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UK HR Two Minute Monthly: religious discrimination; TUPE; IR35

Summary

Our first update of 2020 outlines key UK employment law developments over the last month. It includes cases on the definition of ‘employee’ under TUPE, the impact of a job evaluation survey in relation to equal pay, direct maternity discrimination, dress codes and religious discrimination, loss of privilege, and a recent tax tribunal decision on the application of IR35. We also outline other points of note, including the publication of the ICO’s new draft guidance on Subject Access Requests.

Dismissal violated employee’s freedom of expression under Article 10 ECHR

The European Court of Human Rights has held that that an employee’s right to freedom of expression under Article 10 ECHR was violated after he was dismissed for posting on a personal knowledge-sharing website.

The employee described himself in his website blogs as an expert in HR management who worked at a large bank, but did not mention his employer by name.

The employee argued that the termination of his employment breached his right to freedom of expression and appealed to the ECHR. The Court addressed four main questions when considering whether the right to freedom of expression had been infringed:

  • Nature of the speech – the Government argued that as the blog was only addressed to HR professionals (rather than to the public generally) Article 10 was not engaged. However, the ECHR noted that free speech does not only protect comments that demonstrably contribute to a debate on a public matter.
  • Motives of the author – in this case,
  • Medium and large businesses getting ready for private sector off-payroll working rules in the UK

    Despite calls for the start date to be delayed, it appears that the extension of the off-payroll working rules to private sector engagements will go ahead in April 2020.

    Under the draft legislation, responsibility for determining whether engagements with individuals who provide their services through an intermediary (typically a “PSC”) are within the off-payroll working rules shifts to the client, with the burden of operating PAYE and collecting National Insurance Contributions (“NICs”) falling on the relevant “fee payer” in the work supply chain. More detail about the requirements under the draft legislation can be found in our earlier blog.

    As they prepare for the changes, many medium and large businesses are taking the opportunity to review their use of consultants and the terms of their contractor services more widely, in some cases leading to a major shake-up in engagement models. In addition to reviewing the terms which apply where a business contracts directly with a PSC, it is also important to consider the terms on which employment agencies provide contractor services.  With only six months to go until the changes go live, businesses which have not started the review process should act now.

    Off-Payroll Working Rules

    From April 2020 the responsibility for determining whether engagements with individuals who provide their services through an intermediary (typically a “PSC”) are within the off-payroll working rules shifts to the client for engagements in the Private Sector, with the burden of  operating PAYE and collecting National Insurance Contributions (“NICs”) falling on the relevant “fee payer” in the work supply chain.

    Although it is encouraging that HMRC have reconfirmed that it does not intend to carry out targeted campaigns into previous years when individuals start paying employment taxes following the reforms, we expect that HMRC will take a robust approach to the enforcement of the new rules.

    There is an enormous amount of work to be done across the private sector to ensure that medium/large businesses who are dependent on a flexible workforce are ready in time for the changes in April 2020.

    Status determination and communications

    When clients have determined an individual’s status for the off-payroll working rules, the client will be required to pass the determination to the party they directly contract with, as well as the individual worker.  Significantly, clients will also need to provide reasons for the determination.

    It is hoped this will be an incentive to clients to take care in making determinations – reducing the risk of “blanket” assessments and limiting status disputes.

    Businesses must therefore adopt internal policies to make proper status determinations for engagements and communicate these to individuals and their contract counterparties effectively.

    HMRC promise plenty of guidance, targeted communications as well

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