in the calculation for holiday pay.

Remember that this only applies to the first 4 weeks (20 days) of an employee’s holiday entitlement and that you currently take an average of the employee’s pay over the previous 12 weeks in order to calculate holiday pay.

Action point
If you haven’t already, then do review what you pay your employees when they take holiday. Do you need to consider including any additional payments? Please do take advice if you’re unsure of what approach to take, we’re always here to help and have guided many clients through this process.

Here’s what’s coming in the world of employment law…

At the time of writing, we still don’t know if we will actually leave the EU on 31 October 2019. However, there is still time to take some pro-active steps to help your employees who may be affected by either a deal or a no-deal.

Action point
If you employ EU Nationals, you might want to let them know about applying for “pre-settled” or “settled” status. They can do this via a Government website and it’s free. Usually those people who have five years continuous residence in the UK will get “settled” status and those with less than five years “pre-settled” status. It’s not always straight forward and some employees may welcome some assistance.

The Good Work Plan (GWP)
In October 2016, the Government commissioned an independent review of working practices and the results were published in December 2018. Many of the recommendations in the GWP (over fifty of them) are still in the consultation phase but watch out for some coming very soon!

Changes to written terms of employment
There is a fundamental change in that both employees and workers will be entitled to a written statement of terms of employment. This becomes a day one right (it’s currently within the first 8 weeks of employment). And, additional information must also be provided including working patterns, if hours and days are variable, entitlement to paid leave, including maternity and paternity, probationary periods and any mandatory training provided by the employer.

Action point
These changes come into force on 6 April 2020, so be pro-active now and review your written statements (often referred to as contracts of employment which usually incorporate the written statement) and make changes where necessary. We’ve provided contracts to many of our clients and we’re very happy to help with the changes required, get in touch and we’ll discuss the changes with you in more detail.

Other GWP changes
There will be more protection for Agency Workers with the removal of the Swedish Derogation opt out, (Agency Workers are entitled to the same level of pay as a permanent workers after 12 weeks service unless the Agency Workers opts out of this right and elects to receive a guaranteed level of pay between temporary assignments, this is called the Swedish Derogation).

There will be a 52 week reference period to calculate holiday pay as opposed to the 12 week reference period which is widely used at the moment (and as referred to earlier in this newsletter)

Action Point
These changes will come into force in April 2020, so preparations need to be made to ensure compliance, as ever, we’re on hand to help steer you through the changes.

Other changes that you need to look out for…
The Government has said it will extend redundancy protection for new mothers; we can expect more details of this at some point in 2020.

We’re expecting new Regulations setting out the detail of a new right providing two weeks paid parental bereavement leave. This is due to come into force in April 2020.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is also currently high on the Government’s agenda with consultations having recently taken place regarding this. We can expect a new Code of Conduct to help employers understand what the “reasonable steps” are that they can take to prevent harassment taking place in the workplace. Harassment by third parties is once again being considered. This used to be part of the Equality Act but was repealed in 2013.

And finally…
Just a reminder that the Early May Bank Holiday in 2020, will not be on Monday 4th May but will be on Friday 8th May to coincide with the 75th anniversary of VE day. That may cause some operational issues for you and you might want to think about how you might deal with this sooner rather than later.

If you would like to know more about any of the topics covered in this newsletter then please contact Helen Straw at The Personnel Partnership for a friendly and informal chat on 07808 064099.