Commodious | Regulation Changes, Health and Safety News 28/05/21

A weekly roundup of the most important news concerning health and safety developments, enforcements and regulatory changes.

Building Safety BIll requirements to come into effect on 1 August 2021

Under the Building Safety Bill (BSB), which will be introduced to Parliament for debate during the next Parliamentary session, a new regulatory framework is proposed for higher risk, multi-occupancy residential buildings. The framework will apply to buildings that are 18 metres or taller, or that have seven or more stories (whichever is reached first).

Included in the framework is a gateway process to be implemented at the planning stage before construction begins. The gateways will be:

Gateway One - the applicant must demonstrate that the planning application process incorporates thinking on fire safety.

The key provisions for Gateway One are:

  • A fire statement setting out the fire safety considerations to be required in the planning application;
  • The HSE (and eventually the Building Safety Regulator) will become a statuary consultee to provide fire safety advice to local planning authorities before planning permission can be granted.

Gateway Two - plans must be forwarded to the Building Safety Regulator. Construction will not be permitted to begin until approval has been given.

Gateway Three - Occupation will not be permitted until the Building Safety Regulator has performed final inspections and issued a completion certificate.

The impact of the Bill is that planning applications submitted after 1 August 2021 will require a Fire Safety Statement, however, the Bill itself is not expected to be implemented until 2023. Parliament is keen to make it clear that the issue of fire safety is not taken lightly.

New Government statements on the Employment Bill

After the unexpected emittance of the Employment Bill from the Queen’s Speech, the Government was quick to issue a statement that they would be bringing the Employment Bill forward when the time was appropriate. Claims that the pandemic and the changing labour market were to blame for its delay.

Since the initial statement, there have been further developments on exactly what the Bill will address. The key points are:

  • There will be a new consultation on making flexible working the default stance -

    "Access to flexible working can be key to ensuring increased participation of some groups who are under-represented in the labour market. The Government wants to make it easier for people to work flexibly and in our manifesto, we committed to further encouraging flexible working by consulting on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to.

    We will issue that consultation in due course."
  • Redundancy protection to new mothers will be extended to cover a further six months after maternity leave ends -

    "It is unacceptable that women still face pregnancy and maternity discrimination and in 2019, the Government announced its intention to extend the redundancy protection period afforded to mothers on maternity leave. This will extend to pregnant women and for six months after a mother has returned to work. This will also apply to those taking adoption leave and shared parental leave. We will bring these measures forward as Parliamentary time allows."
  • Response to SSP reform consultation is to be published -

    "The Health Is Everyone’s Business consultation, published July 2019, set out a number of proposals to reduce ill-health related job loss, including reforming SSP. As part of this consultation, the Government sought views on the rate of SSP and the role that employers can and should play in supporting employees who are disabled or have long-term health conditions to stay in and thrive in work. This included setting out that the Government is minded to extend SSP to those earning below the lower earnings limit, who are not currently eligible for financial support from their employer during a period of sickness absence. There was a good response to the consultation from a range of stakeholders and a response will be issued shortly."
  • Response to publishing parental leave and pay policies consultation to be published -

    "In July 2019 the Government consulted on proposals to require large employers to publish their parental leave and pay policies. The consultation received over 3,500 responses and we will publish the formal response to that consultation in due course."
  • Response to ethnicity pay reporting consultation to be published -

    "In 2018/2019 the Government consulted on options for employer-level ethnicity pay reporting. Following this, the Government met with businesses and representative organisations to understand the barriers to reporting and to explore what information could be published to allow for meaningful action to be taken.

    Following the consultation, we ran a methodology testing exercise with a broad range of businesses to better understand the complexities outlined in the consultation. This highlighted the genuine difficulties in designing a methodology that will produce accurate figures that facilitate analysis, interpretation and meaningful action.

    The Government is continuing to analyse this data. We will respond to the Ethnicity Pay Reporting consultation in due course."

Anniversary of EU GDPR

25 May 2021 marked the third anniversary of the GDPR coming into force. Since its inception, GDPR compliance has become a part of everyday business and regulators haven’t slacked when it comes to making changes to tackle the different issues in their regions.

The developments reflect evolving and developing interpretations and expectations of compliance across jurisdictions over the past three years and it can be expected that more will inevitably follow in the future.

Since the UK’s breakaway from the EU following Brexit, the ICO is likely to continue pursuing improvements to enforcement action in relation to significant data breach and cybersecurity issues. Other key areas expected to see changes are AI and data protection implications and improvements to the Age Appropriate Design Code and Data Sharing Code of Practice.

Recent HSE enforcement activity

Construction firm fined after workers exposed to asbestos - Workers were exposed to asbestos while refurbishing a flat in Westminster. Construction firm ASAI Construction Ltd. failed to obtain a Refurbishment and Demolition asbestos survey before work commenced. 

A subcontractor made the firm aware of the presence of asbestos on the site, however, the firm did not take steps to ensure asbestos exposure was avoided and allowed work to continue. The firm has pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and has been fined £30,000.

Avoid exposing yourself or your employees by taking our Asbestos Awareness Online IATP Course.