Vaccines and boosters
All eligible adults in the UK will be offered their booster vaccination before the end of January 2022. This means in the early new year HR can expect requests from staff to take time off to get their booster. There may also be an increase in short-term sickness absence following the jab, so this is something to plan and prepare for.
Employers may also require staff to provide their COVID status for the purpose of their health and safety obligations. Such requirements will likely differ between sectors.
Currently in the UK, vaccinations are not mandatory, except for care home staff. However, from 1 April 2022, all staff who work in health and social care settings, including the NHS, must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to continue working.
It is currently unclear whether “fully vaccinated” means two doses only, or includes the booster too.
What to expect in 2022:
Originally referenced in the Queen’s speech in 2019, the introduction of the Employment Bill has been significantly delayed. When enacted, which may be in 2022, it is anticipated to include the following:
- Unpaid carer leave: Unpaid carers may be granted the new right of an additional unpaid week of leave each year.
- Enhanced redundancy protection for new mothers: Currently, if a woman on maternity leave is selected for redundancy, she has enhanced rights to be offered suitable alternative employment without competitive interview. This protection is expected to be extended for six months after returning from maternity leave, to tackle discrimination relating to redundancy decisions for those on or returning from maternity leave.
- Neonatal leave and pay: The government intends to implement a right for new parents to take an additional week of leave for every week their baby is in neonatal care (up to a maximum of 12 weeks). It is anticipated that the right to leave will be available to all employees from day one of employment but there will be a qualifying period of 26 weeks’ service to receive statutory neonatal pay.
- New legislation on tipping practices: New legislation to ensure that tips in the hospitality sector are distributed without deduction by employers. This follows a government consultation which uncovered that a significant number of employers were retaining tips and not passing them on to staff, particularly those that were paid on card. Workers will have the right to make a claim to the employment tribunal in respect of unpaid/improperly paid tips and will also be able to request information from employers on their tipping records. Employers could face fines as well as orders to compensate workers in respect of any breaches.
- A new right to request a more predictable and stable contract: Individuals on zero-hour contracts may be granted the right to request a more “predictable” contract after 26 weeks service in a bid to address the uncertainty for those working in the gig economy.
- There may also be legislation to enhance the right to request flexible working and protection against firing and re-hiring.
Reforms are also expected this year to tackle sexual harassment in the workplace, which could include limiting the use of non-disclosure agreements in employment settings.
April 2022 changes
From 1 April 2022 the following increases to National Minimum Wage will apply:
- From £8.91 to £9.50 for those aged 23 and over
- From £8.36 to £9.18 for those aged 21-22
- From £6.56 to £6.83 for those aged 18-20
- From £4.62 to £4.81 for under 18s
- From £4.30 to £4.81 for apprentices who are in their first year or who are under 19
- Family Pay: The rate of pay for maternity, paternity, shared parental, adoption and parental bereavement pay will increase from £151.97 per week to £156.66 per week from 3 April 2022
- Sick Pay: The rate of statutory sick pay will increase from £96.35 per week to £99.35 per week from 6 April 2022
It is likely that the weekly salary cap that is used to calculate rates for statutory redundancy pay and basic awards in employment tribunal claims will increase in April 2022, but this will be announced closer to the time.
2022 is likely to be a busy year for HR professionals and, as ever, keeping an eye on the changes, planning ahead and seeking advice early will be critical to ensure you are not caught off guard.
Georgia Roberts is an associate in the Employment Team at law firm Kingsley Napley