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How to Prepare Your GP Practice for 2020’s Employment Law Updates

We first shared news of big upcoming employment law changes a few months ago, and since then we’ve been hard at work investigating how they will affect primary care. As April draws near, here is a guide to ensuring your GP Practice is prepared for the changes.

 
Here’s what to know to protect your business, as well as thoughts from a PM on how they see it affecting life for fellow Practice Managers…

1. Preparing contracts will become more complex

Currently, you have up to two months after your employee’s start date to give them a written contract.

But from 6th April 2020, you will need to give all employees and workers (e.g. contractors or agency staff) a written statement of the main terms and conditions of their employment (their contract) no later than ‘the day they start working for you’.

You will also need to put much more information into your employees’ contracts. This includes:

  • How long the job will last
  • The length of their notice period
  • Your rules on sick leave and pay
  • Information on paid leave entitlements
  • The length and conditions of your employee’s probation period
  • Specific days and times that staff need to work - it is no longer enough to just say 37 hours over 5 days. You need to specify start and finish times and which five days they will work.

    You can state these hours may vary, but you will need to state how, for example attending occasional evening clinics.
  • Any training entitlements
  • All remuneration they will receive, not just basic pay. This includes but is not limited to bonuses, childcare vouchers and healthcare benefits.

As both workers and employees both need written statements, it is good practice to have two versions available. This is because workers aren’t entitled to as many rights an employees, such as redundancy payments. Including variation clauses is likely to help in the future if you do need to change small details, such as days in the week.

This might seem like a big piece of work, but in reality it just means ensuring you have a compliant template ready to go for April – FPM members will be able to download updated templates from our Policy Library soon, so keep an eye on our weekly Policy Updates on our blog and email bulletin.

You can use these changes to enhance relationships with new starters too. Getting the contract signed before the employee starts gives you a great opportunity to introduce them to staff members and start the onboarding ball rolling - the best inductions start before the first day!

 

2. How you calculate holiday pay will change

The government is also extending the holiday pay reference period from 12 to 52 weeks. This means that where workers’ pay varies from month to month, you need to base your staff’s holiday pay on their average weekly earnings for the whole year.

For example, if you have an employee on a zero-hour contract, you would normally calculate their holiday by taking an average of pay the 12 weeks before their holiday. For any holidays taken from 6th April 2020, you will need to look at the average taken over the previous 52 weeks.

Most employees will still receive holiday in the same way as before, and this change will only impact Practices that have to work out holiday for zero-hour contract workers or employees who work differing hours week by week, such as term-time workers.

To work out their weekly holiday allowance, you simply add up all the hours over the past 12 months and divide by 52.

 

3.The National Minimum Wage is going up

The government revises the National Minimum Wage (NMW) every April, so your minimum wage workers will get a pay boost of 6.2% to £8.72 per hour.    

Although this will of course have an impact on the bottom line for Practices, it’s positive news for our employees receiving minimum wage. Inflation is currently at 2.5%, meaning that this pay rise is 3.7% above the rate of inflation.

 

4. Maternity, paternity and sick pay is likely to rise

The government revises maternity, paternity and sick pay every year. All these are likely to increase, with current predictions saying that statutory maternity/paternity leave will rise to £151.20 (Personnel Today). Sick pay is also proposed to rise to £95.85.

Make sure you stay up to date with changes to statutory leave rules so you don’t accidentally underpay (or overpay) staff.

 

5. Staff will receive the right to parental bereavement leave

From April 2020, workers will get the right to two weeks of paid bereavement leave following the death of a child under the age of 18. That will be the statutory minimum, but of course you may choose to offer more paid leave after traumatic life events, as well as signposting staff to professional bereavement support.

This is a long fought for and very welcome addition to statutory leave. Most companies allow around three days paid leave for bereavement and the employee must take any further leave unpaid. I’m sure most people would agree this is insufficient in the above circumstances – the introduction of parental bereavement leave should help reduce any financial concerns parents have at such a difficult and sensitive time.

 

6. Agency workers will receive equal pay

From April 2020, you can’t use Swedish derogation contracts for agency workers. Swedish derogation is a loophole in the law where agency workers can legally receive less money than their directly employed counterparts. As of April 2020, you cannot employ agency workers on these contracts.

This is unlikely to affect most Practices, but it is worth being aware of it if you do employ staff members from agencies. If you have any concerns, speak to your agencies directly.

 

Prepare now to avoid paying later

As always, the best way to manage change and keep your overheads down is to start your preparations early.

Make sure you update new staff contracts in time for April and remember you don’t need to alter any pre-existing contracts. Be ready to give workers a copy of their main terms and conditions from day one of employment. 


A Practice Manager’s Viewpoint:

Normally I would not be too concerned about employment law updates until nearer the time, but this time is a little different, with changes such as the increase in the National Living Wage set to increase costs and overheads.

As many PCNS are looking at possibly employing paramedics, pharmacist’s physician associates etc. I think we should be considering our employment policies before these changes, and in advance of implementation.

From a PCN point of view, it may be worth seriously considering initially using agency staff, as the premium we will pay is offset by the reduction of the risk in trialling these new job roles in practice. This means we can adapt before making firm commitments.

 


Keeping up to date with changes to employment law can be tricky, but
First Practice Management is here to help.

Our HR specialist will ensure that there are new contracts in the Policies Library very soon and is here to answer any questions for members the HR Helpline – get in touch today by emailing hrhelp@firstpracticemanagement.co.uk.

 

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