With increases in National Minimum Wage rates, employment tribunal awards, statutory pay, reporting deadlines, changes to guidance and more, April is an important month in the employment law calendar. We have set out below some key dates and changes to be aware of this month.
National Minimum Wage
The annual increases in the National Minimum Wage hourly rates (including the National Living Wage) that apply from 1 April 2022 are as follows:
- 23+ from £8.91 to £9.50
- 21-22 from £8.36 to £9.18
- 18-20 from £6.56 to £6.83
- 16-17 from £4.62 to £4.81
The minimum hourly rate for apprentices rises from £4.30 to £4.81 and applies to apprentices under 19 or in the first year of their apprenticeship.
Statutory Maternity, Paternity, Adoption, Shared Parental and Parental Bereavement Pay
Statutory maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental and parental bereavement pay increased from £151.97 to £156.66 per week on 3 April 2022.
Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
SSP increased from £96.35 to £99.35 per week on 6 April 2022.
The remaining pandemic-related arrangements for SSP ended on 24 March 2022 and the normal conditions of entitlement to SSP now apply regardless of whether COVID is a factor. This means, for example, that SSP will only be payable where the worker is sick or incapable of work and from the fourth day of absence (rather than from the first day, under the pandemic rules).
Workforce reporting requirements
Despite changes to the gender pay gap reporting deadlines during the pandemic, for private companies and voluntary organisations with 250 or more staff, the usual deadline of 4 April is back. (For public authority employers, the deadline was 30 March 2022.)
The closing date for the government’s consultation on voluntary and mandatory disability workforce reporting for large employers (250 employees and above) has been extended to 8 April 2022 (from 25 March). The government confirmed recently that it will not be legislating for mandatory ethnicity pay reporting at this stage (see further below under ‘What’s ahead?’)
Limits on employment tribunal awards
The statutory cap on certain employment tribunal awards is revised in April. Where the event giving rise to compensation arose on or after 6 April 2022:
- the cap on a week's pay for the purposes of calculating (among other things) statutory redundancy pay increased to £571;
- the maximum compensatory award for an unfair dismissal claim (provided this is lower than the additional cap on the compensatory award of 52 weeks' pay) increased to £93,878.
Vento bands for injury to feelings awards
The Vento bands, which provide guidance for employment tribunals when deciding awards for injury to feelings in discrimination claims, have been increased in respect of claims presented on or after 6 April 2022 as follows:
- Lower band (less serious cases) - £990 to £9,900
- Middle band (cases that do not merit an award in the upper band) - £9,900 to £29,600
- Upper band (the most serious cases) - £29,600 to £49,300
The most exceptional cases may merit an award of more than £49,300.
Revised workplace guidance
With the relaxation of government imposed measures under its plan for Living with COVID, the onus is very much on employers to assess and manage through their own internal policies the impact on their workforces of COVID and other respiratory infections such as flu.
The UK Health Security Agency has published guidance for reducing the spread of respiratory infections, including COVID-19 in the workplace; this replaced previous government guidance on ‘Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)’. Employers should take this new guidance into account when considering their statutory duty to take all reasonably practicable measures to prevent employees and others from harm. The guidance should also be considered in the context of an employer’s common law duty of care to its workforce.
Right to work checks
From 6 April 2022, employers are required to use the Home Office’s digital right to work check service for employees who hold a biometric residence card, a biometric residence permit or a frontier worker permit. For other employees, the end date for temporary adjustments to right to work checks has been pushed back from 5 April to 30 September 2022.
A revised code of practice for employers on avoiding unlawful discrimination while preventing illegal working also applies in relation to employment starting on or after 6 April 2022, and where a repeat check is required to be carried out on or after that date.
In our January update, The people agenda for 2022, we covered a number of the potential employment legislative measures in the pipeline. Unfortunately, it is still not certain which, if any, of these measures will progress this year and employers will need to keep a watching brief on a number of possible developments.
In its publication of 17 March 2022 Inclusive Britain: government response to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities the government confirmed that it will not be legislating for mandatory ethnicity pay reporting at this stage, instead opting to support employers with voluntary reporting. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is expected to publish guidance for employers on voluntary ethnicity pay reporting this summer.
Most recently the government announced that it plans to develop a statutory code on ‘fire and rehire’ practices although, again, timeframes are unclear. The government has said that it intends that a court or employment tribunal will take the code into account when considering relevant cases, including unfair dismissal. The courts will have the power to apply an uplift of up to 25% of an employee’s compensation if an employer unreasonably fails to comply with the new code where it applies.
As always, the detail of all of these measures will be key. Please do get in touch with your usual CMS contact if you would like to discuss the potential implications for your business and workforce.
Article co-authored by Sarah Macdonald, Trainee Solicitor at CMS.