One of the results of the pandemic is that many of the employment law changes that were anticipated over the past two years have been delayed or postponed. As we see restrictions start to ease, here we look at Employment Law: Changes to expect in 2022.
Right to request flexible working
A consultation has been published on proposals to extend the existing right to request flexible working from the first day of employment. The consultation makes it clear that while the Government’s ambition is to make flexible working the default position in the workplace, it is not considered practical or desirable to remove the employer’s ability to turn down a request. It will remain a ‘right to request’ on the part of the employee, to initiate a conversation between employer and employee on how to make a flexible working arrangement work.
The consultation closed for responses on 1 December 2021. Any statutory amendments that are confirmed following this consultation will most likely be included in the anticipated Employment Bill (see below).
In December 2019, a new Employment Bill was announced in the Queen’s Speech, but it has yet to be published and it is now thought it will be published sometime in 2022. The measures expected to be included are:
- the right to request a more predictable and stable contract after 26 weeks’ service for those with variable and unpredictable hours (which formed part of the government’s 2018 Good Work Plan)
- Carer’s leave which will consist of one week (up to five working days) of unpaid leave per year for those employees with long-term caring responsibilities, to be taken in full or half days. The leave can be taken to provide care, or arrange care, for a person with a long-term care need, such as an illness or injury or issues relating to old age.
- Neo-natal leave and pay – parents will have the right to take an additional week of leave for every week their baby is in neonatal care, up to a maximum of 12 weeks.
- Extending redundancy protection for women and new parents – protection will apply to pregnant women from the point they notify their employer of their pregnancy until six months after a mother has returned to work and will also apply to those taking adoption and shared parental leave.
Workplace sexual harassment
On 21 July 2021, the government published its response to the consultation on workplace sexual harassment. Considerations are that there should be a duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment and offer new protections from third-party harassment. The Government is also “looking closely” at whether to extend the time limits for bringing any claim under the Equality Act 2010 from the current three months to six months.
Gender pay gap reporting
A new toolkit has been published jointly by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) to support organisations in tackling their gender pay gap.
Since 2017, employers with 250 or more employees have been obligated to publish an annual report containing data on their gender pay gap. Due to the pandemic, enforcement of the reporting deadline this year for both public and private sector organisations was extended by six months to 5 October 2021.
From 11 November this year, all care home workers and anyone else going into a care home have to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 (unless they are exempt). This is as a result of The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021. ACAS has published guidance which lists those to whom the law applies, as well as any exemptions.
On the 9th November 2021, the Health Secretary confirmed from April 2022 Covid-19 vaccinations will become compulsory for frontline NHS workers in England.