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Brexit Bites

12 November 2019 by Paul McFarlane

Brexit Bites

Employers are feeling underprepared for the introduction of new immigration restrictions

According to research undertaken by the Chartered Institute of Personal Development (CIPD), a high number of employers feel unprepared for the introduction of new immigration restrictions post-Brexit. The study revealed that 56% of employers have insufficient information to make decisions about recruitment of non-UK workers post-Brexit, with 58% not knowing anything about the new immigration restrictions as outlined in the government’s white paper on the matter.

CIPD advise that proposed migration restrictions, which include placing skill and salary restrictions on migration, should be phased in to avoid potential labour supply shock. Plans currently exist to implement a 12-month temporary visa, yet 51% of employers cite this as ‘not very useful’ or ‘not useful at all’. Against this background on 2 October 2019, the government published new guidance for those working in various industries. The guidance contains common advice about matters e.g. checking whether employees will need a visa or work permit, and more specific advice particular to individual industries, namely: digital, technology and computer services, arts, culture or heritage, tourism, creative industries, sports and recreation, media and broadcasting and gambling. These can all be found at gov.uk/guidance.

Employment Election Pledges

With the strong possibility of a general election taking place soon, the political parties have used their conferences to make various employment policy pledges:

During his conference speech, the Chancellor of Exchequer, Sajid Javid, pledged to increase the national living wage over the next five years to £10.50 an hour and lower the age at which workers are entitled to it from 25 to 21. This represents a 28% increase from its current rate of £8.21.

Labour made several employment policy announcements during its recent Party Conference. These include the creation of a new Ministry for Employment Rights and a Workers’ Protection Agency to “put power in the hands of workers”, said Jeremy Corbyn.

This agency would be created to enforce workers’ rights, working standards and protections. Its powers would include the inspection of workplaces and bringing prosecutions and civil proceedings on behalf of workers. Further there would be enhancements to individual employment rights including:

  • raising the national minimum wage for all over-16s to a “real living wage” of £10 per hour by 2020
  • merging the different categories of employment status into one single status labelled ‘worker’ for everyone except the self-employed
  • introducing a civil enforcement system to uphold gender pay commitments
  • banning unpaid internships and zero-hours contracts.
  • Proposed changes to collective employment rights include introducing sectoral collective bargaining, granting a right of entry to unions into workplaces and repealing the Trade Union Act 2016 in its entirety.

Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonnell, announced a shortening of the working week to 32 hours, with “no loss of pay”, within ten years under a Labour government.

Additionally, Shadow Equalities Minister Dawn Butler, announced plans to bolster workplace support for menopausal women, including the introduction of flexible hours and the requirement that managers in firms with over 250 employees receive training on the effects of the menopause to accommodate the needs of employees.

Liberal Democrats

In their agenda for their party conference, the Liberal Democrats said that if they were in government they would immediately and fully implement the recommendations of the McGregor-Smith Review of Race in the Workplace (2017), namely:

  • legislation to ensure that all organisations in receipt of public funds and all organisations that employ more than 250 people must gather data about the ethnicity of their employees, publish aspirational targets and publish data annually to show progress towards these targets
  • ensure that when the targets are published, there is also a senior role identified whose holder will be accountable for meeting the targets – if the targets are not met, a short explanation must also be provided
  • work with experts to develop a comprehensive unconscious bias training toolkit that would be made available for free to anyone who wishes to access it. Making the provision of unconscious bias training to all members of staff a condition of the receipt of public funds
  • work with business in the community
  • to develop an online portal of best practice and fund an awareness-raising campaign that would direct businesses to this resource.

Employment Tribunals:

The Ministry of Justice recently published the employment tribunal quarterly statistics for the period April to June 2019.

Amongst other things, these statistics showed during this period the number of claims being presented to employment tribunals continues to rise with single claim receipts and outstanding caseload increasing by 14% and 19% respectively, when compared to the same period in 2018.

This at time when the Employment Lawyers Association (ELA) survey of members early this year revealed grave concerns about the ability of employment tribunals to meet the demand placed on it. In addition to other things, the 2019 survey revealed that:

  • over 66% of respondents experienced an increase in the time tribunals are taking to deal with the service of claims (this is down from 75% last year)
  • 75% of respondents said that responses to written correspondence/applications are taking longer than a year ago
  • 51% of respondents report delays in telephone calls being answered (slightly less than the 53% last year)
  • over 60% of respondents are experiencing delays in receiving Orders, and Judgments (including reserved judgments) -this is slightly up from last year
  • over 63% of respondents said that urgent applications are taking longer than the previous year, while 73% of respondents said that they also experience delays with all other applications
  • Over 77% of respondents said that final hearings were being listed over a year after the issue of a claim.

It is fair to say that the government have embarked on a major recruitment campaign to employ more employment judges (both salaried and part-time).

They have also given the Tribunal Service an additional £2m to recruit additional administrative staff.
However, it is understood that the Tribunal Service is having real difficulties recruiting such staff in London and South East and Bristol regions. 

Paul McFarlane is a Legal Director at Capsticks Solicitors LLP

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