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Eversheds comment: Busy year of fresh reporting duties ahead for employers

  • Global
  • United Kingdom

    24-12-2015

    Commenting on forthcoming reporting obligations for employers in 2016, Thomas Player, partner and employment law expert at law firm Eversheds, says:

    "As the end of the year approaches, many employment law reforms proposed by the still fairly-new government will carry-over to the new year, such as strike reforms and capping public sector exit payments. However, an unavoidable aspect for many employers is an ever-increasing trend requiring them to report publicly upon aspects of their business risks and legal compliance, including sensitive and controversial matters such as gender pay gaps and supply chain transparency. These new reporting duties reflect a drive by the Government to hold businesses to account before society at large, not just the courts - where campaigners, pressure groups, trade unions, social media users and others ‘name and shame’ those that drag their heels. This new approach is particularly significant for consumer-facing businesses where reputational risk is high up the boardroom’s agenda.

    "A recent example is the new requirement for many large organisations to publish an annual statement setting out the steps taken to combat slavery and trafficking in their organisations and supply chains.

    "Another significant and new disclosure obligation is the introduction of compulsory gender pay gap reporting, requiring larger employers in the private and third sectors to disclose information concerning male to female pay differentials. The extent of that obligation and how it might operate in practice is still under debate but is due to be resolved next year, with first reports being most likely required by April 2018.

    "Late next year will also see strengthened obligations, deriving from Europe, concerning disclosure of non-financial information by certain employers with 500 staff or more. These increase annual strategic reporting duties addressing matters such as environmental, employment, social, human rights and bribery and corruption, along with risk assessment and policy approach. Also on the horizon for financial services sector employers, are whistleblowing reporting obligations and, potentially, whistleblowing reporting obligations for regulators.

    "All this reporting begs another important question for employers and that is, just who will be responsible internally? An issue we encounter time and again is employer-uncertainty or lack of joined-up thinking and information-sharing between those to whom responsibility is delegated. There is also huge variance between organisations as to where such responsibilities are directed, be it to HR, legal, compliance or finance teams. Longer term and as these reporting obligations become even more prevalent –as they look set to do - organisations will need to apply their minds more carefully to this question and to centralise or define more clearly their reporting responsibilities. The risk being that information disclosed is incomplete or even incorrect, risking a reputational backlash and potentially litigation."

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