Happy new year to all our readers.
There’s very little new legislation on the statute book and, on the face of it, 2022 looks to be a relatively quiet year in terms of confirmed employment law changes. But that could change: the Omicron variant is ripping through the country and new infections are getting close to 200,000 every day. It's therefore possible that the PM will impose new restrictions to protect the public and public services.
Plus, the government has been promising to publish a new Employment Bill since January 2020. It’s recently announced a number of consultations which suggests that it may start to push ahead with its manifesto commitment to ‘protect and enhance’ worker rights.
Extra bank holiday
To celebrate the Queen's platinum jubilee, there is an additional bank holiday in 2022. The May bank holiday weekend will be moved to Thursday 2 June and an additional bank holiday on Friday 3 June will give many people the opportunity to take a four-day weekend. Most schools and colleges have their half-term break during the week commencing Monday 30 May and many of their staff will already be off work.
To help you to understand the legal issues, we've written a detailed blog which answers a number of FAQ's about the extra bank holiday and will help you to navigate this, surprisingly difficult, issue .
National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage
There are some hefty wage increases you may need to factor in. From 1 April 2022, the National Living Wage, paid to workers aged 23 and over, will increase by 59 pence to £9.50.
The National Minimum Wage rates will also increase as follows:
• Those aged 21-22 will receive £9.18 per hour – an increase of 82 pence
• Those aged 18 - 20 will receive £6.83 – an increase of 27 pence
• Those aged 16-17 will receive £4.81 – an increase of 19 pence
• Apprentices under the age of 19 or in their first year will receive £4.81 – an increase of 51 pence
Increase in National Insurance contributions
National Insurance contributions for employers and employees will rise by1.25% from 6 April 2022. The increase will fund health and social care and will be replaced in April 2023 by a separate health and social care levy (and NIC rates will revert to current levels at that point).
Increases to the statutory rates for maternity, paternity, shared parental pay, adoption and sick pay
Weekly rates for family related leave will increase by £4.69 pence to £156.66 from 11 April 2022 and the rate for Statutory Sick Pay will increase by £3.00 to £99.35 per week from 6 April 2022.
Increases in statutory payments and tribunal awards
The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissals taking effect from 6 April 2021 is expected to increase from its current rate of £89,493 However, the amount of increase has not yet been announced.
A week’s pay (used to calculate statutory redundancy payments and the basic award in unfair dismissal claims) is also expected to increase will also increase from its current rate of £544 (gross) but the amount of increase has not been announced yet.
Gender pay gap reporting
Since 2017, schools and colleges with 250 or more employees must publish an annual report containing data on their gender pay gap. Due to the pandemic, enforcement of the reporting deadline in 2021 was extended by six months to 5 October 2021.
In 2022, deadlines are expected to revert to the normal timescales which means that for public sector employers, the deadline is 30 March 2022 with a snapshot date of 31 March 2021
Trade unions – imposition of financial penalties
The Certification Officer will be able to impose financial penalties of up to £20,000 on trade unions if they fail to comply with certain statutory requirements. These include: failing to ensure senior positions are not held by someone with a criminal record; breaching requirements for elections to senior positions and mismanaging political funds.
Draft regulations were produced and the government has said that they will come into force in April 2022.
Duty to prevent workplace sexual harassment
The government has said that it will introduce a duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in their workplaces and will reintroduce protection for employees who are sexually harassed by clients and customers.
This could include:
- Amending the flexible working rules so that employees can ask to a change their working hours or the days on which they work from the first day of their employment and requiring businesses to consider alternatives before turning down a request. It is also considering reducing the three month time limit employers currently have to respond.
- Introducing a right for employees with long-term caring responsibilities to take up to one week’s unpaid leave each year which can be taken in a block or as individual days or half days;
- Introducing a new right to allow parents of sick and premature babies to take one week of leave and state-funded pay when their baby is in hospital;
- Giving new parents at risk of being made redundant the right to be offered suitable alternative employment ahead of other members of staff for an additional six month period after they return to work;
- Giving all workers the right to request a more predictable contract. This proposal was aimed at protecting people in insecure work, particularly in respect of casual staff engaged on zero hours contracts who often don't know week to week what hours they will be offered;
- Establishing a new single enforcement agency to ensure that workers understand their legal rights and help to enforce them.
The government intends to introduce a quicker, simplified service for compliant ‘straightforward’ sponsors. The Home Office will be reviewing licence renewal patterns which means that certain sponsors won’t have to renew their sponsorship licence every four years.
The government will also introduce a new Global Mobility visa in spring 2022 to help overseas firms transfer staff to the UK.
Recognition of qualifications acquired from outside the UK
The government will create a new framework for recognising the qualifications of professionals from overseas and will improve the transparency around the entry and practice requirements of regulated professions, including teaching.
Trade unions – check off provisions
Public authorities will be subject to restrictions in respect of deducting union subscriptions from wages.
There's no update and it remains to be seen whether the government will move forward with this.
Repayment of public sector exit payments
Qualifying individuals will be obliged to notify their new and previous employer where they propose to return to any part of the public sector (as an employee, self employed contractor or office holder) after they have received a public sector exit payment within the previous 12 months.
Draft regulations were produced and a consultation ran until January 2016 but there's been no further updates since then.
Want to know more?
We want senior leaders and HR professionals to get up to speed as quickly as possible with changes to employment law and are hosting a series of free webinars in January and February on various dates.
Please use these links to sign up:
Wednesday 19 January 2022: 9:30am - 10:30am http://events.irwinmitchell.com/employment2022north
Thursday 27 January 2022: 9:30am - 10:30am http://events.irwinmitchell.com/employment2022birmingham
Tuesday 8 February 2022: 9:30am - 10:30am http://events.irwinmitchell.com/employment2022south
Our fixed price employment law service
If you are interested in finding out about how we can support you with our fixed-fee annual retainer, or flexible discounted bank of hours service, please contact Gareth Finney.