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Important changes to employment law from April 2020

Very few employers are increasing their workforce while the country is in lockdown, so there has been remarkably little discussion about the changes to employment law which have recently come into effect. Since healthcare is one of the few sectors still recruiting, it will ironically be one of the first which needs to adjust. Some of the changes are very significant, so we have set out below what you need to know.

New Section 1 Statement (of Terms)

A Section 1 Statement is the minimum information an employer is required to give an individual about their working terms and conditions. For most practices, the contract of employment (sometimes together with the offer letter) comprise the Section 1 Statement.

Currently, employers have up to two months to issue written terms to any employee working for them for more than a month. From 6 April 2020 all new joiners must be provided with written terms in a single document on or before day 1 of starting work.

The new rules apply to workers as well as employees so it is important to be aware of this wider group.

Section 1 Statements now need to include more information and it is mandatory to include details of:

  • the normal working hours, the days of the week the worker is required to work, whether such hours or days may be variable, and if so how they will be varied
  • paid leave entitlement beyond holiday leave, such as maternity leave, paternity leave and sick leave
  • the duration and conditions of any probationary period
  • all remuneration and benefits such as vouchers, health insurance etc
  • any training requirements and who is expected to pay for such training

Some information can be provided in a ‘reasonably accessible place’ such as a staff handbook, but if this approach is adopted the information must still be referred to in the statement and it will be important to make clear which parts of the handbook are contractual and which are not.

An existing employee has a right to ask for a new S.1 Statement and if an employer receives a request, then it must provide the more detailed contract terms within one month of the request.

There is no obligation to provide existing workers who are not also employees with a written statement unless they are re-engaged after 6 April 2020.

If an employer changes one of the mandatory S.1 Statement details, then the employer must give existing employees a statement of change at “the earliest opportunity”, and in any event within one month. This is likely to become important as employers endeavour to change terms and conditions in response to the Covid19 crisis.

Parental bereavement leave

This new right (known as “Jack’s Law”) entitles employees who lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from the 24th week of pregnancy, to two weeks’ unpaid leave as a right from day one of their employment. Parents can take up to two weeks’ leave, either in one block of two weeks or in two blocks of one week, within 56 weeks of the child’s death.

The new right applies to parents, adoptive parents, intended parents, parents-in-fact and the partner of any of these individuals as well as foster carers, employees with day to day responsibility for the child (who are not being paid for such care) and employees who expect to be granted a parental order in respect of the child. The right came into effect from 10 March 2020.

Although this new right does not extend to GP Partners unless it has been written into their partnership agreement, practices should review the new right in the context of other leave provisions for partners, such as compassionate leave.

Recommended Action Points for Practices:

  • ensure a process is in place to provide all required information to all new joiners (including workers who are not employees) by day 1, at the latest;
  • review template contracts of employment and offer letters for new joiners to ensure that they include the prescribed information;
  • ensure processes are in place to provide updated statements on request and when any prescribed terms and conditions change;
  • review training requirements and practices so that contracts/Section 1 statements can be updated accordingly
  • Implement the new bereavement leave policy by updating staff handbooks and contracts
  • Consider whether you wish to include parental bereavement leave in your partnership agreement or any other provision or arrangement which would assist partners in coping with a child bereavement
  • Assess how the parental bereavement leave will interact with compassionate leave

For assistance in implementing these changes or for other advice on employment law, contact Karen Black or Daphne Robertson on 01483 511555 info@drsolicitors.com