Government Consultations relevant to Food & Drink sector

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Food_Manufacture_Sponsors_2020_Business Leaders_781x285Consultation on a new sick pay scheme

The government recently consulted on a range of measures to reduce ill health-related job losses. The consultation closed on 7 October 2019, if introduced, the key proposals contained in the consultation include the following.  These could have a practical impact on employers in the food and drink sector:

  1. Introducing a new right to request workplace modifications for all employees suffering from health conditions, not just those who are deemed to be disabled (where the duty to make reasonable adjustments already applies).
  2. Introducing a sick pay rebate for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help them support individuals with disabilities or long-term conditions return to work.
  3. Pro-rating SSP to ensure that employees can agree a phased return to work without being financially worse off.
  4. Extending SSP to low earners (it is currently paid only to those who earn more than £118 per week). To avoid low earners receiving SSP at a higher rate than their actual wages, it will be set at 80% of their average weekly earnings. This proposal, if enacted, will benefit up to 2 million low earners currently excluded from SSP.
  5. Strengthening statutory guidance to support employers to take ‘early, sustained and proportionate steps’ to support sick employees returning to work before they can be fairly dismissed on the grounds of ill health.
  6. Improving access to occupational health providers by co-funding or introducing vouchers for smaller employers.

Consultation on plans to change the way individuals enforce their employment rights

One of the key recommendations of the Good Work Plan was that HMRC should take responsibility for enforcing basic pay rights (e.g. National Minimum Wage (NMW), sick pay and holiday pay) for the UK’s lowest paid workers, and that the Government should make the enforcement process easier for workers who have had their rights breached.

The UK currently has seven different agencies with responsibility for enforcing employment breaches, as well as the employment tribunal. These agencies include HMRC (which enforces NMW breaches) and the Health and Safety Executive. The government proposes in its consultation that a single enforcement body should be set up, with priority on protecting the most vulnerable workers, to:

  • Promote a single recognisable ‘brand’
  • Pool intelligence and, where appropriate, work with the police, immigration officials and DWP, where appropriate
  • Extend state enforcement to enable those who have been underpaid holiday or use an umbrella company to seek redress
  • Support businesses by providing suitable and targeted materials, and by taking a ‘proportionate approach to enforcement.

This consultation closed on Sunday 6 October 2019.