The latest HR / employment law updates and how to access fully funded skills training for your workforce

Here’s a round up of what is in the news in the world of HR at the moment…… 

1. Covid guidelines – key changes to note:

The latest general advice from the Government: The public are encouraged to continue to follow public health advice, to minimise the chance of catching Covid and help protect family and friends. This includes by letting fresh air in when meeting indoors, wearing a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces where people come into contact with others that they don’t normally meet, and washing hands regularly.

With effect from 24th February 2022 legal restrictions will end. This means that: 

  • The legal requirement to self-isolate ends. Although until 1st April 2022, it is still advised that people (adults and children) who test positive stay at home and avoid contact with others for at least five full days and then continue to follow the guidance until they have received two negative test results on consecutive days.
  • Employers and workers should follow Government guidance for those with COVID-19, although will not be legally obliged to tell their employer when they are required to self-isolate. 
  • Fully vaccinated adults and those aged under 18 who are “close contacts” are no longer advised to test daily for seven days and the legal requirement for close contacts who are not fully vaccinated to self-isolate will be removed.
  • Self-isolation support payments, national funding for practical support and the medicine delivery service will no longer be available.
  • Routine contact tracing ends, including venue check-ins on the NHS COVID-19 app.

With effect from 24th March 2022 the Government will also remove the COVID-19 provisions within the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and Employment and Support Allowance regulations. This means that:

  • Employees who are off sick due to COVID-19 will no longer be entitled to SSP from day 1 of their absence. SSP will begin from day 4 as with other sickness absences.
  • Employers will no longer be able to reclaim up to 2 weeks of SSP from the government to help cover the cost of an employee’s COVID-19 related sickness absence.

With effect from 1st April 2022 the Government will update guidance setting out the ongoing steps that people with COVID-19 should take to be careful and considerate of others, similar to advice on other infectious diseases. This will align with testing changes and means that:

  • Free universal symptomatic and asymptomatic testing for the general public in England will no longer be available.
  • Removal of the current guidance on voluntary COVID-status certification in domestic settings and no longer recommend that certain venues use the NHS COVID Pass.
  • Remove the health and safety requirement for every employer to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments.

What do employers need to do?

Communicate the changes to your team along with any procedures that you need people to follow. Provide the team with an update when new government guidelines are provided ahead of the 1st April 2022 changes. 

Inform employees of the things they can still do to help reduce the risk of catching and passing on COVID-19 eg by:

  • Getting vaccinated;
  • Letting fresh air into the workplace and having good ventilation. Consider holding meetings outside where you can? (walking meetings are becoming popular);
  • Wearing a face covering in crowded and enclosed spaces. Make it clear to everyone that if they still wish to wear a mask, that is absolutely fine. It is their personal choice;
  • Letting their Manager know if they are classed as vulnerable so that safety measures can be reviewed as appropriate;
  • Trying to stay at home if they are unwell;
  • Taking a test if they have COVID-19 symptoms, staying at home and avoiding contact with other people if they test positive; and
  • Washing their hands and continue following advice to ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’. (you might want to continue providing hand sanitiser for optional use?).

Further information and guidance as it currently stands can be found here: covid-19-response-living-with-covid-19

2. PPE Regulation changes from 6th April 2022

Current legislation (called PPER 1992) places a duty on every employer in Great Britain to ensure that suitable PPE is provided to employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work.

With effect from 6th April 2022, PPER 2022 comes into force, extending this duty to “limb (b) workers”. Limb (b) describes workers who generally have a more casual employment relationship and work under a contract for service. They do not currently come under the scope of PPER 1992 regulations).
What does this mean for employers?

  • Employers need to carefully consider whether the change to UK law applies to them and their workforce and make the necessary preparations to comply.
  • If a risk assessment indicates that a limb (b) worker requires PPE to carry out their work activities, the employer must carry out a PPE suitability assessment and provide the PPE free of charge as they do for employees.
  • The employer will be responsible for the maintenance, storage and replacement of any PPE they provide. 
  • Workers will be required to use the PPE properly following training and instruction from their employer. 

Further information and guidance can be found here: ppe-regulations-2022

3. The national minimum wage rates will change from 1st April 2022:

For people aged 21-22 it will increase to £9.18
18-20-year-olds will receive £6.83 
Under-18s will get £4.81. 
Apprentices’ wages will go up to £4.81 an hour.

4. National Insurance contributions will rise by 1.25% from 6th April 2022

5. SSP Rates are currently £96.35 per week. For the tax year beginning 6 April 2022, this will increase to £99.35 per week

6.  Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay is now available to eligible employees whose child dies before they turn 18 or if they have a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy.  Eligible employees have a statutory right to receive two weeks’ payment at either £151.97 a week or 90% of their average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).

7. Upskill your workforce for FREE!

The D2N2 Growth Hub provides businesses in Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire with a single point of access to funded business support.

The link below will take you through to details of the support available to develop the skills within your business, whether it’s apprenticeships, staff training, funding or simply just up-skilling.

8. And finally, the list below explains some of the potential employment law changes on the horizon in 2022 / 2023 …..

The Employment Bill – announced in the Queen’s Speech in 2019 did not materialise last year, but it is anticipated this year (with the caveat of “when parliamentary time allows”) and could cover:

  • The establishment of a new single enforcement body for employment rights.
  • The extension of protection against redundancy during pregnancy, maternity, adoption, and shared parental leave, including extending redundancy protection to six months post return to work after the end of the leave
  • A new right to 1 week’s unpaid leave per year for carers
  • New legislation to ensure that tips in restaurants are retained by staff in full
  • The right for workers to request a more stable contract after 26 weeks service
  • Employment Tribunal Sanctions where organisations commit repeated breaches to be introduced
  • A right to request flexible working from day 1 of employment (currently it is only after 26 weeks)
  • An extension of the time required to break continuous service from one week to four weeks
  • Compulsory reporting of modern slavery statements on a new government-run registry
  • New legislation on post-termination non-compete clauses
  • An extension of the ban on exclusivity clauses beyond zero hours contracts
  • Compensation for those whose shifts are cancelled at short notice
  • Entitlement to reasonable notice of allocated shifts, and protections for those who refuse last minute shifts
  • New legislation to protect against “firing and rehiring”
  • The introduction of Ethnicity pay gap reporting 
  • The extension of the right of shared parental leave to include grandparents
  • Inclusion of menopause as a protected characteristic or disability following recent tribunal outcomes

Further updates will be provided as and when more is announced.