A number of important new employer requirements went into effect this month in England, Scotland and Wales. The changes follow former Prime Minister Theresa May’s Good Work Plan consultations in late 2018. The consultations aimed to provide UK employees with greater access to employment-related information and address rising concerns over the gig economy and worker rights.
This post examines critical new requirements related to written statements of employment.
Before the recent changes took effect, employers had been legally obligated to provide employees with a written statement of certain terms and conditions, typically in the form of an employment contract. Employers had to provide the statement to employees who had at least one month of continuous service, and to issue the statement within two months of the employee’s start date, even if he or she had terminated. Employers had to provide certain required information in a single written statement, while they could provide other information in installments or in other documents, such as an employment handbook.
A summary of new requirements related to written employment statements
The Good Work Plan went into effect on 6 April 2020, including the changes affecting the written statement of terms and conditions that all UK employers must issue their employees.
For starters, employers no longer have two months to issue the written statement. They must now provide it on or before an individual’s start date. It should be noted that employers must provide a statement not just to their employees, but to all their workers, such as independent contractors.
Employers must now also provide additional information in the written statements, including a number of new required terms. The new rules also change what information can be provided to employees at a later date in installments and what information can be provided by a separate but reasonably accessible document, such as an employee handbook.
Below is a more detailed look at what employers must now include in their written statements. (Please note these requirements are in addition to the requirements that were in place before the 6 April Good Work Plan effective date.)
- The days of the week the employee is required to work.
- If and how the employee’s working hours or working days may be varied, and how this variation will be decided and put into effect.
- Details of the employee’s sick leave and incapacity terms; these can be provided in another reasonably accessible document referenced in the written statement. The employee must be able to access this document on or before their start-date.
- Details of any paid leave that an employee is entitled to outside of usual annual leave and sick leave entitlements (such as maternity leave, shared parental leave or paternity leave); these can be provided in another reasonably accessible document referenced in the written statement.
- Any other benefits the employee is entitled to; again, these can be provided in another reasonably accessible document referenced in the written statement.
- Details of any mandatory employee training, including information on whether the employer will bear the cost.
- Details of any probationary period, including period length and conditions.
- If the employee is on a fixed-term contract, the date this contract will end or the length of temporary employment.
- Confirmation of whether the employee will potentially be required to work abroad for a period of more than one month and, if so, the terms relating to this period, such as remuneration arrangements, additional benefits or details of the employee’s return.
- The length of notice period for either party; previously, this could be provided to employees at a later date in instalments, but now it must be detailed within the written statement. Employers may still refer to the law or any applicable collective bargaining agreements.
A small amount of information can still be provided to employees in instalments, no later than two months after the employee starts work. We recommend, however, that the employer provide this information in the initial “day one” written statement to ensure there are no lapses. This information includes:
- Details of the employer’s pension schemes; employees can be referred to a separate reasonably accessible document for full details.
- Details of any collective bargaining agreements that affect the contract.
- Any non-mandatory employee training and the cost arrangements for this; employees can be referred to a separate reasonably accessible document for full details.
- Details of the employer’s disciplinary and grievance policies and procedures.
What UK employers should consider
Broadly speaking, the Good Work Plan’s written-statement provisions increase the amount of information an employer must provide its employees in writing before or upon beginning employment. Due to the amount of required information, employers may need to adjust their HR practices to ensure that employment contracts are issued to employees prior to their start dates and that other requirements are met. Employers should keep in mind that very limited information from the list above can be provided during the two-month window allowed under the previous rules.
If an employer has no information to relay to its new employee about one or more of the above requirements — such as how the employee’s working day may be varied — this must be acknowledged in the written statement. Information related to sickness, sick pay, enhanced paid leave, pensions, training entitlements and disciplinary processes can be contained within an employer’s company handbook or company policies. However, in order to satisfy the requirements under the new rules, this information must be reasonably accessible to the employee on or before their employment start-date.
The above changes apply to employees beginning employment on or after 6 April 2020. That said, employees with start dates before 6 April may request any information noted above if it has not already been provided to them. Employers will have one month from the request date to fulfill the request.
Under the new rules, employees retain the right to refer any dispute over an employer’s failure to provide required information to an employment tribunal. If an employee claim is successful, the tribunal may require the employer to award the employee between two to four weeks of additional pay.
Ben Watters, Associate, HR Advisory, contributed to this article.
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