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  • HR Heartbeat: Modern slavery cases rise in the care sector, the real living wage deadline, and…

HR Heartbeat: Modern slavery cases rise in the care sector, the real living wage deadline, and…

Get this week’s HR headlines in a hurry! Find out the status of the Worker Protection Bill, how to handle working pattern requests and more…

First published on Thursday, Nov 02, 2023

Last updated on Thursday, Nov 02, 2023

4 min read

Have you heard the latest news?

Welcome to HR Heartbeat, where we give you a rundown of the week's top employment law stories. Stay on the pulse of current trends impacting your business, plus get up-to-the-minute commentaries on all things HR and legal.

New harassment bill gets Royal Assent

The Worker Protection (Amendment of Equality Act 2010) Bill, which aims to strengthen protections for employees against discrimination and harassment in the workplace has now received Royal Assent as of 26 October 2023.

While the Act has been diluted since its initial drafting, as covered in last week’s edition of HR Heartbeat, it still brings in a new obligation for employers to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment.

If you’re unsure about how you can protect your employees and workplace, the first step is to make sure you have a clear zero-tolerance policy with formal procedures in place. Get more advice here.

Modern slavery cases rise in the care sector

The national helpline for victims of modern slavery reported a rise in calls from overseas workers who came to the UK to work in the care sector following a shortage of workers in the industry.

Many victims said they were forced to pay huge sums to the people who brought them over after visa rules changed last year.

In February 2022, the government made care work a ‘shortage’ occupation allowing more people to be recruited from abroad to work in care homes.

Some care home providers have also stated that they’re seeing an increase in the number of staff getting in contact with them asking if they can take them on because the company that brought them into the UK is either giving them no work or not enough work.

As of right now, companies can't be fined for not providing a modern slavery statement. But the government are thinking about introducing penalties, including criminal offences, if facts are misrepresented. Companies can also be publicly "named and shamed" if they don't comply.

If you need more support on this topic ask BrightLightning: What should be included in a modern slavery statement?

How to handle requests for more predictable working patterns

A consultation has been launched by Acas on the draft Code of Practice for handling requests for a more predictable working pattern.

A working pattern refers to the number of hours the worker works, the days and times they work, or the length of their contract.

It comes after the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023 became law in September, although it won’t be implemented until 2024.

The draft Code sets out good practice for dealing with working pattern requests. It suggests all requests must be handled reasonably and given careful consideration.

Meetings should be held to talk about the request and workers should be given the right of appeal.

Take notes, the consultation, which is seeking feedback on the draft Code, will run until 17 January 2024.

For answers to all your questions on predictable working patterns, ask BrightLightning: Can employees ask for a fixed work pattern?

Real Living Wage rates increase

Employers who voluntarily pay the Real Living Wage will have until 1st May 2024 to implement the new rates.

For workers in London, it will increase from £11.95 to £13.15 an hour, and for workers outside of London (including Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) it will increase from £10.90 to £12 per hour.

Remember it’s voluntary for employers to sign up and is a rate which is set based on the cost of living.

For more support, ask BrightLightning: What’s the difference between the real living wage and the national living wage?

And that’s a wrap. Tune in next week for more headlines and make sure you stay ahead of major employment law changes!

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