Full steam ahead – UK government acts on strikes, paid holidays and EU legislation | Hogan Lovells

After a period of limited activity on the labor law front, in January 2023 the UK government announced reforms to industrial action law, published a consultation paper addressing the ramifications of the Supreme Court’s decision in Harpur Trust v Brazil and held the third reading of the EU Law Continuation (Revocation and Reform) Bill.

industrial action

The Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill allows the government to impose minimum service levels in affected sectors, including the railways, education and health services.

It appears that, if the bill becomes law, the government intends to impose the minimum service levels that will apply in the rail, fire and ambulance sectors, subject to consultations on service levels relevant. The government expects employers and employees in other areas covered by the bill to enter into voluntary agreements on minimum service levels and will only impose service levels if an agreement is not reached.

If an industrial action takes place in an area where minimum service levels apply, employers will be able to serve a “work notice” on a union, specifying which employees are required to work during the industrial action in order to provide the service. relevant and work. they will realize. The union must be consulted beforehand on the work notice. The union will be required to take reasonable steps to ensure that employees named in a work notice do not participate in industrial action.

If the union does not take reasonable measures, it will lose its immunity from liability in the event of a strike, which will expose it to claims for damages. It will not automatically be unfair for an employer to dismiss an employee named in a notice of employment who nevertheless participates in strike action.

Leave for part-time workers and irregular hours

The Supreme Court’s decision in Harpur Trust v Brazil last year established that a permanent worker working part-year was entitled to 5.6 weeks holiday a year under the Working Time Regulations, paid at her average weekly rate of pay. Her vacation was not pro-rated to reflect her actual hours worked, even though that meant she received more vacation than a part-time worker with the same total hours who worked each week. The ruling had implications for employers of workers with irregular hours.

Acknowledging that the current situation is creating anomalies, the government has released a consultation paper suggesting changes to working time regulations to ensure that all workers get leave commensurate with the time they spend working. It proposes to introduce a fixed reference period of 52 weeks for calculating the right to leave for part-time workers on irregular hours, including the weeks during which a worker did no work. The total number of hours of a worker during the reference period would then be multiplied by 12.07% to calculate his entitlement to statutory holidays. The consultation closes on March 9, 2023.

Brexit-related employment law changes

The European Legislation Continuation (Revocation and Reform) Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons last week and will now be considered by the House of Lords. There has been much debate about whether this will significantly reshape labor law.

Simply put, the law seeks to remove from national law retained EU law, which was largely preserved at the end of the Brexit transition period. For employers, the most important part of the bill is the “sunset provision” under which much of the retained EU legislation will expire at the end of 2023, unless the government decides to keep it ( with or without amendment). Given the breadth of European-originated employment law, the sunset clause could in theory lead to fundamental changes to UK employment law, although the Bill does not affect primary legislation such as the ‘Equality Act.

To date, the government has not indicated which employment regulations it intends to keep after December 31, 2023, leading to speculation of a “burning of workers’ rights”. Comments during the bill’s third reading last week suggest the changes could be relatively modest. The government minister speaking at the debate described the suggestion that maternity rights could be scrapped as a ‘misinformation campaign’ and pointed out that in many areas UK protections already go further than they normally do. European legislation requires.

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