What does 2022 have in store?
From the ongoing challenges of the pandemic to the long-awaited Employment Bill, sexual harassment in the workplace legislation to statutory rates of pay, 2022 does indeed have a lot in store for employers.
With the pandemic continuing to dominate the employment law landscape last year, employers had to continue to show great flexibility and innovation in managing its ongoing challenges. This ranged from restrictions being eased to shielding being ended, the vaccine roll-out, new Covid-19 variants emerging to bringing employees back into the office and then having to return to working from home again.
As we begin 2022, things are still far from certain, but there is no doubt that employers are now much more able to respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic than they were 2 years ago. Apart from the continuing impact of Covid-19, there are many things to look out for in 2022. This year looks likely to bring an increased number of changes to employment law, especially if the Employment Bill is finally published.
In this article, we bring you a summary of the legislative changes which are expected in the Employment Bill as well as other employment law news and developments that you should be aware of and plan for.
The long-awaited Employment Bill did not progress in 2021 for obvious reasons. If the Bill eventually does make its way through Parliament in 2022, the following reforms to the employment law regime are included:
Flexible working becoming the default position and a right from day one.
The establishment of a single labour market enforcement agency which would be responsible for enforcing the basic rights for vulnerable workers. Ensuring that vulnerable workers are aware of and can exercise their rights and to support business compliance.
Employers being required to pass on all tips and service charges to their workers. Supported by a statutory code of practice, to ensure that tips are distributed on a fair and transparent basis.
Extending redundancy protection. That is, the right for pregnant employees (and for six months after the return from maternity leave) and to those taking adoption leave or shared parental leave to be offered suitable alternative employment.
The right for carers to take one week of unpaid statutory leave each year.
The right for parents to take statutory leave of up to 12 weeks for neonatal care.
The right for all workers to request a more stable and predictable contract after 26 weeks of service.
Compensation for those whose shifts are cancelled at short notice, an entitlement to reasonable notice of allocated shifts, and protection for those who refuse last-minute shifts
While no timescales have been committed to, consultation has continued on these key areas of the Employment Bill. So as an employer, watch this space………..
Statutory rates of pay
The Department for Work and Pensions has published its proposed increases to the statutory benefit payments which are expected to apply from April 2022.
• Statutory sick pay (SSP) increases to £99.35 per week.
• Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay together with maternity allowance will be £156.66 per week.
National Minimum Wage (NMW) and National Living Wage (NLW)
• From 1 April 2022, the NLW for workers aged 23 and over will rise from £8.91 to £9.50.
NMW rates will also rise as follows:
• 21 – 22 years old £9.18
• 18 – 20 years old £6.83
• 16 – 17 years old £4.81
• Apprentice rate £4.81
• Accommodation offset £8.70
National Insurance Contributions
The Government has also announced that National Insurance Contributions will rise by 1.25% for most workers from 6 April 2022, to increase funding for the NHS and the social care sector.
A return to full right-to-work checks
The Home Office’s adjusted right-to-work checks regime, which has been in place throughout the pandemic, will come to an end on 5 April 2022. After that date, employers must return to conducting full right-to-work checks, using original documentation.
Gender pay gap reporting
Organisations employing 250 or more employees are obliged to publish an annual report containing data on their gender pay gap.
For public sector employers, the deadline is 30 March 2022 with a snapshot date of 31 March 2021.
For private sector employers and voluntary organisations, the deadline is 4 April 2022 with a snapshot date of 5 April 2021.
Ethnicity pay gap reporting
The response to the 2018 consultation on mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting is still being awaited. Further guidance is expected during considerations and debates on the Employment Bill.
Sexual harassment in the workplace
In July 2021 the Government published its response to the consultation on workplace sexual harassment. Confirmation of when this new duty will take effect is being awaited, however draft legislation is anticipated in 2022.
The response confirms that the Government will introduce a duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment and new protections from third-party harassers (e.g. suppliers and customers). It is also considering whether to extend the time limits for bringing discrimination claims from three months to six months.
Tribunals are continuing to work through a considerable backlog of claims. Tribunals initially adopted technology and remote-working during the height of the pandemic, however they appear to have moved towards reinstating in-person hearings where possible in recent months.
Pay and holidays
There will be an extra public holiday in 2022 (Friday 3 June) to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and the late May bank holiday has been moved to Thursday 2 June to make a four-day weekend.
We expect judgment in two holiday pay calculation cases in 2022:
Harpur v Brazel – concerns holiday pay for a casual worker who was under contract all year round but worked in term time only. The judgment could potentially clarify various holiday pay rights including the practice of paying a holiday pay supplement for casual workers.
Smith v Pimlico Plumbers - concerns the extent of an employer’s liability for holiday backpay in circumstances where the individual was treated as self-employed but was subsequently found to be a worker with entitlement to paid holidays.
EU member states are almost all late in implementing the EU whistleblowing directive, so most will be doing so throughout 2022. The directive does not apply to the UK but looks set to influence best practice here. Its key feature is the requirement to provide feedback to whistleblowers within certain specified timescales.
Modern Slavery Act
At a time of growing interest in supply chain governance, reforms strengthening the Modern Slavery Act are expected in the coming year. In scope of the current reporting requirements, companies may need to pay even closer attention to their anti-slavery statements as a result.
The equal pay claims brought by store workers at Asda, Tesco, Morrisons and other large retailers continue to progress through the courts. Rulings up to this point have confirmed that female store workers can compare themselves to male distribution depot workers. Subject to any further challenges on that issue, the courts will now focus on whether the relevant types of work are of equal value and, if so, whether paying different rates for them is justified.
It is not expected that these cases will conclude in 2022 but we may see further rulings as they make their journey.
As ever if you would like to discuss these or any other employment law issues and the implications for your business and workplace, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. Here’s hoping that 2022 is a much better and brighter year for everyone.