In recent years, the landscape of employment has undergone some fundamental changes and this is also true for the legal space therein. As an employer or a HR professional, it’s vital that you are kept abreast of the key developments in this everchanging area of law so that your organisation remains fully compliant.
Factors like governmental shakeups, which we have evidently experienced in the past months, make this topic quite uncertain. Despite this, however, there is a growing anticipation regarding certain aspects that are plain to see. This is the case for ongoing changes and those which we are yet to see. Followingly, as we edge towards the end of the year, we’ll be going over the changes to employment law that happened in 2022, as well as those that are on the horizon for 2023.
National Minimum Wage
The Government has announced the rates of the National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW) which will come into force from April 2023. In doing so, it has accepted in full the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission. The rates which will apply from 1 April 2023 are as follows:
|Rate from April 2023||Annual increase (£)||Annual increase (per cent)|
|National Living Wage||£10.42||0.92||9.7|
It is essential that all employers are fully informed on the above rates while they correspondingly increase remuneration for the first pay reference period which begins on, or shortly after, the 1st of April. Failure to do so naturally leads to rather severe consequences. Bear in mind that the above rates change every year, especially pertinent considering that 2023 isn’t far away.
Statutory Pay Rates
In-line with National Minimum Wage increases are the changes to rates for statutory pay, these also took effect in early April 2022. Namely, on the 3rd, with the sole exception being the rise in statutory sick pay which was introduced on the 6th.
The latter was originally at £96.35 but saw an increase up to £99.35. Other weekly rates concerned are those for statutory maternity pay, paternity pay, adoption pay, shared parental pay, and parental bereavement pay. Each of the rates for these rose to £156.66, up from £151.97. Moreover, at the same time we saw National Insurance Contributions (NICs) increase by 1.25% to a total 15.05% for both employers and employees. This was in order to fund the NHS and social care sectors & came in place of the Health and Social Care Levy which was withdrawn on 22 September 2022, meaning that the introduction of a separate relevant tax in 2023 has been cancelled.
As with the National Minimum Wage changes, it’s integral that employers and HR departments ensure that staff are wholly entitled to, and paid these statutory minimum rates when the relevant circumstances apply. This also implies policy & document reviews to check that the details of each instance of such procedures are adjusted on a yearly basis. All of these rates have risen substantially more than in previous years and this exponential increase shows no signs of coming to a halt by 2023.
A change to specifically look out for in 2023 is the implementation of the Neonatal Care (Leave and Pay) Bill. This Bill was introduced by Stuart C Mcdonald MP on the 7th of September 2022 and it is currently at the report stage in the House of Commons.
As per its name, the Bill is designed to supply employees who are responsible for children receiving neonatal care with additional leave and pay. That is, once it becomes an Act it means that both parents will be given up to 12 weeks extra leave and pay if their baby is born prematurely or in ill-health. In essence, it allows parents to spend important time with their child without having to worry about returning to work. The Bill represents a humanitarian step forward and so it is probable that it will become Law in 2023, necessitating employers and HR professionals alike to keep an eye on whether it receives Royal Assent.
Gender Pay Gap Reporting
Organisations that employ 250 or more workers are required to annually publish a report with data relating to their gender pay gap. This has been the case since 2018 and the usual deadline was the 30th of March. However, the pandemic and its resultant pressures did lead to a temporary extension of the reporting deadline to the 4th of April. But recently, the deadline reverted to its original date, this was for 2022, and will be the same for 2023.
Reports are mandatory and should be published both on a business’ or company’s own website as well as through the portal on the government website (Gov.uk). Given that it has been five – coming up to six – years since the regulations were enforced, this means that the government is due to review them, i.e., make an assessment on whether the current reporting obligations fulfil the regulations’ objectives properly. This indicates a need to observe any developments in this area come 2023 because, as with all governmental regulations, failure to remain compliant with them might entail financial penalties.
Hybrid/flexible working is perhaps the most prevalent upshot that manifested during the Covid-19 pandemic. But as we’ve emerged out of the latter, the former has remained within the minds of employers and employees everywhere. Consequently, there were many government consultations regarding the topic. For instance, concerning whether employers were obliged to consider if a job was able to be carried out flexibly and if it is their responsibility to plainly advertise as such. It also went so far as considering whether hybrid working was to be the new set standard routine for work, the ‘new norm’, so to speak.
With these examples in mind, it becomes fairly evident that this subject isn’t a trend which will eventually die down and fade from the public consciousness. Instead, the pandemic marked the ushering in of an ongoing discussion as to the validity of the 4 day working week. Indeed, this area of deliberation surrounding the nature of modern employment is one which is now extensively widespread and being taken quite seriously. Meaning, that employers and HR departments are expected to respond similarly.
Even though there are yet to be any official proposals for hybrid working, it is likely that there will be in 2023. And so, to stay ahead of the curve, it may be worthwhile to examine how your organisation could adapt to this future prospect by thinking about the logistics while discussing how workable a hybrid system would be for your employees. In fact, it could turn out to be very beneficial for your staff by how it has been shown to improve employee wellbeing due to it implying a more positive work-life balance. Besides the obvious mental health improvements that an incorporation of hybrid working evokes, this also, in turn, translates to better business functionality. After all, if your workers are satisfied with their employment, then they will contribute to a workplace which thrives and produces lucrative results.
Workplace Sexual Harassment
Although sexual harassment has been prohibited within our society by law for many years now, it is still a continual threat for workers which, quite evidently, has detrimental effects. This is especially the case for women, and our general awareness of this has increased in recent years, owing to a growing number feeling that it is necessary to share their experiences.
Of course, it is unjustifiable that anyone should feel vulnerable while carrying out their job in the workplace. The pandemic inadvertently brought about a reprieve for such situations, but with many organisations subsequently returning to in-office shifts, this caused the government to feel obliged to press the matter by publishing a consultation regarding workplace sexual harrassment.
The public questionnaire within the consultation shockingly reported that, of the 2,611 female respondents, 62% had experienced either a form of harassment or discrimination while in a working environment. The natural conclusion was that more steps had to be taken to enforce the protection of employees from such occurrences, thereby broadening the new statutory code of practice and leading to the time limit for sexual harassment reports to increase from three to six months from the last act. From the initial consultation publication date, it was advised that employers should take “all reasonable steps” to put preventative measures in place as it would be their only defence. Unfortunately, this is not a factor of employment that has simply disappeared. And, so it’s highly likely that we’ll see stricter guidelines for employers to safeguard their staff against sexual harassment in 2023 and beyond, followed by more severe punishments if there is a failure or neglect to do so.
Retained EU Law Bill
The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill was introduced on the 22nd of September 2022. It is currently undergoing its second reading in the House of Commons and, if passed, it will signal significant changes to employment rights. Namely, rights that have been inherent within business and HR practices for a sizable period of time.
The Bill has the potential to have an impact upon the UK’s legal landscape to a radical degree. This is in how it aims to remove the remainder of any EU-derived features of law that were retained when the UK departed the EU on the 1st of January 2021, with the projected date estimate being by the end of 2023. Changes will include those that have been a part of the body of employment rights which have accumulated since 1973. Specifically targeted are those pieces of legislation which were introduced statutorily, as opposed to being Acts of Parliament. The affected measures comprise Working Time Regulations, TUPE, Agency Workers Regulations, and Part-time Workers Regulations. Having said this, it is discerned to be a gradual process, rather than one which will happen instantaneously, and the government can mark extensions where appropriate if they decide to. Additionally, it is expected that some measures will be merely replaced by effectively identical UK counterparts.
Although the Bill does herald substantial changes, there are, however, certain facets of employment law that will remain untouched by the proposals therein. Foremost are those rights which make up the Equality Act, rights which relate to redundancy, and the singular right against being unfairly dismissed by one’s employer. How exactly the landscape of employment will be transformed is currently uncertain, given that the Bill is both of a both legal and political nature. Followingly, the process will be logistically complex, needing a scrupulous analysis of laws which are originally European but have become embedded within our own system. It is certainly not without risk, especially considering that our equal pay law was fundamentally inspired by progressions in European case law.
Out of all we have discussed throughout this article, the Retained EU Law Bill stands out as particularly relevant for employers as we move into 2023, it is a matter of waiting to see how the Bill unfolds and what consequent changes are brought about by it. Albeit, this doesn’t go to say that the other changes should be underplayed, they also require equal attention if you are to properly fulfil your role as an employer.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article, we hope it has helped by comprehensively informing you on the changes to employment law we saw in 2022, as well as those that are to come in 2023. We at advo know it can be difficult to keep on top of the various changes which happen concerning employment each year. It’s for this reason why we provide a human resource service which addresses all of these underlying elements for employers, so that they can more suitably dedicate their time to other areas within their business. If you’re interested, then be sure to get in touch today, and for more related material, feel free to head over to our news page!