This year’s employment law changes for the public sector

23 Feb 2018 By Victoria Watson

Victoria Watson rounds up forthcoming developments in gender pay reporting, data protection legislation and trade union rules

The continuing uncertainty over Brexit means changes that had been expected over the past 12 months have not all been forthcoming, and the legislative timetable going forward remains unclear. For example, the new regulations governing public sector exit payments, which were expected to be in force in spring 2017, are yet to be implemented. Although we understand that it is still the government’s intention to bring them into force, there is still no date for their implementation.

There are, however, a number of further employment law developments that will affect public sector employers over the coming year. 

Gender pay gap reporting 

The Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017 came into force in April 2017 and require employers with 250 or more employees to publish a report annually showing their overall gender pay gap. The report must set out employees’ mean and median hourly pay over a specific pay period, the gender balance of staff in each salary quartile and the gender bonus gap. 

Reports must be published on the government’s website and the publication date for public sector employers is 30 March 2018. Although public sector employers are not required to publish a narrative to accompany the report, we recommend that they do so to demonstrate an understanding of the reasons for any pay gap and the steps the employer is taking to address it.

General Data Protection Regulation

On 25 May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into force, replacing existing data protection legislation. The provisions of the GDPR will continue to apply in the UK even after Brexit. 

Although the GDPR will apply the principles already in place under the Data Protection Act 1998, there will be several significant changes for employers, notably the requirement for demonstrating the legal basis for processing employee data and the new ‘special category data’, which is wider than the current category of ‘sensitive personal data’ and is subject to additional conditions. Before May, employers must carry out an audit of the personal data they currently process, ensure their employment documentation is compliant with the GDPR and appoint a data protection officer with responsibility for compliance.

The GDPR also imposes a greater degree of accountability and all data controllers and data processors will need to comply with their obligations under the new regulation. Failure to do so could lead to significantly increased penalties of up to €20m or 4 per cent of worldwide annual turnover for the most serious breaches. 

Trade union subscriptions

From 10 March 2018, new DOCAS (deducting union subscriptions at source) agreements must be in place to ensure a ‘reasonable fee’ is being paid wherever employers deduct union subs directly from staff wages, and employees must have the option of having their subs taken by another means. 

Reporting on trade union facility time

The Trade Union (Facility Time Publication Requirements) Regulations 2017 came into force on 1 April 2017. They require those public sector employers that are caught by the regulations to publish information on how much time is spent by their union officials on paid ‘trade union facility time’. 

The regulations require organisations to provide information about the total number of hours spent by union officials on trade union facility time, and from this figure how much time is spent on trade union activities. 

This information must be placed on the employer’s website before 31 July in the calendar year in which the relevant period ends. Therefore, the first deadline for publication will be 31 July 2018. 

Victoria Watson is a partner in the employment department at Capsticks

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