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Employment Law Changes in 2022

There are a number of employment law changes in 2022 which employers need to consider.

employment law changes 2022

National Minimum Wage Increase

From 1 April 2022 the national minimum wage hourly rates increase to:

  • £8.91 to £9.50 for workers aged 23 and over (the national living wage)
  • £8.36 to £9.18 for workers aged 21 or 22
  • £6.56 to £6.83 for workers aged 18 to 20
  • £4.62 to £4.81 for workers aged under 18 who are no longer of compulsory school age, and
  • £4.30 to £4.81 for apprentices under 19, or over 19 and in the first year of the apprenticeship.

Employers should write to employees to confirm the change.

Increase in Family Friendly Rates

From 3 April 2022 the rate of statutory maternity, adoption, paternity, shared parental and parental bereavement pay will increase to £156.66, up from £151.97. The increase normally takes effect on the first Sunday in April, which in 2022 is 3 April.

Increase in Statutory Sick Pay

The rate for statutory sick pay will also rise on 6 April 2022. The new rate will be £99.35, up from £96.35.

Increase in Redundancy Pay Rates

From 6 April 2022 the maximum weekly statutory redundancy payment rate rises to £544 per week. This rate applies to employees with at least two years service.

Right to Work Checks

From 6 April 2022 employers will have to undertake right to work checks on a face to face basis. Currently checks may be carried out remotely and were introduced so that UK based employers could recruit employees more easily from overseas.

Increase in bank holiday entitlement

To celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee an additional bank holiday is being awarded on Friday 3 June 2022. The late May bank holiday is being moved to 2 June.

Depending on the wording of the employment contract an employer may contractually not be obliged to provide employees with the extra bank holiday. However, they may consider doing so as a goodwill gesture and to ensur morale.

There are other possible changes on the horizon which the government is proposing to introduce. These may take place in 2022.

Extension to redundancy provisions

In order to prevent pregnancy/maternity discrimination in redundancy the government intends to extend the protection a woman receives on return from maternity leave for up to six months whereby they are automatically offered a vacant position to prevent redundancy. However, the woman must have the skills to undertake the role. They currently do have a right to be offered a vacant role if they have the skills if redundancy to avoid redundancy whilst on maternity leave.

Extended leave for neonatal care

Following consultation the government published a response in March 2020 confirming that parents of babies that are admitted into hospital as a neonate (28 days old or fewer) will be eligible for neonatal leave and pay if the admission lasts for a continuous period of seven days or more. They will be entitled to this from day one of their employment and up to a maximum of 12 weeks. More details will need to be published.

Carers Leave

Carers will be given the right to one weeks unpaid leave. The details have yet to be published.

Flexible Working

The government is proposing to introduce flexible working as the default setting unless an employer can justify otherwise. The details have yet to be published.

Sexual Harassment

A new duty will be placed on employers to prevent sexual harassment and third party harassment. The details have yet to be published.

The New COVID variant Omicron – what’s an Employer to do?

In recent weeks a new variant of COVID has begun to emerge. The race is on to get everyone jabbed and issued with a booster in order to try and stop the spread of the new COVID variant, Omicron, as well as previous versions of COVID. A few days ago WHO gave an update on Omicron https://www.who.int/news/item/28-11-2021-update-on-omicron

The New COVID Variant Omicron

From Tuesday 30 November 2021 face coverings are once again mandatory in shops and on public transport. This is to try and halt the spread of the virus. It seems however that certain shops are not going to enforce the rule – namely the Coop – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-59481287, Tesco and Lidl as they do not see it is their role as a law enforcer. Face coverings must also be worn by students in year 7 and above along with staff in communal areas unless they are exempt.

Countries are once again being put on the red list. Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola were added to the red travel list, which now already includes South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia.

Anyone travelling internationally will need to take a PCR test on or before day two after their return to the UK, including those who are fully vaccinated. They must self-isolate until they have a negative test result. Lateral flow tests will not be accepted as an alternative.

Anyone who is a contact of a person who has tested positive with a suspected case of the Omicron is required to self-isolate for ten days. This includes those who are fully vaccinated.

More information can be found here : https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

The government is throwing everything at the situation to ensure everyone can have a third jab and all adults will have been offered one by the end of January 2022.

Actions for Employers With the New COVID Variant

Employers need to consider health and safety as under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers are required to take all reasonably practicable steps to reduce workplace risks and employees have a legal duty to co-operate. A review of health and safety obligations should be undertaken by carrying out risk assessments to try and reduce the spread of the virus. Staff and visitors should be reminded to be vigilant and their obligations too.

Employees may need to be encouraged to work from home where possible building on emerging hybrid working practices. For those employees who can not work at home face coverings should be required and PPE provided where necessary. At the moment working from home is not being enforced by the government however it might be prudent for employers to issue guidance on the matter to the their employees. Support for staff both psychologically and physically should be also offered.

International travel for business purposes may have to be curtailed especially where a country is on the red list.

Sadly it seems that the new variant may affect 2021 Christmas parties. Usually a time to have fun for some employees now it may be causing anxiety. Many pubs and restaurants are suffering from cancellations in the wake of the emerging news. Once again the hospitality industry could be be hit hard and will impact on staff. It seems the big company party is off and employers are choosing to hold much smaller events – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-59492569

The cases of Omicron are gradually increasing it seems. It is not known how quickly the virus will spread or how serious its impact will be. Even if someone who has been double vaccinated can get the Omnicron virus and transmit it. Testing and self isolation should be firmly encouraged.

The message should continue to be “stay safe”.

The Office Christmas Party – Tips to Ensure Good Conduct

christmas_party
Office Xmas Party

The TV is full of Christmas adverts so the Christmas season is fast approaching along with the anticipation of the associated festivities.  Many companies like to put on a Christmas party for their hard working staff, but with that there comes responsibilities on both sides.   2021 is especially sensitive due to COVID restrictions.

Christmas parties generally have a positive impact on moral and team spirit and it an opportunity for an employer to thank employees for all their hard work. However the boundaries need to be set by the employer to avoid any future problems. UK legislation is clear, the office party is an extension of the normal work environment if is held at a separate venue or outside of working hours. Employers can be held responsible for employee actions so need to avoid discrimination and health and safety claims so need to have procedures in place.     Companies need to make sure they make it clear to staff what is and what is not acceptable behaviour at social events and follow up any failure to comply with this order with disciplinary action.   Employers may be liable for the discriminatory behaviour of their employees and ultimately face significant tribunal claims if they are found vicariously liable. Employees can be disciplined for any breaches of disciplinary rules, including dismissal for gross misconduct, following unacceptable behaviour at the Christmas party. Therefore, having clear HR procedures in place that are well communicated with training provided are essential.  

Companies need to ensure managers are careful not to let their guard down being sociable or allowing alcohol to loosen their tongue and discussing issues such as promotions or pay rises in the informal setting of the Christmas party.   It is important to carry out a risk assessment of the Christmas party venue, considering any particular risks posed to any disabled employees.   It might be a good idea to limit the free bar, if one is planned and, in any case, encourage responsible drinking.  Companies may be liable for the welfare of employees if they suffer alcohol-induced accidents. Consider organising transport home with designated non-drinkers as drivers or paid for coaches/mini buses.  

If there is a ‘Secret Santa’ taking place, make sure staff know the boundaries confirming that racist or adult gifts, which might offend, are not acceptable.   A decision needs to be taken to what extent employers will be lenient with staff on the day after the party, if it is a working day, provide clear information on employee requirements beforehand. Health and safety should be of utmost importance. Employees should not be expected to operate machinery if not fit to do so. Also the safety of employees driving to work after having had transport home the night before should be considered.   Take these reasonable steps to prevent inappropriate behaviour then employees must take their own responsibility for their actions.   In any case it might be a good idea to produce guidelines for employee behaviour at the company party.    

ACAS provides some extra guidance on this subject – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/acas-christmas-parties-andrew-hennessy/

Hopefully nothing untoward or serious will happen and all employees will have a good time.

The Problem with Second Jobs

A row has recently erupted in Parliament regarding MP’s second jobs –https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-59206904s. It seems many MPs have secondary employment in addition to their main employment of representing their constituents.  This means they are paid by an another employer in addition to receiving their MP salary. This could be either paid employment or self employment.

Potentially having a second job may conflict with the role they are paid to do for the government .  It would seem due process in in place to declare this to their main employer however that information is not readily available to members of the public https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/nov/14/mps-keep-second-job-details-secret-for-years

It is important for employers to find out if their employees have secondary employment.  This is to ensure that having another job will not impact on their main employment.  An employee’s responsibility should be to their main employer where their time and attention is dedicated that role for which they receive a salary.  Having a second job may impact on performance and would not be acceptable.  An employer is within their rights to ban secondary employment and this should be declared in an employment contract and staff handbook.

It is important that an employee does not contravene working time legislation which is in place to ensure health and safety.   Working too many hours can impact on health and may lead to sickness absence.  This would add inacceptable costs to a company and would impact on efficiency.

Another problem is the impact on data protection and commercially sensitive information. It is important to include clauses in an employment contract to ensure a company’s assets are protected.

Finding out if an employee has secondary employment is important.  A question about this matter could be asked on an application form or if CVs are used at interview.  A clause should be built into an employment contract so that an employee is required to seek written permission to undertake secondary employment.  In addition consideration should be made to including a secondary employment policy in a staff handbook.  Should an employee ignore the clause in an employment contract and later it is found that they have secondary employment that has impacted on their main role then it is possible to instigate a disciplinary process.

Prisoner and Offender Employment – Fill the Skills Gap

It seems the skills gap faced in the UK could be solved by prisoner or ex-offender employment.  Meat industry representatives have been meeting with the government to seek ways to develop the ability to fill their vacancies.   This is demonstrating a really positive “thinking outside the box” mentality.  Most industries in the UK are facing a huge skills gap – hospitality, transport, fruit and vegetable growers and now the food industry.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-58303679

Covid and Brexit have had a huge impact on the UK’s job market.  The UK prisons contain a huge labour market that potentially could be used to benefit the country and keep prisoners and ex-offenders fully utilised in the employment market.  They can be well behaved, hardworking and willing to learn, receptive to the idea of developing new skills for their own benefit.  Many ex-offender are keen to avoid ending up back in prison so being taught new skills that can give them paid employment and an income is highly beneficial.  Some employers will have to overcome the over-riding negative perception that may exist in employing individuals who have been sentenced for committing a crime.  Statistics show that only 17% of ex-offenders are in paid employment after one year of being released. 

Bernard Matthews in Norfolk has long realised the benefits and formed links with HMP Norwich to recruit and employ ex-prisoners.  Other big businesses are cottoning on such as Greene King who are aiming to employ 50 offenders within a year to overcome the hospitality skills shortage.   Other companies include Barclays, Boots, Amey and Carpetright, Kier and Lloyds Bank. 

Prison has a strong rehabilitation focus aiming to benefit prisoners to be integrated back into society on release.  Training and development is quite key to this aim. 

The New Futures Network is a specialist part of the prison service that brokers partnerships between prisons and employers.  There are various different schemes available that employ serving prisoners, those on release of temporary licence and employment on release.  Over 400 business in the UK are benefitting and tapping into this talent pool. 

Apart from reducing the skills gap there are some key benefits for employers:

  • Reducing recruitment and advertising costs.  A vacancy can cost one and a half times the salary of a role to recruit to. 
  • Diversity, inclusion and social responsibility.  Hiring ex-offenders can increase a company’s diversity.   Many prisoners want to turn their back on crime and contribute to society.
  • Reducing staff absence.  Although having a worry that ex-offenders are not trustworthy research has shown that the opposite is true with over 80% are rated as reliable, motivated and perform well.
  • Increase staff retention. Marks and Spencer have shown that the ex-offenders they have employed aim to keep the job they have been able to secure. 

Whilst certain types of offending may not be suitable for a particular role or business this should not stop a company from considering the wealth of labour that is available.  Often a conviction has no relevance to a job that is on offer so companies should look at their recruitment policies being mindful to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974.  With this law after a while convictions may be spent and should not impact on employment.  Being spent means that the individual may act as though they had not been convicted after a certain length of time depending on the crime.  However, certain convictions may never be spent

With certain roles employers may have to make use of the Disclosure and Barring Scheme basic or enhanced certificate and applicants have to declare their convictions.   More information can be found on https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/new-guidance-on-the-rehabilitation-of-offenders-act-1974

Companies interested in employing prisoners may register on the Ministry of Justice website https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/TEAEB/  It makes good business sense.

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Employers – How to Manage the End of Furlough

With the end of the government making payments towards furlough terminating at the end of September 2021 it is important for businesses to make preparation for the end of furlough. Employers have the options of allowing employees to return to work on the same or different employment terms or making them redundant.

With returning to work there may be several options available. Many businesses have already begun to operate hybrid working which is a combination of office and home working. This is a practice which began during the lockdown period. This may, of course, only apply to businesses that do not require staff to be on site during working hours or businesses which have got rid of offices during the pandemic to save on costs. When considering hybrid working the business needs to be clear about this offering – such as specifying when staff can work at home or need to be in the office ranging from one to four days as applicable.

Issues such as flexi working, performance management and health and safety all need to be considered. Some employees may be struggling due to the lack of structure caused by enforced home working as after all for some it may take some getting used to. These employees may miss the physical presence of their work colleagues so finding ways to overcome this and encourage motivation is really important. Video conferencing software may allow a suitable alternative to have team or 1:1 meetings. Indeed this can help with performance management processes so that a manager and an employee may have meetings as though both were working in the office environment.

It is important to have a well communicated hybrid working policy in place and ensure that issues such as health and safety and performance management are incorporated. The hybrid working policy should outline how things will work such as how to request hybrid working and the procedure, the use of equipment, support and training. The policy should set limits as hybrid working may not be suitable for all roles. ACAS has produced some useful information on hybrid working https://www.acas.org.uk/hybrid-working

Changes to the employee’s employment contract will be needed should hybrid working be agreed.

For those businesses that have continued to furlough staff it is important to have a return to work plan in place with good communication at the heart of this. Staff need to be given written notice with clear instructions as to what will happen with pay and working arrangements. Employers should be prepared to discuss concerns which may be about more than just mental health and well being and ensure that staff can provide proof of a negative COVID test to ensure they are safe to return. It may be necessary to promote the importance of health and safety and any changes to the business. To avoid the unnecessary build up accrued annual leave and associated work cover many employers should have ensured furloughed staff have taken their entitlement If not employees are only entitled to carry over twenty days leave from a previous annual leave year.

Mental health and wellbeing are important so businesses need to consider how they will support employees. Some employees may struggle to return to work. Initiatives such as implementing an Employee Assistance Programme which incorporates a counselling helpline as well as having an occupational health advisor to consult with regarding any sickness absence and disability issues can help. Line managers are also key to offering support and should be aware of this responsibility.

For some employees there may be a requirement to consider reduced working hours at the end of furlough. This would require consultation and agreement.

For businesses unable to offer any work as the end of furlough approaches will have to consider a redundancy process following the due legal procedure.

A Guide to Furlough Leave

To assist employers during the current Coronavirus pandemic the government has introduced furlough leave. This will allow employers to retain valued employees whereas they would otherwise need to be made redundant due to the current downturn in the economy. It is otherwise known as the Coronavirus job retention scheme. Furlough leave will help employers during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The goverment will provide a grant whereby employees may receive 80% of their pay for a three month period paying up to £2500 per month. Employees are therefore kept on the payroll. As it stands the money may not be available until June while the government sorts out the finer details. Employers may choose to top up furlough pay to an employee’s full salary or Universal Credit may be available.

An employee working at reduced hours and pay will not be entitled to furlough. Furlough pay can not be received if an employee is working.

During furlough leave, as with lay offs, annual leave accrues. A press release announced today states that twenty days leave may be carried over into a new annual leave year and employees may have up to two years to take it.

An employer must designate employees to be placed on furlough leave. The employees should be notified of this in writing and agree to that if there is not an appropriate clause in their employment contract. The employer then liaises with HMRC for reimbursement.

Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act

In April 2020 the government is to introduce parental bereavement leave which will allow the parent, carer, foster parent, adopter or guardian of a deceased child under the age of 18 to be given two weeks paid bereavement leave. The parent of a baby having been stillborn up to 24 weeks will also be able to benefit from this paid leave under the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act. This is the most generous entitlement to bereavement leave in the world.

Employees will receive a statutory payment which employers can claim back. Leave can be taken in one block or two depending on an employee’s requirement in the 56 week window following the death. Prior notice need not be given. There would not be a need to provide a copy of the death certificate to the employer.

In advance of the law being implemented employers need to draft a policy so that employees know what is available in their workplace should such a tragedy occur. Employers may adhere to the statutory minimum, but may of course enhance the entitlement.

Pet Death and the Workplace

I was recently contacted by BBC Radio Northampton to see if I would speak on the radio about what happens when an employee’s pet has died. Whilst most employers have a policy in place for compassionate and bereavement leave for a family member, there is rarely a policy in place that tackles the issue of pet death.

The British are well known for being animal lovers. More and more dogs can be brought to work with the permission of the boss – it saves on doggie day care or the risk of damage at home caused by separation anxiety and can dramatically improve morale having their companion at their side all day. It is a well known fact that having a dog around for example can lift people’s spirits and relieve stress. Pets can be integral to our lives.

For many people their animals mean the world to them when they are alive and when death occurs it can be like losing a member of the family with all the heartache and grief which that brings.

To some employees the idea of having time off for a pet death might not seem important, but other may want to take some time out. It can be a tough time for some with feelings of loneliness, guilt, isolation and depression impacting on mental and physical health. Work can suffer and it might be difficult to concentrate. Colleagues need to be seen to be supportive even if some can’t understand emotions they might be witnessing. We are all different in how we cope with things.

There is no right to time off for the death of a family member let alone a pet death but having some empathy can go a long way to increasing morale. I once worked for an employer who allowed a senior manager to have a few days off with pay to mourn the death of a dog. A forward thinking employer might decide it would be a good idea to draw up a pet death policy to make it clear to staff what to expect and where they stand. Having a policy in place shows an employer cares. The policy should include how many days bereavement leave is allowed and what pets might be covered. Losing a dog or cat that may have been with the family for many years may be quite different to losing a pet goldfish. The policy should include details about what pay may be received.

Details of where employees could get help with their grief could be included. Currently Blue Cross offer a pet bereavement service with a daily twelve hour helpline. The Cats Protection Society offer Paws to Listen as they recognise impact of a cat death is often underestimated. The Friends at the End service is provided by the British Horse Society. They all offer pet-focused counselling type helplines allowing a grieving pet owner to talk about their loss with someone who understands. Alternatively a company may have an employee assistance programme available for employees to access.


When the employee returns to work it might be good to encourage them to talk about their loss before moving onto what they have missed whilst being away.

For more about pets at work read my blog http://sjbealehrconsult.co.uk/blog/pets-at-work-considerations-for-employers/

IR35 – Contractor Tax Rules

IR35 is designed to assess if a contractor is self employed or really an employee trying to hide from paying the full appropriate amount of tax owed. Legislation for IR35 was introduced in April 2000 to prevent tax avoidance. Many people seem to think it is very complicated but there a few basic rules to stick to that may avoid problems, however, there is no guarantee with HMRC. Any contractor subject to a tax investigation may face months of intrusion whilst their accounts paperwork is sifted through and examined.

The principles of IR35 that determine if you are a genuine contractor or a “hidden” employee are based on control, substitution and mutuality of obligation.

Control means just that. If the company taking on the contractor dictates quite clearly how the contractor must work in terms of hours, duties, venue, etc then it the contractor could be deemed to be an employee. If there is flexibility for the contractor to work as they please using their own equipment then they may be able to show they are not an employee and outside of IR35.

Substitution also means just that. If the contractor has the ability to substitute another contractor in their place at any time then IR35 may apply to the working relationship.

Mutuality of obligation means that although the company may offer work the contractor has the ability to turn it down. The company also does not have to offer any work. With such a relationship IR35 may not apply.

A contractor working outside of IR35 will take the financial risk of not getting paid. They should be invoicing the company and dealing with their own tax and national insurance. They should be able to work for any number of companies and not working exclusively for just one company.

With any working relationship it is important to have an agreement in place that includes the above clauses.

In April 2017 the public sector was expected to identify which contractors in their employer were inside or outside of IR35 and issue the appropriate documentation ie an employment contract or a sub contractor agreement. The onus was on the public sector bodies to do this and ensure the tax set up was correct. Many public sector bodies will only accept contractors working through an umbrella company who take care of the tax obligations. Umbrella companies and agencies providing contractors to public bodies could also be liable if IR35 is not managed correctly.

In April 2020 this obligation will be introduced for the private sector.

For a contractor it may be about risk assessment. Whilst the onus is on employers to get this right sometimes things can go wrong so it’s important for a contractor to take responsibility for their own tax affairs, as always, and aim to get this right. Contractors that get it wrong could end up paying the tax owed plus penalties and interest.