In a move that employment lawyers are watching carefully, Theresa May has announced that we will start the Brexit process in early 2017, it has been reported.
She means that she will trigger article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by 1 April next year. This article reads (we paraphrase):
- Any Member State may decide to leave the EU
- It does this by telling the European Council. The Council shall then negotiate the arrangements for withdrawal after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.
- The State is no longer bound European treaties when the arrangements are agreed, or two years after they start, whichever comes first (unless both parties agree to extend the negotiation period).
- The State’s representative on the Council (Boris Johnson) can’t participate in the Council side of these negotiations.
- If the State changes its mind and wants to rejoin, it has to re-apply from scratch as a brand new member state.
At some point in that process, the UK will repeal the 1972 European Communities Act with effect from the leaving date. We will be free from the EU by Spring 2019, before the next General Election.
Nobody knows what will happen to the laws that were made in Europe and that the Government will no longer be forced to follow. It is fair to say that Whitehall civil servants, employment lawyers and large employers are jittery.
Prime Minister Theresa May told the BBC today that her announcement was aimed at giving greater clarity about the timetable, to give stability to workers and businesses.
The Government has let it be known that Brexit Secretary David Davis will shortly say that when we leave, employment rights will not be eroded.
“We still do want to have a good relationship with Europe and the European Union” said May, but reports are that we are not well-liked by our EU counterparts and that with the UK gone, they will find it easier to pass legislation, much of which is left-wing and pro-worker.
Employment lawyers, including this firm report that their exporting clients are putting up prices by 8%-10% to take into account the effects of the currency shift. Because of that, and the inevitable import tariffs to sell to the EU, we expect that to have an effect on both their sales and their employment figures.
She recently said “Existing workers’ legal rights will continue to be guaranteed in law – and they will be guaranteed as long as I am Prime Minister. We’re going see workers’ rights not eroded, and not just protected, but enhanced under this government.”
(Image courtesy of Policy Exchange, licenced under CC)
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A Parliamentary report into racial discrimination by the Women and Equalities Committee highlights some hidden discrimination suffered by Muslim people. They face the highest level of unemployment of all religious and ethnic groups, 12.8% are out of work compared to 5.4% for the general population in the UK.
Several reasons have been put forward for these statistics. They include discrimination, islamophobia, stereotyping and pressure from traditional families. However, several possible solutions do exist to these issues, and we examine some of these below, together with pros and cons.
MPs have proposed name-blind recruitment as “part of the solution” to the biases. Mr Smith is more likely to be called to interview than Mr Khan. However, this will only work at the primary stage of recruitment, after which blind applications will not resolve the bias that comes in face-to-face interviews.
Another proposition that has been suggested is quotas for Muslim applicants for vacancies. However, this could be perceived to do more harm than good, in a situation where, for example, a perfectly qualified candidate is rejected in favour of a Muslim candidate from a quota list.
Employers should make a conscious effort to increase their employees’ understanding racial discrimination and stereotypes. This could be achieved through courses to enhance cultural awareness and understanding.
The government needs to take action to ensure employees are empowered to challenge racial discrimination. This could include a media campaign to highlight situations where employees fear challenging discrimination, in case they lose their job if they speak out.
A nominated individual in the interview who is well-trained in recognising any stereotyping or discrimination. This person could be responsible for giving training courses to employers to enhance awareness of discrimination issues. They would be involved in the decision-making process, although this would have a significant bearing on recruitment costs.
Note for those wishing to improve diversity
Employers may be allowed to favour Muslims in one specific situation. Where candidates with a particular protected characteristic (such as Muslim religion, Asian race or females) are disadvantaged (such as in recruitment) a recruiter is allowed to treat a person with that characteristic more favourably than another as long as the person with the relevant characteristic is “as qualified as” those others (s159 EqA 2010).
I.e. you are allowed to discriminate favourably to balance your workforce as long as you don’t disadvantage someone who is better-suited to the job.
This is called ‘positive action’ and has only been legal in recruitment since 2011.
By Raheena Jamila Khan
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Do you know the difference between a Charmander and a Charmeleon? Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game in which players find, capture and fight virtual reality creatures, called Pokémon.
It has become a craze. Playing can easily lead to obsession and this can spill over into work time. However, employers can take steps to ensure that this does not happen.
A recent report by Ofcom claimed that 59% of us consider ourselves to be “hooked” on our smartphones, which can bring us into conflict with employers.
Employers should ensure that their policies:
- Cover the use of electronic devices and when and how they can be used. Increasingly popular at the moment is a BYOD (bring your own device) policy; allow employees to use their own handsets for company business.
- Clarify that breaching this policy is a disciplinary offence.
- Are consistently applied to all employees so as to avoid disaffection and allegations of unfair warnings or unfair dismissal.
Remember that the Pokémon Go madness may be a short-lived trend, so why over-react? However, a quick reminder to employees would not go amiss. Make it written (eg emailed), so that employees can’t deny receipt.
Enthusiasts of Pokémon Go whilst glued to their smartphones, capture these fictional creatures and are less aware of their surroundings. This can be a problem in your warehouse or parking area. Employees should be notified to remain alert at all times while on the premises and adhere to the safety rules. Promoting vigilance towards their surroundings ensuring even outside of work hours’ reduces the risk of accident-related sickness.
Out-of-the box thinking
If you can’t beat them join them. Consider the potential positive benefits of this game; it could be used as a team building exercise. Turning a blind eye where work is not affected shows that you are a fun place to work. Our experience is that this leads to better staff retention and less absence.
We sometimes forget that we are living in a technological age were everything is at your fingertips and so distractions are inevitable in the workplace. Therefore, employers should take measures to ensure maximised productivity despite them. On the other hand, employers should not overlook the numerous potential elements that technology such as this game provides in respect of social employee engagement.Read More
The Shared Parental Leave regulations have been with us for a year. In this article, Birmingham employment solicitors Hatton James examine the mark that the regulations have left on the HR landscape.
New parents can now split much of the maternity leave between both parents. But it’s not enjoying a great take-up, meaning it is mainly of interest to employment solicitors.
The stated aim of this right is to encourage more fathers to play a greater caring role in the first year, via longer, more flexible shared leave.
Parents choosing to make use of shared parental leave can share up to 37 weeks’ statutory shared parental pay between them. It is paid at the rate of £139.58 per week (or 90% of the employee’s normal earnings if less).
Xpert HR Benchmarking published a survey this month looking at the impact of the regulations. They surveyed almost 400 organisations covering workforce of over 800,000 employees.
- 33% of employers had received at least one request in that year.
- The average length of time taken by the ‘father’ was about 3 months
(father is in quotes because it is also available to gay couples and adopters)
- This is much longer than the government’s prediction of a fortnight
- Employees in the public sector are more likely to make requests.
- Employers that enhance shared parental pay are twice as likely to receive a request.
Only one in 10 employers surveyed agreed that this new right was successful in achieving its objective. 60% disagreed with this.
Employment solicitors generally recommend that handbooks be revised to include references to shared paternal leave.
This right is something that enjoys cross-party support and is likely to be extended to grandparents by 2018. Commentators agree that it is unlikely to suffer from employment law changes after Brexit.
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