2021 Employment Law Round-up

2021 Employment Law Round-up

Key Contact: Claire Knowles

Author: Adam McGlynn

After a year unlike any other, our employment team look back on some of the most impactful changes and updates from 2021. You can also find some the following topics covered in our mid-year round-up ‘Employment Law Update: What You Need To Know and What You May Have Missed’.

Vaccinations

Over the last 12 months the majority of the UK’s population has been vaccinated against COVID-19. Employers have faced uncertainty along the way in terms of whether such vaccinations can be mandatory, whether employee vaccination status data can be collected and processed, and how to prepare and implement vaccination policies. As one of the most frequently queried topics of the year, our employment team have published a number of articles over the year, including our most recent one on mandatory vaccinations for care home and frontline NHS staff. For all our articles on Vaccinations, please visit:

COVID-19 Vaccination – How Employers Can Prepare – 22 January 2021

Vaccination or Termination: Can Employees Be Required to Take the Coronavirus Vaccine? – 27 January 2021

Lockdown

Though concerns of further COVID-19 restrictions still loom, the UK has been successful in re-opening businesses, services, and venues across the board. Acuity have been on hand to support businesses seeking to understand how to operate within the relevant restrictions as they have changed throughout the year. For more information on business restrictions in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, please get in touch, visit our articles from this year, and watch this space for further updates:

The Legality of Lockdown – Do Coronavirus Restrictions Go Too Far? – 27 January 2021

‘Freedom Day’ in sight as England & Wales confirm dates for easing Coronavirus restrictions – 13 July 2021

Furlough Leave

Until 30 September 2021, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme continued to provide a vital lifeline for businesses and employees who would otherwise face redundancies as a result of the economic impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. Our team have provided updates on the changing scheme details over the last two years and, in recent months, we have seen case law begin to emerge on how scheme use by different businesses is being interpreted by tribunals. For our most recent update on the CJRS and a selection of case law updates, please visit the following articles:

Furlough Update – What has changed? – 19 July 2021

Furlough Before Redundancy? Are Employers Required To Furlough Employees Before Moving To Redundancy? – 13 September 2021

Returning to Work

Alongside business restrictions and commercial concerns, health and safety concerns have been prevalent as staff have gradually returned to the workplace. Our team have examined to what extent it is reasonable for employees to refuse to return to work, and the extension of this protection to workers in the following articles:

Refusing to Attend the Workplace for Fear of Coronavirus – A Reasonable Excuse? – 3 June 2021

‘Workers’ Are Workers Too! Protection from Health & Safety Detriments Extended to Workers – 13 July 2021

Flexible Working

The Coronavirus pandemic has been a cultural and technological catalyst towards more flexible working arrangements. With flexible working requests becoming more frequent, and cases such as Thompson v Scancrown demonstrating the potential consequences when such requests are poorly managed, it is more important than ever for employers to understand their obligations. Watch this space to see how flexible working rights develop in 2022:

Managing Flexible Working Requests – What happens when employees get it wrong? – 13 September 2021

Right to Flexible Working – A Day One Right? – 22 October 2021

Immigration and Right to Work

2021 has seen the UK transition away from freedom of movement for EU citizens and the introduction of new immigration rules. Considering immigration issues on recruitment and conducting compliant right to work checks have been at the forefront of employers’ minds, particularly since the deadline for EU Settlement Scheme applications expired on 30 June 2021. For our publications and webinars on 2021’s Immigration and Right to Work Check changes, please visit:

Immigration & Employment Law: Preparing for 2021 – 28 September 2020

Right to Work Checks – In the UK, in a Pandemic, in 2021 (Webinar) – 15 December 2020

Right to Work – in the UK, in a Pandemic, in 2021 (Article) – 27 January 2021

Right to Work Checks: COVID-19 Adjusted Measures Extended – 13 September 2021

IR35 and the Off-Payroll Working Rules

April 2021 saw the implementation of off-payroll working reform, placing greater assessment and compliance responsibility on medium and large end-clients engaging contractors through intermediaries. Acuity Law collaborated with BPU tax expert Martin Knight to answer your most pressing questions and ensure your business is ready for the changes ahead:

IR35 – Ask the Tax Experts – 16 March 2021

Employment Status

In the past few years, the UK courts have made headlines determining employment/worker status for people working in the gig economy. With headline cases including Uber v Aslam and Stuart Delivery v Augustine, 2021 has been a ground-breaking year for understanding employment status.

Supreme Court gives Uber 1-star as employment claim reaches its final destination – 22 February 2021

A Worker or Self-Employed? That Is The Question – 25 November 2021

Discrimination

From the stark reminder of the importance of anti-harassment refresher training in Allay v Gehlen, to the charged coverage of the Forstater v CGD Europe and Cornerstone v Ofsted cases, this year has seen a number of headline cases for discrimination law. For some of the highlights please visit:

Discrimination case law update – 1 March 2021

Harassment in the Workplace and the Importance of Refresher Courses – 5 March 2021

Stretching the Vento Bands: Discrimination and Whistleblowing Compensation Increased – 4 May 2021

Transgender Issues – is the belief that you can’t change biological sex protected? – 13 September 2021

Religious Belief Vs Sexual Orientation – Which Protected Characteristic Wins The Battle? – 22 October 2021

Fire and Rehire

The practice of termination and re-engagement exercises, sometimes referred to as ‘fire and rehire’ exercises, has been under the microscope in 2021, with other organisations such as British Gas and British Airways, being publicly criticized for their practices. With case law updates and ACAS publications providing guidance on how the practice will evolve in the near future, this is definitely a topic to watch for 2022:

You’re fired (and re-hired)! Recent lessons on how not to vary employment contracts – 13 July 2021

Fire and Rehire – Keep Watching this Space – 25 November 2021

Trade Unions

The Supreme Court’s leading judgement in Kostal UK v Dunkley provides conclusive clarity on the interpretation of Section 145B of TULRCA, a statutory right of trade union members that has caused confusion over the past few years. Confirming the rules on when employers can negotiate directly with represented employees, this is an update that every business that engages in collective bargaining should take note of:

Trade Unions Cannot Veto a Direct Approach to Workers – 25 November 2021

Sleep-in and On-call time

Employers who offer sleep-in shift work breathed a sigh of relief as the long-awaited Royal Mencap Society v Tomlinson-Blake judgement was handed down by the Supreme Court on 19 March 2021. Meanwhile, in Europe, two ECJ judgements provided guidance on how to interpret the application of working time legislation to on-call/ standby duties. For details of these updates, please visit the following article and contact our team for bespoke advice:

Working Time Updates for Sleep-In and On-Call Shifts – 4 May 2021

Employment and HR rates

It is always worth keeping the statutory employment and HR pay rates in mind, whatever your role or field. For a reminder of the 2021/2022 rates, visit the following article, and watch this space for an update on 2022/2023 rates:

Rate Rises in April 2021 – Numbers to Know – 5 March 2021

For further information or advice on any of the topics raised above, please speak to our employment team.

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