20 Apr 2019  •  Events, HR & Employment Law, Our News  •  5min read By  • Sarah Buxton

The Big Question: What are the latest updates to employment law?

HR and employment law is constantly changing, and is something that’s hugely important for anyone running a dental practice to make sure they get it right. With that in mind, Practice Plan will be holding two panel discussions on this issue at the British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show in May. Employment Law Specialist Sarah Buxton will be on both of those panels and below she shares some of the recent updates that practices need to be aware of…

Parental bereavement leave

Currently there’s not a lot in legislation that says you have to provide bereavement leave, so it’s really down to what the employer wants to provide. However, it’s been identified that this may be a little unfair for employees who might have to take annual leave to deal with the bereavement, so that is set to change.

By law, after 2020, a parent of a child up to the age of 18 or of a baby that’s stillborn after 24 weeks, should be entitled to two weeks’ bereavement leave. During that two-week period there will be a statutory payment made, similar to statutory maternity/paternity leave.

We’re still waiting for more details at the moment, for instance, whether this will include adoptive parents/grandparents, how much has to be paid by the employer, and whether the two weeks has to be taken straight away or can be taken at different times.

It’s a very emotive issue and if you have a good member of staff going through a hard time in their life, most employers want to support them through that period anyway. However, if you leave the emotions out of it and think about it in the commercial sense, losing someone for two weeks can be a long period of time that you have to provide in addition to holiday and sick leave – particularly in a small team that you often find in dental practices.

However, because it’s such a sensitive issue, I don’t think there will be a lot of people who have much of an objection to it.

Dress-code policy

In 2018, the Government issued guidance on dress codes which isn’t binding but practices should be aware of it as I find myself drafting dress code-policies for practices who often say ‘I want my receptionist to look a certain way because she’s front of house, so I want her to wear make-up or this type of uniform’.

However, you have to be careful about creating gender-specific policies, such as the make-up one, which is quite popular, as men and women shouldn’t be treated differently.

If you said ‘the men can wear trousers but the women have to wear skirts’, that would be quite a straightforward discrimination claim because the women should be able to wear trousers too. If you have a dress-code policy in place, it could be worthwhile revisiting as it may need bringing up to date.

Employment status review

We’re still waiting for more news on this front as it’s gone very quiet. A report (the Taylor Report) was published which looked at the three types of employment status, but this has been put on the backburner. When they turn their attentions back to it, it could have massive repercussions for dental practices.

At the moment the only slight movement is that ‘worker’ status, which is a quasi-status where you’re not quite an employee and not quite self-employed, might be abolished. That status only really applies if you have zero-hour contracts but they’re saying you can only have a ‘worker’ if it’s done via a collective agreement, like a trade union. If the ‘worker’ status is abolished it will be interesting as I do have quite a few practices who use workers.

The report also said that they weren’t happy that institutions don’t work together. For example, I’ve had a case in which an associate won an unfair dismissal case at High Court because they were found to be an employee, rather than self-employed. However, that doesn’t mean that HRMC are suddenly going to say ‘you are an employee and I want all the tax back that you owe us and we’re going to fine you’, because the employment tribunal doesn’t speak to the tax tribunal. So, just because HMRC might be saying dentists are fine from a tax perspective doesn’t mean they’re fine from an employment tribunal perspective, and vice versa. This means that until they do start working together, you’re at risk from the employment tribunal.

Sarah will be part of two HR and Employment Law panel discussions themed ‘The Big Questions’, alongside Lisa Bainham and Nicki Rowland, at the British Dental Conference and Dentistry Show.

These discussions will take place in the Dental Business Theatre, programmed by Practice Plan and sponsored by Wesleyan Bank, on Friday 17th May, 12.30pm – 1.15pm and Saturday 18th May, 10.00am – 10.45am.

During the event there will be various other panel discussions taking place in the theatre including ‘The Future of Dentistry’, ‘Maximise the Value of Your Practice’, ‘CQC, Compliance and Complaints’, and ‘What Next for NHS Dentistry?’ For full programme details click here.

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