2022 is set to be another unpredictable year for UK employment law as COVID-19 measures continue. In this article, employment partner Emma Clark and trainee solicitor Imogen Dale outline the most important updates to employment law to look out for, along with their predictions of changes for the year ahead.
April dates for your diary
- The National Living Wage will increase on 1 April 2022 to £9.50.
- Statutory family leave payments – the rate of statutory maternity pay, paternity pay, adoption pay, shared parental leave and parental bereavement pay increases to £156.66 per week from 3 April 2022.
- The financial award for compensation for unfair dismissal (currently £89,493 or 52 weeks’ salary, whichever is lower) has not yet been announced, but is due to increase in April.
- Statutory sick pay will increase from £96.35 to £99.35.
The Employment Bill
The Employment Bill, containing a wide-ranging suite of rights for workers, was initially announced in the Queen’s Speech in 2019. Its progress through Parliament was put on hold during the pandemic. It is likely to be published in 2022, though no deadlines have yet been announced.
The current proposals to be set out in the Bill include:
- Unpaid carer’s leave of 1 week (to be taken as a block or in individual days);
- Changes to flexible working rights – possibly the right to request (but not necessarily be awarded) flexible working from day 1 of employment and changes to the eight business grounds for rejecting such request;
- Extension of the priority entitlement for alternative employment during a redundancy situation (which exists for those on maternity leave) to pregnant employees and new parents (this bill has its second reading on 22 March 2022);
- Neonatal leave and pay of 12 weeks;
- The right to request a more predictable contract for those with variable hours after 26 weeks’ service;
- The right to retain tips in full; and
- The establishment of a single enforcement body for employment rights.
It is possible that there will be a move towards UK employers requiring employees to be vaccinated this year, following:
- a judicial review which held that the Government’s legal requirement for care workers to be vaccinated is lawful;
- the European Court of Human Rights supporting the Czech Republic’s right to vaccinate children from 9 against childhood diseases; and
- increasing pressure (including from US parent companies) to mandate vaccines in the workforce.
UK employers may also be encouraged to consider how they may require their staff to be vaccinated. Alternatively, employers may begin to withdraw additional benefits from those that are not vaccinated. For instance, Ikea recently announced that it will not pay enhanced sick pay (on top of statutory sick pay) to those who are unvaccinated and need to self-isolate. For further information on compulsory vaccinations, see Emma Clark’s recent article.
Other potential changes
- 2022 may finally see progress on ethnicity pay gap reporting. The long-awaited introduction of a mandatory ethnicity pay gap report will highlight a key, outstanding issue in the workplace following the implementation of the gender pay gap reporting requirement in 2017.
- It is possible that a duty may also be imposed on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. However, due to the Parliamentary process, this may not find its way to the statute book until 2023.
- 2022 may be a crucial year for progress on the topical issue of menopause in the workplace, after consideration of the response to the Women and Equalities Committee’s inquiry. Could we finally see clear protections for menopausal people? Organisations can elect to take voluntary steps towards supporting menopausal staff, such as introducing a menopause policy or educating staff as part of their training programmes. For further information on menopause in the workplace, see Emma Clark’s recent articles:
- Increased hours working from home could cause a decline in both staff engagement and mental wellbeing for many employees. Employers should be alert to an upsurge in mental health issues in their workforce.
Employers can voluntarily progress many of the issues raised above in order to make the workplace a fairer place and assist with recruitment and retention.
Overall, 2022’s employment landscape holds as much uncertainty as its predecessor. The news in relation to mandatory vaccinations for carers and NHS workers was unexpected in January last year, and we expect there to be further extraordinary changes in the year to come.
This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.