This timetable outlines the major changes to UK employment legislation from 2019 to 2021, and what's expected beyond that time period. For information on employment law in Northern Ireland, CIPD members can see our factsheet.

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2022

On this date, the government revoked regulations which required workers in Care Quality Commission regulated care homes to be vaccinated against Covid-19 as a condition of employment from 11 November 2021. The statutory requirement for other health and care workers to be vaccinated was due to be introduced on 1 April 2022 but was also revoked.

Government guidance on the issue has been withdrawn.

In 2021, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) postponed the enforcement of gender pay gap reporting until October in response to the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on organisations. This year, the usual reporting deadlines apply: 30 March 2022 for public authority employers, and 4 April 2022 for private or voluntary sector employers.

For guidance on how to report, see our Gender pay gap reporting guide.

On this date, the National Living Wage will rise from £8.91 to £9.50 an hour for workers aged 23 years and over.

For a full breakdown see our Statutory rates page.

Statutory maternity, adoption, paternity, and shared parental pay rises to £156.66.

See our Statutory rates page.

In 2021, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) postponed the enforcement of gender pay gap reporting until October in response to the continued effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on organisations. This year, the usual reporting deadlines apply: 30 March 2022 for public authority employers, and 4 April 2022 for private or voluntary sector employers.

For guidance on how to report, see our Gender pay gap reporting guide.

From this date, there is no longer a requirement for GPs and other doctors to sign a fit note personally as evidence of an employee’s sickness absence. A new set of regulations allows fit notes to be issued digitally, a practice made commonplace alongside virtual consultations during the Covid-19 pandemic. A new form is being developed and both the old and new versions will be legally valid while the new version is being rolled out.

The government has updated its guidance - Getting the most out of the fit note: guidance for employers and line managers.

The Home Office has allowed employers to carry out right to work checks using video calls to job applicants and scanned copies of identity documents in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The temporary adjustments to the procedure were due to end on 5 April 2022 but have now been extended to 30 September 2022.

The government is also introducing a new digital service for checking British and Irish citizens’ right to work checks on 6 April, although manual checks of applicants’ documents will remain valid.

From the same date, electronic checks must be carried out for biometric residence permit holders and those with settled or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme. Manual checks are no longer acceptable.

The government has updated its Right to work checks: an employer's guide.

The government has announced that it will extend the ban on exclusivity clauses currently in place for those on zero hours contracts to workers on or below the Lower Earnings Limit (the threshold that entitles employees to qualify for certain state benefits such as the basic state pension). The lower earnings limit for the current tax year is set at £123 a week and an estimated 1.5 million workers have weekly earnings at or below this level.

Exclusivity clauses in employment contracts prevent workers from working for other employers. The ban on them in zero hours contracts was introduced in 2015. Rules to extend this ban, which is in response to a consultation launched in December 2020, will be introduced later in 2022.

This year’s Queen’s Speech contained four bills relevant to employment:

  • Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill – this will give UK ports the power to refuse entry to ships whose crews receive less than the National Minimum Wage. The bill is in response to ferry operator P&O firing its crew and replacing them with agency staff on lower wages.
  • Modern Slavery Bill – will make it mandatory for companies with an annual turnover of £36 million or more to publish an annual statement on the government's website outlining the steps they are taking to prevent modern slavery (currently reporting is voluntary). The bill will also introduce fines for companies that don’t report.
  • Brexit Freedoms Bill – will allow the government to change laws inherited from the EU without a vote in Parliament.
  • Data Reform Bill – this aims to shift data privacy away from a box-ticking exercise towards an outcomes-focused framework. The government maintains that the GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 have ‘encouraged excessive paperwork’ for businesses.

There was no mention of the long-awaited Employment Bill. Legislative reforms to which the government has committed and which have been expected for some time include:

  • Flexible working - making requests a day 1 right (currently employees need 26 weeks’ service to make a request)
  • Redundancy protection – extending this to pregnant workers and adding a further six months to mothers’ protection after maternity leave ends
  • Carers leave – giving carers the right to a week’s unpaid leave
  • Neonatal care – giving the right to up to 12 weeks’ paid neonatal leave to parents of babies needing neonatal care
  • Sexual harassment – creating a duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment at work, including from third parties, and extending the time limit for claims to six months
  • NDAs – restricting the use of non-disclosure agreements (known as ‘gagging clauses’) in settlement agreements.

These reforms could be introduced as separate pieces of legislation on a piecemeal basis rather than as part of an Employment Bill.

1 Jan 2021 - New immigration law in force

On this date, a new immigration system that applies equally to EU and non-EU citizens came into effect. There are several changes to the former points-based system, including:

  • Replacement of the Tier 2 General category with a Skilled Worker route (requires a job offer in an eligible skilled occupation from an approved sponsoring employer)
  • Abolition of maximum six-year stay for workers in this category
  • Gross basic salary must be a minimum of £25,600
  • Skill level must be equivalent to A-levels
  • Applicants must have an intermediate-level ability to communicate in English.

EU workers already resident in the UK on 1 December 2020 have until 31 June 2021 to apply for settled status enabling them to remain here.

For more details, see our Employers’ legal guide to post-Brexit immigration.

12 Feb 2021 – Public sector exit payment cap revoked

On 21 July 2020, the government confirmed its intention to change the law so that exit payments to public servants in excess of £95,000 could be clawed back if the employee moved into another highly paid public sector job. Consultations on the reform began in 2015 and culminated in a final consultation in September 2020. The Restriction of Public Sector Exit Payments Regulations 2020 were made on 14 October 2020 and came into force on 4 November 2020.

On 12 February 2021, the regulations were revoked on the grounds that a review had indicated unintended consequences arising from them. The government has issued Guidance to employers on paying additional sums to employees whose exit payments were capped between 4 November 2020 and 12 February 2021.

30 Mar 2021 – Gender pay gap reports (public sector)

Specified public authorities, including government departments, the armed forces, local authorities, the NHS and state schools, with 250 or more employees, are required to publish their gender pay gap reports annually by this date, based on data gathered on 31 March each year.

COVID-19: the government announced a suspension of enforcement measures on gender pay gap reporting for 2019/20, in view of the unprecedented pressures on businesses caused by the pandemic. Employers have until 5 October 2021 to report their 2020/21 figures before enforcement measures are taken but are encouraged to report by the usual reporting deadlines.

For more information, visit our Gender pay gap reporting topic page.

1 Apr 2021 – NLW/NMW increases

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on November 2020 that from April 2021, the National Living Wage would rise to £8.91 an hour (an increase of 2.2%) and be extended to 23 and 24 year olds for the first time (previously the NLW applied only to 25 year olds and older). All other NMW rates will increase at the same time in line with Low Pay Commission recommendations.

For a full breakdown of the rates, go to our Statutory Rates page.

4 Apr 2021 – Gender pay gap reports (private and voluntary sectors)

Private and voluntary sector employers in England, Wales and Scotland with at least 250 employees are required to publish information about the differences in pay and bonuses between men and women in their workforce, based on a ‘snapshot’ date of 5 April each year. Provisions are not yet in force in Northern Ireland.

COVID-19: the government announced a suspension of enforcement measures on gender pay gap reporting for 2019/20, in view of the unprecedented pressures on businesses caused by the pandemic. Employers have until 5 October 2021 to report their 2020/21 figures before enforcement measures are taken but are encouraged to report by the usual reporting deadlines.

For more information, visit our Gender pay gap reporting topic page.

4 April 2021 – Statutory pay rises

Statutory maternity, adoption, paternity, and shared parental pay rises.

See our Statutory rates page.

5 Apr 2021 – Sick pay rises

See our Statutory rates page.

6 Apr 2021 - Extension of IR35 to the private sector

The IR35 rules prevent contractors who are performing similar roles to employees, and working through Personal Service Companies (PCS), from paying less tax and NICs than if they were permanently employed by the client organisation. In April 2017, responsibility for deciding whether contractors’ working in the public sector were caught by IR35 switched from them to their end users, which also became liable for deducting the right amount of tax and NICs.

From 6 April 2021, deciding whether IR35 applies becomes the responsibility of all private sector employers that in a tax year have:

  • more than 50 employees
  • an annual turnover over £10.2 million
  • a balance sheet worth over £5.1 million.

COVID-19: The extension of the rules to the private sector was due to take effect from 6 April 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic.

HMRC has published guidance on the new rules, Prepare for changes to the off-payroll working rules (IR35), a statement on the outcome of its consultation, Off-payroll working rules from April 2021and further guidance in February 2021, saying that it would take a ‘light touch’ to compliance in the first year.

See also our IR35 implications for people professionals guides.

31 May 2021 – Health and safety protection extended to workers

From this date, workers will gain the right not to be subjected to detrimental treatment for leaving or refusing to return to work if they believe themselves to be in 'serious and imminent danger'. Previously the right under s44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 only applied to employees.

The change follows a High Court decision last autumn in a case involving the gig workers union, the IWGB, that the government had failed to implement the EU Health and Safety Framework Directive properly into UK law by omitting workers from s44 protection. The right is now being used more frequently by employees worried about travelling to or being in work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Employment Rights Act 1996 (Protection from Detriment in Health and Safety Cases) (Amendment) Order 2021 comes into force on 31 May.

30 Jun 2021 – Settled status application deadline

EU, EEA or Swiss nationals who were in the UK on 31 December 2020 and who wish to continue to live and work here must apply for settled status by 30 June 2021. EU nationals who have applied for British citizenship but are still waiting to receive it must also apply for settled or pre-settled status by this date to avoid becoming illegal immigrants on 1 July 2021.

The government has produced general guidance, including a digital application form, on how to apply to the EU settlement scheme. Those whose absences from the UK during the pandemic would ordinarily make them ineligible may now be able to apply due to a slight rule change on 15 June. The government has produced specific guidance for applicants on the Covid-19 amendment to the rules.

Irish nationals do not need settled status in order to work here.

26 Aug 2021 – Temporary 'right to work' checking rules extended

During the pandemic, the Home Office has allowed employers to carry out right to work checks using video calls to job applicants and scanned copies of identity documents. Guidance produced on 18 June 2021 said that employers must resume checking applicants’ original documents with the person present. On 26 August, the Home Office announced that it was extending the temporary adjustments to the procedure until 5 April 2022.

The government has updated its guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19): right to work checks.

23 Sep 2021 – Flexible working consultation and carers’ leave confirmation

The government launched a consultation on this date proposing, among other changes, to remove the service requirement for making flexible working requests. Currently employees must have worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks.

In addition to making flexible working requests a day 1 right, the consultation also proposes:

  • Requiring employers to suggest alternatives if they reject the employee’s request
  • Allowing the change to be temporary rather than permanent
  • Reviewing whether the eight business reasons for refusing a request remain valid.

The consultation closes on 1 December 2021.

On the same date, the government confirmed its commitment to introduce a new day 1 right to a week’s unpaid leave for working carers. The leave must be:

  • taken in full or half days
  • used for a dependant with long-term care needs
  • notified to the employer in advance.

The new right will be introduced ‘when parliamentary time allows’.

For more information, see the consultation outcome on Carer’s leave.

24 Sep 2021 – Tipping and gratuities rule change

On this date, the government confirmed that it would include measures in the next Employment Bill making it illegal for employers to withhold or make deductions from staff tips. The plans also include:

  • a statutory Code of Practice on how tips should be distributed among staff (including a requirement for a written policy on tips and a record of how tips were dealt with)
  • a new right to request information on tipping practices from an employer in support of a tribunal claim.

The announcement follows up on a commitment to legislate in this area in 2018, based on a consultation conducted in 2016.

27 Oct 2021 – New NMW rates for 2022

On 27 October, the government announced that the National Living Wage for those aged 23 years upwards would rise by 6.6% to £9.50 an hour from 1 April 2022. On the same date the National Minimum Wage for 21 and 22-year-olds will increase by 9.8% to £9.18 an hour, and the apprentice rate will go up to £4.81, an increase of 11.9%. All other NMW rates will rise by 4.1%.

For a full list of the rates, see our Statutory rates page.

29 Oct 2021 - New menopause taskforce

The government announced on this date that it would be cutting the cost of repeat prescriptions for HRT therapy for menopausal women and setting up a new cross-party taskforce on menopause. The taskforce will consider how education and training, workplace policies, and peer groups could improve support for women experiencing adverse menopausal health issues.

30 Nov 2021 – Call for evidence on umbrella companies

The government has issued a call for evidence on the role umbrella companies are playing in the labour market, prompted by concerns over non-compliance with employment rights, such as holiday pay, and with tax laws. The consultation closes on 22 February 2022.

1 Dec 2021 – Flexible working consultation closes

The government is considering its response to its consultation on flexible working (see entry above for 23 September 2021) which closed on this date. Among the proposals is making flexible working requests a right for employees from the first day of their employment.

16 Dec 2021 - Disability workforce reporting

The government has launched a consultation asking for views from employers and disabled people on whether the voluntary reporting of information on disability, mental health and wellbeing in organisations should become mandatory. So far, participation in a voluntary reporting framework, set up in 2018 and aimed at organisations with 250 or more employees (although smaller firms could also participate), has been low.

The consultation closes on 25 March 2022.

17 Dec 2021 – Temporary changes to SSP

New regulations came into force on this date temporarily changing the rules on self-certification with the aim of relieving pressure on GPs during the pandemic. Under the standard rules, employees can only self-certify for seven days’ sickness absence before producing a fit note from their GP. The new rules change the self-certification period to 28 days but only apply to absences from 10 December 2021 to 26 January 2022. The 7-day rule will return for absences from the 27 January 2022 onwards. Government guidance has been updated to reflect the change.

The government has also temporarily revived the refunding of SSP paid to employees for COVID-19 related absences by small and medium-sized employers. Rebates will be available for absences from 21 December onwards.


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