6 employment law changes coming up in April

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1. Covid responsibilities

As part of the UK Government’s ‘Living with Covid’ plans, from 1 April 2022 the statutory requirement for employers to explicitly consider Covid safety measures in their risk assessments will come to an end. However, employers remain bound by their general health and safety obligations. With the Government’s active step away from the control of Covid-safety in the workplace, it will now be up to employers to guide their employees as to best practice.

Read our blog on Covid caution in the workplace here for more guidance on this.

2. End of the IR35 grace period

In April 2021, the IR35 rules on off-payroll working were extended to the private sector. Employers donned the responsibility of determining the employment status of their contractors in order to decide whether IR35 applies. If it does, the contractor is deemed an employee of the organisation for tax and national insurance purposes.

When the rules were extended to the private sector, HMRC made it clear that during the first 12 months of the new regime, they would take a ‘light touch’ approach to penalties. Fines were not to be incurred for any non-deliberate inaccuracies during this time. The grace period for employers with the new responsibility will come to an end on 6 April 2022.

Employers should be regularly and thoroughly reviewing status determinations to ensure they remain accurate; however, vigilance is more important now that any waiver of fines is soon to be off the table.

3. Gender pay-gap reporting

Employers with a headcount of over 250 employees have been obligated to publish their gender pay gap data annually since 2017. Because of the pandemic, the UK Government put a pause on this obligation in 2020 and re-introduced it with an extended deadline of the end of October in 2021.

The pandemic-related easing of the obligation is now at an end. Employers subject to the duty will need to begin their annual publishing of the data again starting with the following 2022 deadlines:

  • 30 March 2022: for most public authority employers; and
  • 4 April 2022: for private, voluntary and all other public authority employers.

It is important not to miss these upcoming deadlines as sanctions for failure to report include investigation, an unlawful act notice and court-ordered reporting.

4. Increased Statutory Rates

Alongside the commencement of the new financial year in April, there will be a number of changes to statutory pay entitlements for employees. We have highlighted a few below:

  • The National Living Wage (23+) is set to increase from £8.91 to £9.50 per hour;
  • Family friendly leave (including maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental and parental bereavement leave) will go from £151.97 to £156.66 per week; and
  • Statutory Sick Pay will increase from £96.35 to £99.35 per week.

Whilst the significant increase to the national living wage will be welcomed by those currently struggling with the cost of living, as always, these increases will have a knock-on effect for businesses who may need to raise pay levels across their businesses to maintain distinction between roles.

5. Updated Vento Band levels

The Presidents of the Employment Tribunals in England & Wales and Scotland have issued further guidance on financial compensation for injury to feelings claims in the Employment Tribunal. Awards for such claims are split into different bands (the Vento Bands) with different bands applying depending on the seriousness of the case. The Presidents of the Tribunal announced that in line with the RPI measure of inflation, the band levels will increase as follows:

  • A lower band of £990 to £9,900 for less serious cases (increased from £900 to £9,100);
  • A middle band of £9,900 to £29,600 for cases that fall between the lower and upper band (increased from £9,100 to £27,400); and
  • An upper band of £29,600 to £49,300 for serious cases (increased from £27,000 to £45,600),

with awards exceeding £49,300 in the most exceptional cases.

6. Flexible working becoming a day one right?

In September 2021, the UK Government launched its consultation into whether flexible working should be an option from day one of employment rather than the current requirement of 26 weeks’ continuous service.

There is no set date for an outcome to the consultation, but this may be revealed soon in light of the pandemic-led changes to working, alongside the recent actions of P&O Ferries and the general consensus of supporting workers which is in line with the 2019 conservative pledge to promote flexible working.

Should the day-one right be introduced, it will really embed hybrid working as the norm and employers will have a greater sense of responsibility toward providing this for their staff.

Contact our multidisciplinary team of employment lawyers for advice on how best to manage the above changes to ensure you are fair, compliant and efficient.