Employment law update

Employment law update

Auto-enrol pension contributions

From the start of April 2019, the law has changed to mean that pension contributions are now a minimum of 3% for employers to contribute and 5% for employees, an increase from the previous position that employers had to contribute a minimum of 2% and employees 3%.

National Minimum Wage

From 1 April 2019, all National Minimum Wage hourly rates have been increased: for workers aged 25 and over, it has increased from £7.83 to £8.21; the amount for workers aged between 21 and 24 has increased from £7.38 to £7.70; for workers aged 18 to 20, the increase is from £5.90 to £6.15; and for those aged over the compulsory school age but not yet 18, the National Minimum Wage increased from £4.20 to £4.35.

Statutory payments

For redundancies on or after 6 April 2019 the maximum amount for a week’s pay (used to calculate statutory redundancy payments) will increase to £525 per week (up from £508 per week). The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal has also increased to £86,444 (up from £83,682) in cases when the effective date of termination is on or after 6 April 2019.

Working time – rest breaks

In the recent Network Rail Infrastructure v Crawford² case it has been decided by the Court of Appeal that unpaid rest breaks (workers are entitled to 20 minutes when working for more than 6 hours a day) do not need to be uninterrupted, rather they can be aggregated. This allows flexibility with rotas, so employers can have two 10 minute breaks or similar.

Confidentiality clauses

The government has published its consultation on measures to prevent the misuse of confidentiality clauses. This is in response to some of the scandals of the #metoo stories of recent years, where settlement agreements (which include confidentiality clauses, often referred to as NDAs) have been used to prevent disclosure of serious sexual misconduct.

The government proposals for regulating the use of confidentiality clauses (in relation to employment contracts as well as settlement agreements) include:

• A ban on clauses that prohibit disclosures to the police;
• Ensuring that any confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements and contracts of employment express in a clear way what disclosures the clauses do not prohibit;
• Making a confidentiality clause void if it does not meet the new requirements; and
• Settlement agreements should still deal with cases involving discrimination and harassment as, when used appropriately, they provide a mechanism for closure for employers and employees.

Gender pay gap in higher education

As detailed in a recent BBC article, the 2018 figures illustrate that there remains a significant gender pay gap at British universities. 9 out of 10 British universities pay male employees more than female staff and there is a higher median pay gap, 13.7%, than the national average of 9.1%.

² [2019] EWCA Civ 269