Employment Law General Update – June 2022
This month the news focus is on the future of working practices and health. The government is being prompted to get on with setting up the new single labour enforcement body, some companies are trialling a four-day working week and BEIS has issued a call for evidence on the future of the UK labour market after COVID. Meanwhile, COVID-19 is hanging around with long-COVID, the menopause is increasingly being cited in tribunal cases and new regulations allow more healthcare professionals to sign “fit notes”.
- Law Change: EHRC recommends that government set out legislative timetable for proposed single labour market enforcement body
- Health at Work: New regulations will allow more healthcare professionals to sign “fit notes”
- COVID-19: ONS releases latest statistics on prevalence of self-reported long COVID-19
- Working Practices: Seventy companies begin trial of four-day working week
- Menopause: Menopause-related employment tribunal claims nearly double over the past year
- Future of Work: BEIS Committee launches call for evidence on future of UK labour market
Law Change: EHRC recommends that government set out legislative timetable for proposed single labour market enforcement body
On 9 June 2022, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published an inquiry which assessed the treatment and experiences of lower-paid ethnic minority workers in health and social care, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the key findings was low awareness of employment rights. The EHRC recognised the positive role the proposed new single labour market enforcement body, which would have powers and resources to help increase awareness of and access to rights for vulnerable workers, could play in improving the treatment and experiences of such workers. However, it noted the uncertainty created by the lack of a legislative timetable for the introduction of the new body. To address this, the EHRC has recommended that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) set out a legislative timetable for the introduction of the new single labour market enforcement body and ensure it is sufficiently resourced to meaningfully monitor and enforce compliance with employment rights. The EHRC also recommended that BEIS legislate to ensure that access to information on workers’ rights, including where to go if they want to raise a concern, is detailed in the statement of particulars provided under section 1 of the Employment Rights Act 1996.
The government committed to setting up a single labour market enforcement body in June 2021, when its consultation response on the proposed new body confirmed that three of the current enforcement bodies, the Employment Agency Standards Inspectorate, the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, and HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Team, would be consolidated into a single agency. In April 2022, a call for evidence was issued on the labour market enforcement strategy for 2023 to 2024, which will shape the remit of the combined agency, and was open for responses until 31 May 2022. The strategy is due to be delivered to government in autumn 2022. The formation of the new agency requires primary legislation, which is awaited.
Health at Work: New regulations will allow more healthcare professionals to sign “fit notes”
The Social Security (Medical Evidence) and Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/630) have been laid before Parliament. These regulations amend existing legislation on statements of fitness for work, or “fit notes”, to expand the category of people who can sign them for the purposes of SSP and social security claims. From 1 July 2022, the Social Security (Medical Evidence) Regulations 1976 (SI 1976/615) and the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 1985 (SI 1985/1604) will be amended to allow registered nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists to sign these statements. The regulations also insert a definition of “healthcare professional” which includes doctors and the four new professions. It is hoped that this change will make it easier for patients to see GPs by reducing their workloads.
COVID-19: ONS releases latest statistics on prevalence of self-reported long COVID-19
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has found that, as of 1 May 2022, 2 million people living in private households in the UK were experiencing self-reported long COVID-19 symptoms, considered to be symptoms that continue for more than four weeks. For 1.4 million people (71% of those with self-reported long COVID-19), symptoms adversely affected their day-to-day activities. 398,000 (20%) reported that their ability to go about their day-to-day activities had been “limited a lot”. The most common symptom reported to be part of individuals’ experience of long COVID-19 continued to be fatigue. This symptom was reported by 55% of people with self-reported long COVID-19, followed by shortness of breath (32%), a cough and muscle ache (23% each).
Working Practices: Seventy companies begin trial of four-day working week
On 6 June 2022, around 3,330 workers at 70 companies began a trial of a four-day working week, as reported by Personneltoday.com. The trial, thought to be the largest of its type in the world, is expected to last for six months and is led by campaigning group 4 Day Week Global. It will be monitored by academics from Oxford and Cambridge Universities, as well as Boston College, who will consider the impact on employees, companies and the environment. Employers taking part have agreed that workers will receive 100% of their pay for 80% of their time, in return for workers committing to 100% productivity.
Menopause: Menopause-related employment tribunal claims nearly double over the past year
Peoplemanagement.co.uk has reported on an analysis of court records by Menopause Experts Group has found that 23 cases cited the menopause in 2021, which is a 44% increase from the 16 cases that cited the menopause in 2020. Of these 23 cases, 16 included claims for disability discrimination, 14 included claims for unfair dismissal and 10 included claims for sex discrimination. In addition, mentions of the word “menopause” increased by 75% in tribunal documents.
This research adds to other recent findings about the impact of the menopause on employees’ experiences at work. Menopause Experts Group has suggested that employers should offer their workforce training about symptoms, signs and side-effects of the menopause and that the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee should advocate for a requirement that all employers have a menopause policy or code of conduct.
Future of Work: BEIS Committee launches call for evidence on future of UK labour market
On 27 May 2022, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee published ‘Post-pandemic economic growth: UK labour markets’ in which it launched a call for evidence into the UK labour market, in particular whether the UK has enough workers with the right skills in the right places to do the jobs required for the economy, taking into account an ageing population, migration changes and the impact of technology. The Committee also wishes to understand whether current employment law is fit for purpose or requires reform.
Responses to the call for evidence are invited by 8 July 2022, which you can view and comment on here. Submissions are invited to questions under five headings: the state of play in the UK labour market post-Brexit and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on recruitment, skills shortages and the growth of the labour market; Artificial Intelligence (AI) and technology in the workplace; workers’ rights and protections; employment status and modern working practices five years on from the Taylor Review; and the impact of an ageing population on the labour market.
The Committee has indicated that it will welcome submissions which address the challenges currently facing both UK employers and workers, and which identify potential solutions and actions required by the government, businesses and employers to effectively support the UK labour market, while boosting productivity, equipping a skilled labour force and protecting workers’ rights. Since it will not be able to consider every aspect of the economy in depth, the Committee would particularly welcome data-rich case studies which might exemplify national trends.
The call for evidence follows the recent announcement that Matt Warman MP would be leading a review on the Future of Work.
If you would like any additional information, please contact Anne-Marie Pavitt or Sophie Banks on: firstname.lastname@example.org