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Employment - Past, present, future.

View profile for Marina Vincent
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What a couple of years we have had.  This time in 2019 no one had heard of furlough, but during 2020 and 2021 a cumulative total of 11 million jobs were furloughed.

Employers were required to adapt at breakneck speed to changes arising from the Covid pandemic.  They struggled to keep up with ever changing Government guidance on the furlough scheme, working from home and the health and safety requirements necessary to protect their employees.  Their efforts appear to have been rewarded with the economy bouncing back better than expected.

Hopefully we are now returning to some sort of normality, although there is still the issue of what to do, if anything, about employees who have not been vaccinated.  Again, government guidance is unclear.  We are all urged to be vaccinated, but not required to do so by law.  Employers are left to assess whether they can reasonably require their staff to be vaccinated, and possibly face discrimination or unlawful dismissal claims if they do not get it right.  There is also the issue of whether staff can insist on working from home, or if an employer can insist on staff coming into the office.  The key in all these situations will be to consider each case on its individual circumstances and consult with staff and try to reach agreement.  If agreement cannot be achieved, an employer must be able to demonstrate how they came to a reasoned decision to justify their position.

The world of employment law did continue to develop in 2021.  Some main changes included the introduction in January 2021 of a new immigration system applying to both EU and non-EU citizens.  In April the IR35 scheme, previously only applying to public sector employers was extended to private employers.  This means that larger employers are placed under an obligation to assess whether someone they engage on a self-employed basis is really self-employed, or an employee.  Employers’ risk being responsible for PAYE for the individual if they assess them as self-employed when HMRC assess the relationship is truly one of employment.  Whilst this only applies to larger employers at the moment, it may to be extended to smaller employers in the future.

For 2022 the Government has indicated there will be an Employment Bill placed before Parliament at some point, but we do not know when. It is anticipated that these may include provisions to prevent employers withholding or making deductions from employees’ tips or gratuities.  Also anticipated is an extension to maternity rights to give a woman returning from maternity leave the right to be given priority for suitable alternative employment in the case of redundancy for 6 months after her return to work.  This right currently exists but ends when a woman returns from maternity leave.  The Government is also consulting on restrictive covenants, which are currently difficult to draft effectively and to enforce.

For further information, please contact Marina Vincent Direct on 020 8872 3052 or via email at marina.vincent@haroldbenjamin.com