March HR round-up
This month’s round up will look at some of the key issues employers are facing as we learn to live with COVID-19 including general employment law considerations, health and safety duties and data protection. In addition, as we enter April there are a number of statutory changes coming into force so we will provide a detailed reminder of what they all are and when they will take effect.
Living with COVID-19
The government has announced its ‘Living with COVID-19’ plan and has removed the legal requirement to self-isolate following a positive test. The guidance is now to stay at home and avoid contact with others for at least five full days and continue to follow the guidance until two negative tests have been received on two consecutive days. The document states that employers and workers should follow this guidance. From 1 April 2022 the government will no longer be offering free community testing including both symptomatic PCR tests and asymptomatic rapid lateral flow tests and the requirement that employers explicitly consider Covid-19 in the health and safety risk assessment will also end.
General Employment Law Considerations
Employers will still need to consider the needs of their clinically extremely vulnerable workers in their health and safety risk assessments. It would be a good idea to speak to your staff to understand their concerns and consider reasonable adjustments where necessary. This could include for example permanent homeworking. What is important to note is that, if an employee refuses to return to the workplace and their role needs to be done from the office, termination of employment may need to be considered however, this may of course carry discrimination risks, so always seek advice on any particular circumstances if unsure.
Health and Safety duties
There is a disparity between the devolved nations when it comes to health and safety requirements. Whilst employers in England have a baseline, they are able to add further mitigation measures required by law in the other countries if they go further. However, by doing this employers are actually demonstrating there is more that can be put in place from a health and safety perspective and if they haven’t, why haven’t they? One solution to this is to build a set of measures that comply with whichever country has the most stringent rules so all aspects are covered however, with the withdrawal of free testing and isolation requirements it may be hard to implement in practice.
Employers need to carefully consider the data protection requirements when collecting data on Covid-19 infections or vaccination status’ and whether there is a lawful basis under data protection law to allow you to do so. Employers will need to demonstrate that they have a very good compelling justification to hold this data and that they take data protection seriously in order to fend off any complaints.
Upcoming dates for your diary
- Removal of vaccination requirement in health and social care settings
On 15th March 2022 the legal requirement for health and social care staff to be double jabbed was removed. This is due to the Omicron variant being less severe, with the percentage of those requiring emergency care or hospital admission approximately half that of the Delta variant. The Health and Social Care Secretary, however, still reminds the minority of unvaccinated health and care workers of their professional responsibility to be vaccinated.
24 March 2022 saw the removal of the COVID-19 specific provisions relating to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) following the closure of the SSP rebate scheme.
1 April 2022 sees the existing set of ‘Working Safely’ guidance replaced with new public health guidance.
- Increase to compensation limits
As from 6th April 2022, the two key new limits are:
- a new limit on a week’s pay for the purpose of calculating statutory redundancy payments and basic awards – £571 (up from £544); and
- an uplift in the basic and compensatory award for unfair dismissal. The basic award will rise to £17,130 (an increase from £16,320) and the maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal will rise to £93,878 (an increase from £89,493).
The new rates will apply to dismissal that takes place on or after 6 April 2022.
- National Living Wage
From 5 April 2022 the National Living Wage will rise by 6.6% from £8.91 per hour to £9.50 per hour.
Other rates include:
21–22 year-olds will rise by 9.8% from £8.36 to £9.18
18–20 year-olds will rise by 4.1% from £6.56 to £6.83
16-17 year olds will rise by 4.1% from £4.62 to £4.81
Apprentice Rate will rise by 11.9% from £4.30 to £4.81
- Statutory rates of pay
11 April 2022 the rates for Statutory Maternity Pay, Statutory Paternity Pay, Statutory Adoption Pay, Statutory Shared Parental Pay, Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay and Maternity Allowance will all increase from £151.79 to £156.66 per week.
The rate of Statutory Sick Pay will also increase from £96.35 to £99.35.
- Right to Work Checking Process
The right to work checking process is changing for individuals who hold a biometric residence card, biometric residence permit or frontier worker permit holders; these checks can be currently completed manually but, from 6 April these will have to be done through the Home Office online checking service. Draft guidance has been published by the government and includes:
- the way in which biometric residence card, biometric residence permit and Frontier Worker permit holders prove their right to work
- changes and further guidance to enable employers to use identity service providers (IDSPs) to carry out digital identity verification as part of right to work checks
- the extension to the COVID-19 temporary adjusted right to work checks until 30 September 2022
- Gender Pay Gap reporting Deadlines
The Gender pay gap reporting deadlines are fast approaching. Large businesses (250+ employees) must report on their gender pay gap by 30 March for the public sector and 4 April for those in the private sector.
- Disability reporting consultation
The Government is consulting on workforce disability reporting for large employers (250 employees or more). The consultation aims to gather views on how best to improve reporting practices to build more transparency and support cultural changes around disabilities at work.
- Four Day working week Trial
Around 30 UK companies are to trial the four-day working week as part of a pilot scheme which starts in June. The aim of the scheme is to gather evidence to present a test case to government and business leaders that a four-day week can work by increasingly overall wellbeing without a negative impact on productivity. Similar trials are taking place globally as well including, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The above guidance was correct at the time of writing this article on 28/03/22. This does not constitute legal advice and is for information purposes only.
If you have any questions regarding any of these issues or would like more information to support your business with the changes, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org