The California Legislature had until September 14, 2023, to pass bills in the current Legislative Session before these bills are sent to Governor Newsom to either sign, approve without signing, or veto each bill by October 14, 2023. Several key bills relate specifically to employment law, including expansion of paid sick leave, CalWARN notice requirements
On August 30, 2023, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a regulatory rule that would raise the minimum salary threshold for employees who are classified as “exempt” under the white collar exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by nearly 55 percent. The proposed rule would also create a new mechanism for subsequent…
Over the past several years, a growing number of businesses that utilize delivery drivers have begun installing dashcam and similar surveillance technologies in their vehicles. This is for a host of a reasons, including to protect employee and customer safety, ensure driver efficiency, and monitor vehicle location. In response, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB…
The UK government has announced that it will support the Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill (the Bill), which represents one of the most notable changes to UK workplace discrimination law since the 2010 Equality Act. The Bill imposes a proactive duty on employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent the harassment of its employees, including by third parties, with a compensation uplift where they fail to do so.
Why the Bill is being introduced
In 2018, the Women and Equalities Select Committee (WESC) published a damning report on the prevailing extent of sexual harassment in the workplace. This report, along with campaigns by the Fawcett Society and other groups, led to the UK government undertaking its own consultation from 11 July to 2 October 2019, which found that 54% of respondents had experienced harassment at work.
High-levels of harassment, and notably sexual harassment, in the workplace has been common place for years. The 2022 Gender Equality in the Workplace report by Randstad found that 72% of the 6,000 women polled had experienced or witnessed harassing behaviour by male colleagues, and that 67% of them had experienced some form of gender discrimination. 32% of the women polled felt that their careers had been affected by sexual harassment.
Studies have shown that harassment is not limited to male colleagues, but is also inflicted by third parties. A 2018 report by the TUC found that 36% of 18-34 year olds who have experienced some form of workplace harassment said that the perpetrator was a third party.…
2023 looks set to be a year of significant change for HR professionals with the progression of new and reformed laws proposed and backed last year. Here are some of the key legislative/policy developments to watch out for:
Flexible working – Changes to the statutory flexible working regime are expected. The new rules will extend the right to request flexible working to all employees from day one of employment. Employees will be allowed to make two requests in a 12-month period (rather than the current limit of one) and employers will have less time to respond (two months, not three). For more information, see our previous Employment Law Watch blog.
Carer’s leave – A new statutory right for carers to take a week’s unpaid leave per year is proposed. The leave is intended to be used to take planned time off (rather than emergency leave) to undertake caring responsibilities.
Neonatal leave and pay – A new statutory leave is proposed which will allow parents of sick or premature babies to take up to 12 weeks’ paid leave on top of any maternity or paternity leave entitlement. The leave is proposed to be a day one right for new hires and to apply to those parents whose babies need to be in hospital in the first 28 days post birth with continuous stays of seven days or more. …
Potential reform of the statutory flexible working regime has been on the agenda for several years but finally, after a consultation first launched in autumn 2021, the UK government has announced its intention to bring about some changes. Legislation will need to be introduced, and the timescale for that is currently unknown, but employers in England, Wales and Scotland will need to be prepared to review and amend their flexible working policies and procedures to ensure they comply with the new requirements.
Contrary to some headlines, the changes do not introduce flexible working as the default position. The reforms fall short of flexibility being the starting point (i.e. only to be deviated from if there was a good reason) and instead retain the current principle that there is a right to request flexible working, but no right to work flexibly. This means that, like now, employers will still be able to turn down requests if there is a good business reason for doing so or if eligibility criteria are not met. The eight business reasons for rejecting requests (the burden of additional costs; detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand; inability to reorganise work among existing staff; inability to recruit additional staff; detrimental impact on quality; detrimental impact on performance; insufficiency of work during the periods they propose to work; or planned structural changes) will remain the same.…
In advance of the holiday season, it is common practice in many companies for the employer to show gratitude and to reward employees for their performance over the year. Typically, this is done by granting a bonus or similar one-time payment. Even though the legal basis of such payments often is a contractual agreement, a collective bargaining agreement or a works agreement, in many instances payment is made on an informal, “voluntary” basis. In such cases, employers often assume that they can decide whether to grant a bonus on a year-to-year basis without creating an obligation towards employees.
While this assumption can be correct, often employers are surprised when confronted with the idea of having established a “company practice”. According to German law, such company practice creates a legal entitlement of employees towards their employer for the same bonus granted during the last years. A typical situation for a company practice to surface is an employer who paid a year-end bonus to all employees, for example, the amount of one monthly salary for the last several years. After a change of ownership, the new management decides not to pay the respective bonus, only to find that employees successfully claim the previously paid bonus in German labor courts.…
The 2022 winter work party season is upon us, providing the first real opportunity in a few years for end-of-year celebrations. Whether at company, location, or team level, seasonal gatherings provide a chance for employers to thank staff for their hard work and for everyone to relax, socialise and have some fun with their colleagues. Yet without careful thought and planning, they can be problematic for employers who can find themselves faced with fallout from the festivities.
Here are our top tips and reminders for UK employers:
- See the party as an extension of the workplace: Just because an event is taking place outside working hours or at an external venue does not mean it is not ‘work’. Workplace policies continue to apply, and employers may find themselves vicariously liable for the actions of their employees, particularly in respect of discrimination and injury.
- Work parties should not be compulsory: Inclusivity should be at the core of party organisation (see below) but there are a variety of reasons why someone may not want to, or be able to, attend (and for many events it could be impossible to schedule something which works for everyone). Any concerns about attendance should be addressed, and no-one should be put under pressure to go along or be treated differently as a result of attending (or not).
- Beware of discrimination risks when organising events: When planning events, organisers should be as inclusive as possible, remembering for example that days or times chosen may preclude certain people (e.g. with childcare or caring responsibilities or religious observances) from attending; locations will need to accommodate any disabled workers; and food and drink options should meet all religious, cultural and dietary requirements.
- Respect different religions and cultures: Employers should remain mindful that the winter period coincides with festivals and events for different religions (e.g. Christmas and Hanukkah) but that not everyone will celebrate these for religious or other reasons. Employers should avoid focussing on any particular celebration, and be careful with language to promote inclusivity.
The football World Cup takes place in Qatar between 20 November and 18 December 2022, and many workers across the UK will want to follow the tournament. However, with many of the matches taking place during the working day or on a weekday evening, there are potential implications in the workplace. Here are our top tips for employers:
- See the tournament as an opportunity: Handled correctly, embracing the World Cup could help with employee engagement without having a detrimental impact on productivity. Actively addressing how the tournament sits along work commitments means that a balance can be struck between getting work done without the football acting as a distraction.
- Be flexible: Where possible, and within reason, allow employees to adjust their hours or place of work to accommodate them watching certain matches. This may necessitate longer or later lunch breaks, adjusting start and finish times, tweaking rotas, or switching work from home days. The requirements for approval should be made clear, as should whether (and if so, how) any lost hours should be made up, or taken out of annual leave entitlements.
- Accommodate annual leave: Managers should be prepared for short notice requests for (or cancellations of) annual leave, particularly in the later stages of the tournament, and be timely, understanding and consistent when considering such requests, even if they fall outside any usual holiday approval protocols.
- Monitor sickness absence: Absence on days of, or the day after, certain matches may give rise to concerns about whether the sickness is genuine, or has been brought about by e.g. excess alcohol. While employers should not be quick to make assumptions, and a one-off may be tolerated, inappropriate, repeated or regular absences demonstrating a pattern of behaviour may need to be addressed through sickness or, if appropriate, disciplinary policies.
Last week, the National Labor Relations Board signaled two additional areas in which it intends to pursue its labor-favorable agenda over the remainder of the 2022 year and beyond.
First, on October 31, 2022, NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo issued a memorandum stating her intention to zealously enforce the National Labor Relations Act (the “Act”) with respect to what she has called “intrusive or abusive electronic monitoring and automated management practices.”
Second, on November 3, 2022, the Board issued a proposal to roll back 2020 amendments to its election regulations with respect to so-called blocking charges.
Technology-based monitoring and surveillance
In her October 31 memorandum, the General Counsel expressed concern that “close, constant, surveillance and management through electronic means” constitutes a threat to “employees’ ability to exercise their rights” under the Act. The General Counsel specifically stated that electronic surveillance and automated systems can limit or prevent employees from engaging in protected activity, including conversations about the terms and conditions of their employment or of unionization. She also claimed that employer-issued devices or required applications on employees’ personal devices may extend surveillance to nonworking areas, including to rest areas within an employer’s facilities and non-work areas outside of the workplace. This, the General Counsel speculated, “may prevent employees from exercising their Section 7 rights” from engaging in concerted activity anywhere and may lead to retaliation and discrimination on the basis of protected activity. The memorandum goes on to provide a two-pronged approach towards dealing with these perceived threats to employees’ rights.…