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The past two years have been a tricky and turbulent time for HR professionals and employers as they have had to quickly adapt to multiple ‘new normals’ and grapple with the constant flow of challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought to UK businesses.

   

Our Employment Law Team at Lamb Brooks, take a glance at some of the ‘hot topic’ issues that HR teams could anticipate in the year ahead. As you might have guessed, many of the topics are Covid related, but there are also a few other items to have on your radar for 2022.

   

Mental Health at Work

 

No longer a ‘nice to have’ benefit or welcomed perk of the job – looking after employee’s mental health has become top of the agenda since workplaces have been faced with unique challenges. With many workplaces still operating from home or using hybrid working patterns, HR must have confidence in their ability to support workers that cannot been seen face to face in the office.

   

Employers are being faced with a demoralised workforce as many are suffering post-pandemic fatigue, stress, anxiety and burnout.

   

Companies should take a proactive approach to advocating positive mental health for their employees, ensuring that their policies and procedures around wellbeing are clear and easily available. Some ideas to support employees could include mental health training, management training, offering wellness programs, upgrading employee benefits, carrying out regular check-ins and nurturing a more open environment where staff feel comfortable to raise issues or concerns around mental health with their colleagues or managers.

   

Flexible Working

 

Many employees were forced to work from home at various points over the last 18 months due to Government restrictions and lockdowns. For many, the option of working from home has been very desirable as it can help achieve a better work/life balance and also reduce expenses of travel, parking and childcare.

   

It is anticipated that the Employment Bill will be published at some point in 2022. Within this bill it is expected that rights to request flexible working from ‘day one’ of employment or making flexible working the default position will be addressed.

   

Employers would still have the right to turn down requests if the role is not suitable or practical to be carried out from home. Certainly, many new employees joining companies over the last 18 months have been joining on contracts that allow them to exclusively work from home or work partly in the workplace and partly from home. Employers should review their employment contracts to check they are in-line with their current practices.

   

Four Day Working Week

 

In the wake of the pandemic employers learned just how productive their workers can be from home. With the use of good IT, challenges were quickly overcome, and employers benefitted from the morale boost that staff got from having a better balance and spending more time with their families, not to mention the reduced costs of running a full office.

   

Countries such as Japan, Denmark and Norway have been practicing 4-day work weeks for some time and large companies in the UK have recently made the move to a shorter working week with the likes of Google, Amazon and Deloitte taking the leap.

   

With 12.5 million workdays being lost each year due to work-related stress, a 4-day week can improve the productivity, efficiency and commitment whilst reducing burn-out.

   

The more publicity that the 4-day working week receives, the more employees may try to leverage. It might be worth considering how your workplace could adapt to the concept of a shorter working week to see if it might be feasible in the near future.

   

Sexual Harassment

 

With sexual harassment still hitting the headlines and a new statutory code of practice due to be published this year, employers should ensure that their workplace is free from all types of harassment and that clear, accessible guidance and training is in place for employees and managers.

   

The Government launched a consultation on workplace sexual harassment in 2019, addressing issues such as extending the time frame in which employees can bring a claim against a past employer and increasing protection to third parties, which would include staff suffering harassment by customers, contractors, or suppliers.

   

Generational Differences

 

For the first time in history, four generations (Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Gen Z) are all in the workforce at the same time. The differences between these generations can be significant, what drives and motivates a ‘Boomer’ may be completely distinct to work ‘Gen Z’s’ entering the workplace are focused on. It would be beneficial for HR teams and managers to take time to do some reading or training on managing a workforce of multiple generations to gain understanding and ensure that some groups are not overlooked in the workplace.

   

For employers of younger people, or those looking ahead to the future, it is worth learning what the future generations are looking for from their employer, how they like to be managed etc. Business owners should also be taking a look at their Generation X and Millennial employees as their potential managers and leaders in the coming years.

   

Health & Safety

 

We are clearly not going to be out of the Covid-19 woods for some time and employers must continue to keep abreast of changes and guidance to keep their employees safe. If it has been some time since you last reviewed your Covid-19 policy and procedures, then it may be worth revisiting and auditing this new year.

   

Navigating Isolation / Covid Cases

 

Many businesses are suffering staff shortages due to employees isolating. This of course brings challenges in delivering a good service, maintaining profitability and team morale. There is also an administrative headache to contend with, especially if you oversee HR for a large organisation. Keeping up with staff sickness, isolation periods and calculating SSP can be a minefield. Ensure that your processes are slick and keep clear records of communication.

   

Remember to also check in regularly with employees who are out of the office with Covid or other illnesses to keep in touch.

   

Mandatory Vaccines

 

From November 2021 people working in care homes must be double vaccinated unless they have a medical exemption. From April 2022, those working in health and social care in the UK must also be double vaccinated, unless they are exempt. Employers in these sectors should follow government guidance and keep clear records of their employee’s vaccination status, carefully storing data in accordance with GDPR rules.

   

Some workplaces, for example Plimco, introduced a ‘no jab, no job’ policy. There are a number of issues to consider if workplaces consider going down the route of mandatory vaccines, including potential discrimination.

   

Employment Law Advice for Your Business

 

If you find yourself needing some employment law advice for your company or would like to organise some training on any of the topics mentioned in this article, then please get in touch by calling the Lamb Brooks Employment Law Team on 01256 844888 or email us at enquiries@lambbrooks.com.

   

Other Articles You May Be Interested in Reading:

Can You Give Your Employees a Pay Cut For Working From Home?

Managing Difficult People

How to Manage and Support People From Home

 

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.