Employment law in 2022: What should employers expect?

Given the continued uncertainty generated by the pandemic, it is more difficult than ever to predict how employment law will develop during the coming year. There are, however, two things that we can predict with a reasonable degree of confidence, writes David Mills, Partner with Mills & Reeve LLP.

Employment rights will continue to be strengthened

In the UK, the political climate continues to favour modest strengthening of employment rights. Back in 2019, the incoming Conservative government promised a raft of measures to be included in an Employment Bill, which is yet to be published. This was to contain a wide variety of measures including:-

Creating a new single body to enforce core employment rights Widening the right to request flexible working arrangements Introducing neonatal leave and pay  Extending redundancy protection for new mothers.

Other proposals in the pipeline include imposing a new duty on employers to prevent workplace harassment and reforming the law relating to post-termination restrictions.

Progress on implementing these proposals has stalled because of the combination of the pandemic and Brexit. However, it is hard to believe that the Government will take much longer to legislate for at least some of these measures. We therefore expect the Employment Bill to be published at some point during 2022.

Hybrid working is here to stay

COVID has had a number of immediate impacts on the employment relationship, not least the renewed prominence given to health and safety at work and the need to navigate the Government’s furlough scheme, which finally ended on 30 September. 

However, it is the change to typical working arrangements which is likely to have the greatest long-term impact. The Government’s working from home guidance, which has been in place for much of the past two years (and is likely to continue for at least some of 2022), has given large numbers of workers a prolonged taste of home working that they will not want to relinquish entirely.

As a result, when a return to the workplace has been permissible, many employers have been experimenting with hybrid working.

In the course of 2021, research has emerged which demonstrates that hybrid working is not necessarily the best of both worlds. Implementing these arrangements throws up a number of challenges for employers who will have to grapple with questions like:-

Should hybrid working arrangements be discretionary or contractual? Must employers dictate these arrangements or should staff be given the freedom to choose the working patterns that suit them best? How can the risks of discrimination in the way the arrangements are implemented be mitigated? How can workers best be supported while working remotely?

Employers can now draw on a growing body of guidance, including important new publications by ACAS and the CIPD which were published in 2021.

As with most change, hybrid working presents both opportunities and risks, but we expect that by the end of 2022 employers will have a better idea of how to make the most of these new arrangements. 

For more information about new employment law developments throughout 2022, please visit the Mills & Reeve employment blog.

Alternatively, you can email  David.mills [at] mills-reeve.com.