Tue 10 May 2022

Employment Law Round Up - May 2022

Our monthly employment law round up.

Employment Bill conspicuous by its absence from Queen's Speech

For the second year in a row the Queen's Speech, which outlines the UK Government's legislative agenda for the year ahead, has failed to mention the Employment Bill ("the Bill").  The Bill had been introduced in the 2019 Queen's Speech following the Conservative Party's success in that year's general election. When first announced the Bill was to include provisions to make flexible working the default as well as introduce new rights including additional redundancy protections for pregnant women and new parents, leave for unpaid carers and parents of premature babies (neonatal leave and pay), a right to request a more predictable contract and rights to ensure workers retained tips in full.  It was also intended to establish a new single enforcement body for employment rights. 

While some of these rights have progressed through consultations during the past 18 months or so, for most, the timescale for implementation has only been given as "when parliamentary time allows".  More recently it has been reported that the right for workers to retain tips is to be dropped indefinitely.  

Unions and industry groups have expressed their disappointment that mention of the Bill has been omitted in the Queen's Speech.  Given many other high profile rights - such as the introduction of a duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment - also have no firm implementation date it does raise questions as to whether we are going to see as much progress with employment related legislation during 2022 as had initially been hoped. 

Flexi-retirement on the increase

A survey by investment firm Abrdn has found that two thirds of would-be retirees are intending to remain if some form of employment to keep up with the rising cost of living.  This is 10% more than in 2021 and nearly twice as many as in 2020. 

30% of large employers planning redundancies

A recent Acas study carried out by YouGov has found that 18% of UK employers are likely to make redundancies in the next 12 months.  That figure goes up to 30% of larger employers (those with more than 250 employees).  There has been a much publicised "great resignation" following the pandemic - this may be slowed if employees start to consider the impact on job security of not having two years continuous service (and therefore protection from unfair dismissal) with new employers.

New industry forum launched to support neurodiverse employees

Large employers including the Bank of England, Network Rail, Sky and Unilever have formed a forum - Neurodiversity in Business ("NiB) - aimed at supporting neurodiverse employees in the workplace. It is estimated that 15 - 20% of the population is neurodivergent.  NiB intends to work with employers and a range of neurodiversity support organisations to assist employers to provide the required support that will enable businesses to benefit from having a more diverse workforce.

Flexible homeworking policies one of most important benefits for Generation Z

Research by the Kantar consultancy has found that 86% of Generation Z (18 - 24 year old) and 85% of millennials (25 to 39 year olds) believe flexible home working policies are one of the main factors to consider when deciding whether to accept a job offer.  In comparison only 66% of boomers (aged 56 to 75) took this into account.  Younger workers are also more likely than boomers to be looking for a new role due to a lack of flexible working opportunities with their current employer.

P&O to face civil and criminal investigations

The Insolvency Service announced in April that it has initiated formal criminal and civil investigations following the sacking 800 of its shipping staff, some of whom were dismissed via a video call or text message.  The UK Government have subsequently announced that they will introduce legislation that will require British ports to refuse access to ferry services who do not pay their crew the national minimum wage.

Discussion paper on mental health published

The Department of Health and Social Care has published a discussion paper and call for evidence highlighting the need for compassionate employers.  The document reiterates two issues identified in the Thriving at Work document in 2017.  The first is the need for employers to prevent the onset of mental health problems and the second is the need for workplace interventions to support mental health.  While employers are identified as a source of support for employees, the discussion paper also recognises that employers may need support and information themselves when dealing with a distressed employee.  To respond to the call for evidence click on the link above.

19% of employers not doing enough to support employee financial wellbeing

Recent CIPD research has found that nearly 1 in 5 employers are not doing enough to support employee financial wellbeing.  Employees face problems ranging from simply not earning enough to get by through to the impact on work performance caused by stress/loss of sleep due to money worries.  The CIPD urges employers to have a financial wellbeing policy and to provide financial wellbeing support.  According to the CIPD, providing these benefits will help employers stand out as an employer of choice in today's tight labour market.

HSE update Covid-19 advice for workplaces

The relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions across the UK has led to the Health and Safety Executive ("HSE") replacing workplace guidance with public health advice.  This means that the HSE no longer requires every business to consider Covid-19 in their risk assessments or have specific measure in place, however there is a requirement to protect those who will come into contact with the virus due to their work activity.  There is additional guidance on protecting those who may be at a higher risk from Covid-19 and on vaccinations.  The guidance will be regularly reviewed.

ICO publish new guidance following relaxation of Covid-19 rules

New guidance intended to help employers and organisations to comply with date protection obligations following the relaxation of rules related to Covid-19 have been published by the Information Commissioners Office ("ICO").  It is recommended that organisations consider whether pandemic related data still needs to be collected and retained, including information on vaccination, and that they avoid naming individuals wherever possible when managing positive cases in the workforce.

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