Many of the changes are expected to be incorporated within the anticipated Employment Bill. Here is an overview of some expected employment law related changes and their expected practical effects of which both employers and employers should be aware moving forward into the year.
From November 2021, all workers within and anyone entering a care home were required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 (unless they fell within a number of exceptions). This extended beyond front line care staff to CQC inspectors, any visitors and any tradespeople entering a care home facility.
The next development on this is that from 1 April 2022, it will be unlawful for CQC regulated providers in the health and social care sector in England to employ anyone who is unvaccinated (except for those who are medically exempt). This requirement will extend to anyone directly involved in patient care including doctors and nurses and also to support staff such as cleaners and receptionists who could come into contact with patients during the course of their duties.
As a result of this, employers in this sector will need to ensure that robust policies are introduced which explicitly set out the new wider-reaching vaccination requirement along with any data protection obligations they are required to fulfil when processing any data regarding vaccination status. In addition, employers are encouraged to take further practical steps to embrace the change such as communicating promptly with their staff on the effects and extent of this development encourage those who remain unvaccinated to do so ahead of April 2022.
A new Employment Bill was announced in December 2019. However it is yet to be published and has not been substantively mentioned further as of yet. However, since May 2021, the Government has indicated that the Bill will be introduced when parliamentary time allows. Therefore, it is anticipated that the Bill will be published sometime within 2022. It is important this development is kept in mind given the wide ranging aspects it is expected to cover, some of which are mentioned below.
Right to request flexible working
Currently, employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment are entitled to make a request for flexible working. However, proposals have been made to extend this right to request flexible working to that of a ‘day one’ right.
It is anticipated that any changes made to the right to request flexible working will be incorporated in the new Employment Bill. The practical effect of this change is arguably quite small as employers are expected to already be familiar with flexible working request processes and its requirements, with the only real change being that of when an employee can make the request. No change is expected to be made on the reasons for an employer accepting/refusing a request and the timescales for doing so. However, employers are still encouraged to offer refresher training to management staff and review current flexible working policies in anticipation of the change.
Extending redundancy protection for women and new parents
In May 2021, the Government confirmed that it intended to extend the current redundancy protection period in place for mothers on maternity leave in the upcoming Employment Bill. The introduction will apply to pregnant women from the point they notify their employer of their pregnancy until six months after they return to work and will also apply to those taking adoption and shared parental leave.
The effect of this is that pregnant employees are being afforded more rights and protections and as a result employers need to therefore make sure that all managers are notified of this change and that any related policies and procedures are updated accordingly.
Sexual harassment in the workplace
In July 2021, the Government confirmed that they would be introducing a proactive duty on employers to take “all reasonable steps” to prevent sexual harassment from occurring and also new protections from third-party harassment. It has yet to be confirmed when this duty will take effect, but it is anticipated for some time in 2022.
This change will mean that current harassment policies and procedures in place will need to be promptly reassessed and training will need to be had in order for employers to communicate strongly the new message to employees with regards to sexual harassment. Other steps that employers are advised to take are to assess and mitigate any current sexual harassment risks in the workplace, develop a robust anti-harassment policy that can be distributed to all staff and regularly engage with staff on the topic to encourage honest and open conversations.
If you have any queries or require more detailed guidance on any of these changes, please contact a member of our multi-award winning Employment Team on 0330 191 043.
Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.