We look ahead at some of the key HR, employment and immigration issues for the rural sector in 2023. The timescale for most of the proposals is currently unknown.

  • The initial stages of the EU settlement scheme opened to applicants in 2018. As pre-settled status lasts for five years there will be some EEA and Swiss nationals whose permission will expire in 2023 and who will need to apply for settled status if they want to continue living and working in the UK. Employers should ensure that the appropriate follow up right to work checks are completed for those who require them.
  • The seasonal worker visa route has been extended until the end of 2024.
  • Monday, 8 May 2023 will be an additional bank holiday to celebrate the King's Coronation. Whether or not employees are entitled to it will depend on the wording of the employment contract.
  • There has been a consultation on 'making flexible working the default'. The government intends to (i) make the right to request flexible working a ‘day one’ right; (ii) require employers to consult with employees before rejecting a flexible working request; (iii) allow employees to make two flexible working requests in any 12-month period (iv) reduce the deadline for responding to flexible working requests from three months to two; and (v) remove the requirement for employees to explain in their request what effect the change would have on the employer and how that might be dealt with. We don’t yet know the proposed timescale for the changes but employers can expect to see an increase in the number of flexible working applications in light of the changes.
  • Exclusivity clauses restrict workers from taking on additional work with other employers. Originally banned in zero hours contracts, from 5 December 2022 the ban was extended to contracts where the worker's guaranteed weekly income is less than the lower earnings limit (currently £123). Any contractual term which prohibits a relevant worker from working under another contract or arrangement, or which prohibits the worker from doing so without their employer's consent, is unenforceable.
  • The government intends to introduce a new right to one week's unpaid leave per year for employees who are providing or arranging care; extend redundancy protection for women and new parents; and introduce up to 12 weeks' neonatal leave and pay.
  • There are proposals to give workers without a fixed working pattern a right to request a more predictable work pattern after 26 weeks' service; provide workers with a right to reasonable notice of work schedules (and compensation for shifts cancelled without reasonable notice); and increase the gap in employment needed to break continuous service from one week to four weeks.
  • A new statutory Code of Practice on the use of 'fire and rehire' practices to change employees' terms and conditions is to be published shortly.
  • The Information Commissioner's Office is consulting on new draft guidance on monitoring at work. The guidance reflects both the increase in home and hybrid working, and new methods of monitoring such as using biometric data.
  • The government is proposing to ‘turn off’ all employment law which comes from the EU, which is not in already in an Act of Parliament, by the end 2023 unless saved or amended. There are many important employment rights and protections which stem from the EU, including working time and TUPE. It is currently unclear what EU derived employment law the government intends to keep, change or repeal.
  • We expect to see cases in 2023 on employment status; the extent to which long Covid and menopause can amount to a disability; gender critical beliefs in the workplace; and whether a series of holiday pay deductions is broken by a gap between deductions of three months or more.

If you would like any advice in relation to any of the matters raised above, please contact Gillian Mair.

A version of this piece appeared in Forestry and Timber News in December 2022. A fuller version of all of the employment, immigration and HR practices which might change in 2023 will appear on a new Workbox by Brodies page in January. This page will be free to view, even if you don't have a Workbox subscription. If you would like to be sent a link to this page once it’s live, please email [email protected].

Contributor

Gillian Mair

Senior Associate