2021 was marked by the pandemic just as much as 2020. As a result, some of the development from the previous year carried over. However, there have been many more developments that will likely have lasting effects.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the top three changes that occurred this year and why they are significant.
Developments of 2021
1. The end of furlough
The Job Retention scheme stood as a lifeline for many employers throughout the pandemic. The scheme offered financial support by covering 80% of an employee’s wages while they were on furlough. Though the scheme changed and extended on more than one occasion, it did eventually end on 30th September 2021.
Why is this significant moving forward?
The scheme wasn’t without its problems. The media and the government reported on many cases of fraud and unintentional misuse. Now, some of the tribunal backlog is still getting filled with furlough-related cases, many of which may go on for years.
Some of these issues have already been addressed, with possible implications for employers. For example, one case found that in an instance of redundancy, furlough was an alternative option. The employer has had failed to consider that option, so the tribunal ruled in favour of the employee.
This doesn’t mean the same will be true in all cases, as each one is fact sensitive. However, it does set a precedent for similar cases. If you’re concerned about a tribunal case involving furlough or redundancy, speak to one of our legal experts today for free initial advice on 01455 858 132.
2. Right to work checks
As a result of Brexit and COVID-19, right to work checks underwent a shift in 2021.
During the Brexit transition period, 31st January 2020 to 31st December 2020, EEA and Swiss citizens could move freely between the UK and the rest of Europe. Those citizens residing in the UK by the end of the transition period could apply for immigration status under the EU Settlement Scheme. Through the scheme they could apply for settled status if they’d been in the UK for a continuous five year period, or pre-settled status, if they’d been in the UK for less than five years.
As part of your statutory duty to prevent illegal working, you must carry out right to work checks. In March 2020, as a result of COVID, companies could run these checks digitally. This meant requesting scanned copies of compliant ID documents via email, then a confirmation ID video call.
These digital checks should have ended multiple times in 2021, but due to the pandemic, they never did. Currently, the return of physical right to work checks is postponed until April 2022. However, the Government is considering an option to make some form of digital right to work check permanent.
We would advise businesses to stay up to date with any further changes, and review your processes when necessary.
3. Sexual harassment – law reforms
Unfortunately, sexual harassment was still an issue in 2021. However, recent employment law changes are a direct response to the problem.
The Government announced a new duty for employers to prevent sexual harassment and third-party harassment in the workplace. But what does this mean in practical terms?
Unfortunately, it’s hard to say without the official publication of the guidance. It’s likely to encourage employers to prioritise the prevention of sexual harassment and help employers understand their existing duties in this area. However, no date has been given as to when the reforms will become law.
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Expert HR support in 2022
2021 was a somewhat unpredictable year for HR and employment law. The pandemic meant that government guidance would often change to address the current climate in the UK. The best way to stay abreast of the latest changes, and receive expert support when you needed it was through our expert advisers.
If you want an extra pair of hands, a second opinion, or even someone to step in and take on some of your responsibilities in 2022, we’re here to support you. Speak to one of our expert HR consultants today and discover the best solution for you on 01455 858 132.
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