Over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected the employment sector and the way in which people work. From the introduction of furlough, to thousands of redundancies through to the more common concept of hybrid working, it’s safe to say that the pandemic has overshadowed everyone’s working lives. As the dust settles (we hope), we thought we would take the time to highlight some employment law changes that are on the horizon in 2022.
The Employment Bill
A new Employment Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech in December 2019, but is yet to be published. It is hoped that the Bill will be published this year which is expected to include a number of employment law changes, including:
- The right to request flexible working from day one, removing the requirement for 26 weeks’ qualifying service;
- Making flexible working the default position unless an employer has a good reason to the contrary;
- A requirement for employers to pass on all tips and service charges to workers;
- A right for workers to request a more stable and predictable contract after 26 weeks’ service;
- An extension to the period of redundancy protection (i.e. the right to be offered suitable alternative employment on a priority basis) to pregnant employees and those employees returning from maternity leave for six months after the end of their maternity leave. It is also anticipated that this right will apply to those employees taking adoption leave or shared parental leave;
- A new right to neonatal leave and up to 12 weeks’ pay for employees whose babies spend an extended period of time in neonatal care; and
- The introduction of one week’s unpaid carer’s leave.
In July 2021, the government published its response to a consultation launched by the Government Equalities Office in July 2019 on how best to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace. The government confirmed that they will:
- Introduce a new duty for employers to prevent sexual harassment and third-party harassment in the workplace; and
- Consider extending the time limit for all claims under the Equality Act 2010.
The belief is that by introducing a duty, it will encourage employers to be proactive in making the workplace safer and preventing sexual harassment. It is anticipated that draft legislation will be produced in 2022 covering this new duty.
Pay and Benefits
The UK government accepted the Low Pay Commission’s recommended increases to the national living wage (NLW) and national minimum wage (NMW) rates submitted on 22nd October 2021.
The new rates (which will take effect on 1st April 2022) will be:
- Age 23 or over (NLW rate): £9.50 (up from £8.91);
- Age 21 to 22: £9.18 (up from £8.36);
- Age 18 to 20: £6.83 (up from £6.56);
- Age 16 to 17: £4.81 (up from £4.62);
- Apprentice rate: £4.81 (up from £4.30);
- Accommodation offset rate £8.70 (up from £8.30 per week).
Adding to the ongoing pressure on wages, the social care levy will be introduced UK-wide from 6th April 2022 and will be collected initially via a 1.25% increase in National Insurance Contributions. HMRC published guidance to help prepare for the new levy on 31st January 2022 which can be accessed here
The rules governing gender pay gap reporting are due to be reviewed in 2022. In the meantime, the deadlines for submitting reports are expected to return to normal this year, having been extended in 2021 because of the pandemic. As a reminder, employers must report their gender pay gap data if the organisation has 250 or more employees (also known as your employee ‘headcount’) on the snapshot date.
The next deadlines are:
- 30th March 2022 – this is for most public authority employers
- 4th April 2022 – this is for private, voluntary and all other public authority employers
Towards the end of 2021, the government launched a consultation on the potential introduction of disability reporting on a voluntary or even compulsory basis. The consultation is open until 25th March 2022, with a response due in June.
Other potential developments to look out for include:
- One of the most eagerly awaited judgments in 2022 will be the decision in Harpur Trust v Brazel, which was heard by the Supreme Court in November 2021. The judgment could potentially clarify various holiday pay rights including the practice of paying a holiday pay supplement of 12.07% for casual workers.
- Following the government’s 2020 consultations, we may well see proposals for regulating non-compete clauses and regulations being introduced implementing a ban on exclusivity clauses.
- We are also likely to see many more cases concerning the fall out of the Covid-19 pandemic.
If you would like more information about the changes addressed in this article or any other aspect of employment law, please contact us on 02920 345511 or at email@example.com