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2018 HR and Employment Law Changes

It’s been a busy year for Employment Law and HR changes

Ellis Whittam, the experts behind the bira legal service, take a closer look at some of the most significant events that have occurred throughout 2018.

Government response to Taylor Review

In the last few years, there have been growing concerns about modern working practices, in particular employment status, zero hours contracts, holiday pay and continuity of service. As a result, the government commissioned the Taylor Review which was published in July 2017. At the start of the year, the government responded to the review’s findings. In it’s “Good Work Plan”, the government accepted some of the recommendations put forward by the Taylor Review and launched four consultations to seek views on how best to proceed. We are still waiting to see how these recommendations turn into legislation.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force

The GDPR came into force on 25th May 2018, shaking up data protection rules. One of the biggest changes the GDPR brought about was the introduction of the “accountability principle”. This requires an organisation to show how they are complying with the GDPR principles, therefore employers need to have up to date policies in place and ensure that staff are appropriately trained on data protection issues. The GDPR also scrapped the option of employers charging a fee for subject access requests and reduced the time employers have to deal with requests to just one month. Employers also now have to pinpoint the legal basis for the processing of data; assess how they acquire consent and have the procedures in place to identify and report data breaches.

First gender pay reports

Private sector and voluntary employers with 250 or more employees in England, Wales and Scotland were required to publish their first gender pay report. Once published, many organisations faced intense scrutiny and criticism, forcing employers to deal with the fallout and take steps to address the gender pay gap.

Caste Discrimination

Over the last few years, there has been significant debate about whether there is suitable legal protection against discrimination because of a person’s origins. A consultation was launched and the government published its official response. The government highlighted the difficulty in defining “caste” in legislation and said it will rely on case law to develop naturally to ensure that protection is provided when required.


In June 2018, the European Union Withdrawal Act 2018 was given Royal Assent by the Queen. This transfers EU law into UK law to ensure a smooth exit from the EU. This means that at present, there are no changes to employment legislation. The government published a series of guidance in the event that a deal cannot be reached; highlighting that there will be no change to employees’ rights and protections even if we leave the EU without a deal. The government has also laid down the details of the EU Settlement Scheme. Under the scheme, workers will be able to obtain settled or pre-settled status. This will allow them to live and work in the UK after 31st December 2020.

Paid leave and pay for bereaved parents announced

Employed parents will gain the right at least two weeks of leave following the death of a child under the age of 18 and be paid for this time off. It was announced that this would come into effect in 2020.

What else happened in 2018?

  • National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage increased
  • Fit for Work assessments ended
  • Statutory compensation limits increased
  • Launch of consultation on ethnicity pay reporting

A year in review

James Tamm, Director of Legal Services at Ellis Whittam, comments “There is no doubt that the biggest legislative issue of the year was the implementation of GDPR. Even though the impact on employment law was not substantial, new contracts and policies were required by most employers. Subject access requests under the legislation also potentially became more onerous with the removal of the 40 day time period to reply, replaced by a requirement to act “without undue delay”.

Even though it was a change that happened in 2017, the tribunal system is still reeling from the abolition of fees. The skyrocketing number of new claims is evidence of the continuing impact of that decision. Thankfully, whilst seeing an increase in claim numbers, Ellis Whittam clients have not been exposed to the sort of percentage increases experienced nationwide. I believe this is a testament to the robust and pragmatic nature of our advice which helps protect clients from becoming embroiled in the claims process”.

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