January employment law round up

January employment law round up

Welcome to the first round up of 2022 – a chance to look at a few recent employment law stories from a not so legal point of view…

New year, same pandemic…. Kicking things off with some thoughts on Covid-19. British companies continue to grapple with the question of mandatory vaccination for staff members. Taking an absolute approach still appears to be in the minority, with most employers mindful of the risks of a blanket policy and instead taking a more nuanced approach (perhaps by requiring either vaccination or regular testing). We are finally getting some cases through on this topic, now that the vaccination is a year old: a recent Employment Tribunal case confirmed that an employee was fairly dismissed for refusing the vaccine. As with the early-pandemic cases on automatic unfair dismissal arising from health and safety concerns, this case is first instance and does not bind future Tribunals (notwithstanding the odd sensationalist headline or two that would have you believe otherwise) but it’s interesting nonetheless. 

Vaccines are hitting the headlines in more ways than one this month, with supermarkets among those who have implemented reductions to sick pay for unvaccinated employees. Some have questioned whether this is the appropriate way to go, as many of the individuals affected are low-paid and are working in ‘key-worker’ roles, and some other retailers have publicly distanced themselves from such an approach. The same argument is being directed at the NHS, where discontent is increasing amongst unvaccinated NHS workers who are set to be fired in April if they have not had two jabs. Increasingly it seems possible that the mandate may be rolled back to avoid placing further pressure on an already stretched system. As of the last count, over 73,000 NHS employees remain unvaccinated and are not exempt.

Moving on to a happier subject, businesses in the UK are trialling a 4-day working week. Employees will be paid their normal 5-day salary but will get a long weekend! The common concern to such a proposal is, of course, that employees are expected to do 5-days’ worth of work in 4. A trial in Iceland was described as an ‘overwhelming success’ so maybe those fears are baseless – let’s see how the trial goes. If you can get past the pay wall, this is also an interesting article on this topic.

Jumping to another favourite topic, it’s interesting to see how one gig-economy big-hitter is trying to change their model to address concerns with the model, and here's a brief article on the EU's draft legislation for platform workers, which might have far reaching implications for the model across Europe.

Finally, for fans of the BBC’s The Apprentice, questions have been raised over candidate Shama Amin’s decision to leave the process due to ongoing rheumatoid arthritis. Fans have been questioning whether this was because of discrimination in the televised ‘recruitment’ process. Shama Amin has rebuffed the gossip, but the social media response to her announcement indicates that employment law is reaching the masses!

Until next month…