Jill Evans, Law Content Analyst, CIPD, looks at employment law changes and case law in January to April 2022
April 2022 saw the following increases in statutory pay rates:
- Maternity, adoption, paternity and shared parental pay rose to £156.66 a week from 3 April
- Sick pay increased to £99.35 a week from 3 April
- National living wage went up to £9.50 an hour for workers aged 23+ from 1 April
National insurance contributions increased by 1.25% from 6 April for both employees and employers, making the basic tax rate for UK employees 20% of annual earnings above the PAYE threshold.
In tribunals, from 6 April:
- A week’s pay (for calculating redundancy awards and so on) rose to £571
- The cap on unfair dismissal awards rose to £93,878
- The cap on personal injury awards in discrimination cases rose to £49,300 (the ‘Vento bands’ apply in England, Scotland and Wales, but not in Northern Ireland).
COVID-19 safety at work
In April the UK government produced new guidance on reducing the spread of respiratory infections, including COVID-19, in workplaces. Employers no longer have to report workplace outbreaks to public health or focus specifically on COVID-19 prevention but must still carry out health and safety risk assessments and take all reasonable steps to protect their staff and the public . The legal requirement to self-isolate has gone, but employees with respiratory infection symptoms, such as a high temperature and feeling unwell, should still be advised to stay home. The CIPD’s guide COVID-19: managing workplace safety emphasises the need to consult with staff over minimising the risk of infection, remaining flexible and putting employee wellbeing and performance at the centre of the approach.
COVID-19 case law developments
A majority of London solicitors (78%) expect an increase in COVID-related claims over the next two years, especially those involving business interruption caused by the pandemic and insurance cover.
Insurance featured in the successful defence of a claim in Allette v Scarsdale Grange Nursing Home involving an employee refusing COVID-19 vaccination in the care sector. The employment tribunal found her dismissal for failing to follow a reasonable management instruction was fair because she had no medical basis for refusing vaccination, the employer’s health and safety concerns for its residents and business insurance were legitimate, and its response was reasonable, based on the knowledge about vaccines and the progress of the pandemic at the time. Issues in the case are likely to recur since regulations bringing in mandatory vaccinations have been withdrawn.
The importance of consulting staff on appropriate COVID-19 safety measures was demonstrated in Rendina v Royston Veterinary Centre. In this case, an assistant vet was found to be automatically unfairly dismissed for raising health and safety concerns over her practice’s COVID-19 prevention steps rather than ‘discord’ with the practice director, the reason she was given in her dismissal letter.
In Quelch v Courtiers Support Services, a compliance analyst was dismissed for gross misconduct, after refusing to return to his workplace over COVID-19 concerns. An employment tribunal found there was no fair reason for dismissal when he could reasonably work from home. The employee’s claim for detrimental treatment on health and safety grounds also succeeded, and he received a 20% uplift in his award due to his employer’s non-compliance with the ACAS Code of Practice on grievance and disciplinary procedures.
In USDAW v Tesco Stores, the High Court took a stand against the increasing use of ‘fire and rehire’ to change terms and conditions by issuing an injunction against the supermarket chain preventing it from taking this approach. However, in some instances, existing law is proving inadequate at regulating employee relations issues, and not just in the P&O example. In the case, Mercer v Alternative Future Group, the Court of Appeal agreed with the employer and the government that the Trade Union and the Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA) could not prevent a union workplace representative in the care sector being suspended after she revealed in media interviews she would be taking part in the industrial action she was organising. The Act does not protect the right to strike.
Other cases to read up on include:
- Smith v Pimlico Plumbers: worker status in the gig economy and holiday pay was challenged in this case, with the Supreme Court case ruling that a plumber was entitled to worker rights and therefore both holiday pay and leave.
- Basic Broadcasting v HMRC (Adrian Chiles/IR35): Self-employed status was questioned in this case, with the tribunal deciding that Chiles was conducting his own business, rather than being an employee of the BBC and ITV.
- Taheri v Attorney General: Vexatious litigation in relation to multiple job applications was the issue of Taheri v Attorney General, where it was alleged that the respondent had applied for jobs and, when unsuccessful, would bring discrimination claims against the employer. It was ruled that the litigant would have to seek permission from the EAT for further claims.
Explore our law resources for more information:
Case law on dismissal
Case law on terms and conditions of employment
Statutory rates and compensation limits
COVID-19: managing workplace safety
Recent and forthcoming legislation