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Employment Law Update May 2023

The Government has launched a new consultation on IR35. They are looking to introduce a statutory measure which could impact tax settlements with HMRC where liabilities arise under the off-payroll working (IR35) rules. The consultation will be of interest to any company engaging off-payroll workers ‘outside IR35’/deemed self-employed and in particular, those where HMRC has already opened an enquiry into IR35, or where ongoing dialogue on employment status is in progress.

Under current rules, there is no statutory mechanism to “set off” any of the tax already paid by the worker or their Personal Service Company against the liabilities levied against the deemed employer. The new proposals will enable a liable employer to deduct the amount of tax already paid to HRMC from the self-employed individual/ company relating to the service contract. This consultation looks to close on 22nd June 2023, so more on the outcome of this is to follow.  Essentially it could reduce the financial penalty for an employer deemed liable. If this is the case, it will be interesting to see whether more employers will look to take the risk rather than enrol on the payroll.

Strikes

As we approached the May Days Bank holiday, we saw the High Court rule in favour of the government which saw planned strikes by the Royal College of Nursing being cut short. The union had planned to walk out for 48 hours starting at 8 p.m. (1900GMT) on Sunday 30th April 2023. The government argued that this was unlawful as the members’ six-month mandate was due to expire at midnight on Monday and not, as the union argued, the following day. Although the government was successful in cutting the strike action short, for the first time, the walkout included nurses working in intensive care, emergency rooms and cancer wards.

This week there does seem to be some progress for NHS staff, with the NHS staff council, the body which represents more than a million NHS workers, and 14 health unions, accepting a 5% pay rise deal. The pay deal included ambulance workers, nurses, physios and porters also receiving a one-off sum of at least £1,655.

For some unions, they are still holding out. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is one of them. They have warned it will continue to pursue strike action. However, as mentioned above the six-month mandate has expired so the union will need to hold another ballot for its members to vote.

In addition, this week we are seeing the unions challenging the government in the high courts over the use of agency workers during industrial action. In the summer of last year, we saw the government repeal the ban of agency workers during strike action to enable companies to plug staffing gaps caused by the strikes. This was in response to the travel disruptions caused by the railway worker strikes. 

Tribunal awards increase

The Employment Tribunals have announced new rates for Vento bands for injury to feelings awards in discrimination claims on or after 6 April 2023.

The Vento bands will be increasing to the following:

  • Lowest Band – £1,100 to £11,200 (currently £990 to £9,900). This will be for the least serious cases, such as where the discriminatory act is a one-off
  • Middle Band – £11,200 to £33,700 (currently £9,900 to £29,600) serious cases, but ones where an award in the highest band would not be appropriate
  • Highest Band – £33,700 to £56,200 (currently £29,600 to £49,300). These are the most serious cases, such as those where there has been a lengthy campaign of discriminatory harassment which has a profound effect on the victim

For Employment Law and HR support, contact our team today.

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