2022 predictions – Employment Law Changes on the Horizon
If 2020 marked the beginning of the pandemic, 2021 was the year it became fully imbedded in our personal and working lives. What does 2022 have in store? For the pandemic, only time will tell, but when it comes to employment law things are a little clearer.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the long-awaited Employment Bill did not progress in 2021. Will it finally make its way through Parliament in 2022?
By way of a reminder, the Bill promises a number of reforms to the employment law regime, including:
- Making flexible working the default position;
- The establishment of a single labour market enforcement agency, responsible for enforcing basic rights for vulnerable workers;
- Requiring employers to pass on all tips and service charges to their workers;
- Extending redundancy protection (i.e. the right to be offered suitable alternative employment) to pregnant employees and for six months after the return from maternity leave, as well as to those taking adoption leave or shared parental leave;
- A new right for carers to take one week of unpaid statutory leave each year;
- A new right for parents to take statutory leave of up to 12 weeks for neonatal care; and
- The right for all workers to request a more predictable and stable contract after 26 weeks’ service.
While no timescales have been committed to, the government has confirmed that the Bill is still on its agenda and, during 2021, it will have launched and/or responded to various consultations on particular aspects of the Bill, such as on establishing a single enforcement body, making flexible working the default and the right to carer’s leave and passing on of tips, so 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. In particular:
- Statutory sick pay (SSP) will be £99.35 per week.
- Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental pay together with maternity allowance will be £156.66 per week.
The increase normally occurs on the first Sunday in April, which would be 3 April 2022.
National Minimum Wage (NMW), National Living Wage (NLW) and National Insurance Contributions (NICs)
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.
However, the government has also announced that NICs will rise by 1.25% for most workers from 6 April 2022, in order to increase funding for the NHS and the social care sector.
Any other business?
Mandatory vaccination – The mandatory Covid-19 vaccination requirement for care home workers (unless exempt) came into effect on 11 November 2021. From April 2022, vaccinations will become mandatory for healthcare professionals with face-to-face contact with patients and service users, again unless they are exempt. However, watch this space - the outcome of a judicial review into the lawfulness of the mandatory vaccination rule for care home workers is currently pending.
Return to full right-to-work checks - As matters currently stand, the Home Office’s adjusted right-to-work checks regime (which has been in place throughout the COVID-19 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. Enforcement of the reporting deadlines was extended in 2021, however in 2022 the deadlines are expected to revert to the normal timescales, i.e.
- 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 awaited. Further guidance is expected in the course of considerations and debates on the Employment Bill.
Sexual harassment in the workplace – On 21 July 2021 the government published its response to the consultation on workplace sexual harassment. 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. It is yet to be confirmed when this new duty will take effect, however draft legislation is anticipated in 2022.
Tribunals – The Tribunals are continuing to work through a considerable backlog of claims. Tribunals initially adopted technology and remote-working during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, however they appear to have moved towards reinstating in-person hearings where possible in recent months. It remains to be seen if that trend will (or can) continue in 2022, in light of the arrival of the COVID-19 variants.
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