The seven key employment law changes expected in 2022 are summarised below:
MANDATORY COVID VACCINATION
Debate on mandatory vaccination for certain professions has been ongoing for some time. The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 require anyone (unless medically exempt) working in a care home to be fully vaccinated, including those simply entering a care home to provide a service.
The government has also confirmed new regulations to ensure providers of CQC-regulated activities can only deploy individuals vaccinated against COVID-19 to roles where they interact with patients. This means that employees working in other health and social care settings, including hospitals and GP practices, will need to be vaccinated. These rules will apply to anyone who has direct, face-to-face contact with patients (agency workers, volunteers, trainees or contracted through another provider). Workers will be required to provide evidence of vaccination before being allowed to undertake work. Exceptions to these rules will be very limited.
SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN THE WORKPLACE
A new duty on employers will be introduced to prevent sexual harassment and will support further protections from third-party harassment in the work environment. There is also a suggestion that the time limit to bring a claim for sexual harassment at work under the Equality Act may be extended from three months to six months, allowing more victims to bring their claims.
Alongside this the government has pledged to increase support to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (the statutory body responsible for enforcing equality legislation) by enabling it to take further action against employers who fail to comply with their current obligations. It is anticipated that a new statutory Code of Practice will be published in the coming year, along with accessible guidance for employers on what they need to do to ensure the safety of their employees.
TIPPING IN THE HOSPITALITY SECTOR
The government is bringing in new laws to make it illegal for employers to withhold tips from workers. The rules are designed so workers retain their tips on a “fair and transparent basis”. Employers will be required to have a written policy on how tips are distributed, and to keep a record of how previously received tips were dealt with. A new statutory Code of Practice covering this is expected to be introduced in 2022, replacing the existing voluntary Code. This could potentially enable around two million people working in the 190,000 business across the hospitality, leisure and services sectors in the UK to retain their tips rather than handing them over to their employers.
NEW EMPLOYMENT BILL
In the two years since the Queen’s Speech announced a restructuring of employment law with a new Employment Bill, the commitment to see it through has been reiterated numerous times. The proposed Bill would contain changes anticipated by the Good Work Plan, which was drafted in December 2018 in response to the 2017 Taylor Review. Three of the most important aspects of the suggested legislation concern flexible working, carer’s leave, and neonatal leave.
Currently employees must have 26 weeks’ service to be eligible to request flexible working. It is expected that this right will be made the default position from ‘day one’ of employment. However, the government has said that it is conscious that employers should always be able to turn down flexible working requests where appropriate, so the new legislation will have to protect this employer right.
According to the government's consultation published in September 2021, legislation will be introduced giving a right to leave for employees with long-term caring responsibilities, consisting of up to five working days of unpaid leave per year. This right would be from ‘day one’ of employment. However, to take the new carer’s leave, it has been suggested that employees will be required to give notice of at least twice the length of the notice requested, plus one day.
This new type of leave would take the form of an additional week away from work for every week that a parent’s baby is in neonatal care (the definition of which is yet to be decided), with a maximum of 12 weeks’ leave being permitted. Employees would be entitled to neonatal leave from day one of employment. Statutory neonatal leave pay would be permitted for those with 26 weeks’ continuous service who earn above the minimum pay threshold.
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