Employment law in 2022: Eight action points for HR
As well as continuing to deal with workplace issues caused by the coronavirus pandemic, there will be many other important employment law developments for HR to grapple with in 2022. What does HR need to do to meet its obligations and prepare for the coming year?
All year round: encourage vaccination against Covid-19
Encouraging employees to be vaccinated, including encouraging booster take-up among the workforce, continues to be a reasonable step that employers can take to reduce the risk to employees' health.
Employers can remind their workforce of the importance of getting their booster jab. They can also continue to urge employees who have not already had their original doses to book their vaccination appointments (unless they have a medical reason not to have done so).
While any employer can encourage vaccination, forthcoming legislation makes this task more urgent for employers in health and social care.
30 March/4 April: publish your gender pay gap report
Organisations have 12 months to publish their gender pay gap figures from the relevant snapshot date (31 March for the public sector and 5 April for the private and voluntary sectors).
This means that the next gender pay gap reporting deadline is 30 March 2022 for public-sector employers and 4 April 2022 for private-sector and voluntary-sector employers.
Organisations must publish reports on their website and on the gender pay gap reporting portal on the GOV.UK website.
Employers can choose to provide a narrative around any gender pay gap, including providing an explanation for their pay gap and setting out what steps they are taking to reduce the gap.
1 April: comply with national minimum wage increases
The rates for the national minimum wage will increase on 1 April 2022. The hourly rate of the minimum wage will increase from:
- £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 check their pay rates against the forthcoming minimum wage rates and ensure that, where necessary, they increase remuneration for the first pay reference period beginning on or after 1 April 2022.
3/6 April: increase statutory family-related pay and sick pay
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.
The rate for statutory sick pay will also rise on 6 April 2022. The new rate will be £99.35, up from £96.35.
It is up to HR to make sure that staff on maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental and parental bereavement leave, and staff on sick leave, are paid these statutory minimum rates.
HR professionals also need to review their policies and documents that mention the rates, such as their maternity policies and sickness absence procedures.
6 April: keep track of temporary right-to-work checks guidance
From 30 March 2020, temporary guidance on right-to-work checks has been in place to allow employers to conduct checks without seeing the individual face to face. Checks can be carried out via video and scanned or photo versions of the original required documents can be used.
Employers have a defence against a civil penalty if they complete a right-to-work check in accordance with the temporary adjustments. As long as employers followed the temporary guidance, they are not expected to carry out face-to-face checks retrospectively.
However, these temporary measures are due to last only until 5 April 2022. Employers should look out for new guidance on right-to-work checks that will apply from 6 April 2022 (although it is possible that the temporary guidance will be extended).
Note (added 28 February 2022): The Government has confirmed that these temporary measures have now been extended to 30 September 2022. See Immigration rules and right to work for more information.
6 April: update your statutory redundancy pay calculations
New limits on employment statutory redundancy pay will come into force on 6 April 2022.
Employers that dismiss employees for redundancy must pay those with two years' service an amount based on the employee's weekly pay, length of service and age.
The weekly pay is subject to a maximum amount (£544 from 6 April 2021). The new amount will be confirmed in the draft Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2022, which should be published some time in February.
HR professionals should ensure that calculations for statutory redundancy payments are made on the basis of this new maximum amount for redundancy dismissals on or after 6 April 2022.
Note (added 28 February 2022): The Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order 2022 sets the maximum amount of weekly pay at £571 for redundancy dismissals on or after 6 April 2022.
2/3 June: manage bank holiday entitlement during platinum jubilee
The government has announced an additional bank holiday in 2022 (Friday 3 June), to celebrate the Queen's platinum jubilee. In addition, the late May bank holiday has been moved to Thursday 2 June.
This means that employers face the unusual situation of there being two back-to-back bank holidays in June 2022.
Employers need to look at how they will approach the additional bank holiday. This will be determined to some extent by the wording in employees' contracts of employment. For example, where the contract entitles employees to take leave on "all bank and public holidays", the employer will be required to grant the extra day as leave.
Even if the employer is not contractually obliged to grant the extra day as leave, it may choose to do so as a goodwill gesture to employees (for example in reward of their hard work during the pandemic).
Employers need to plan well in advance for potential staffing issues. They may need extra staff if their business will be particularly busy on those days and they may see a spike in requests for annual leave around this time.
All year round: look out for other changes on the horizon
Other employment law developments that the government has previously announced but not yet set out a timetable for include:
- changes to the right to request flexible working procedure
- the introduction of statutory carers' leave
- the introduction of neonatal leave and pay
- extended redundancy protections during pregnancy and maternity leave
- reforms to the requirement to produce modern slavery statements
- reforms to sexual harassment laws
- amendments to the rules on settlement agreements
- new provisions to give workers the right to request a more predictable and stable contractual working pattern, and
- new rules to ensure that tips are passed to workers in full.
When it comes to the legislative timetable for these employment law changes, much will depend on the progress that the government makes in bringing forward its long-awaited Employment Bill.