UK employment law spotlight – 2021 in review

20 Dec 21 by Charlotte Ashton

As another unusual year draws to a close, you might believe that Covid has been the sole issue on everyone’s mind. However, we take a look at the key employment law developments of the past 12 months...

1. More Gig Economy clarity

Whilst we are awaiting a response to the consultation on making employment status clearer, the Supreme Court handed down a judgment in the case of Uber BV v Aslam and Others. This key case found that the appellants, who were Uber drivers, were “workers” under the Employment Rights Act meaning they were entitled to holiday pay and national minimum wage.

This case will have wide-reaching consequences, but the grey area of employment status is likely to continue as people continue to innovate and come up with new ways of working.

2. Care sector win on sleep-in shifts

A Supreme Court judgment held that there is no national minimum wage (NMW) entitlement for hours spent asleep on the job. Care providers had warned they risked £400m in back pay had the sleeping time been found to be included as part of NMW calculations. It is likely that unions will campaign for the law to be changed and with the care sector risking a staff shortage, this matter is probably set to rumble on for some time yet.

3. Legislation providing additional protection for workers

From 31 May 2021, workers can benefit from protection from detriment for leaving or refusing to return to the workplace in circumstances of serious and imminent danger, to workers. The protections had previously only applied to employees and in the pandemic have been key to many cases whereby people have left the workplace or refused to return, fearing the risk of infection.

4. Menopause in the spotlight

An employment tribunal found that menopausal symptoms can amount to a disability and this, coupled with the government’s Women’s Health Strategy means the topic of menopause has gained prominence.

With greater publicity and the government specifically looking at the topic, more protections could follow. Employers should consider their own policies and procedures to ensure that they are able to treat employees fairly and create a supportive environment for staff suffering from menopause symptoms.

5. No jab, no job

One of the biggest and most controversial changes to the law is the introduction of the mandatory requirement for care home workers to be vaccinated against Covid in England. In 2022, this will be extended workers in health and social care in England.

Many employees who have refused to be vaccinated will have been going through dismissal processes and it is expected there will be a big influx of employment tribunal claims on this topic.

What can we expect in 2022?

Certainly Covid seems likely to dominate the headlines with the spectre of another lockdown hanging over the end of the year. Could there be a reintroduction of the furlough scheme or other initiatives to try and bolster the economy through this difficult period?

Other things to look out for include the Employment Bill which would extend more rights to workers and make flexible working the default, the possible introduction of additional duties on employers to prevent sexual harassment, and new types of leave for employees who are carers and those who have babies who require neo-natal care.


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Post by Charlotte Ashton

Senior Solicitor – Head of Immigration, ESP Law Ltd

Charlotte has over 10 years’ experience in all aspects of employment law, having qualified as a solicitor in 2009. She trained in-house with a large UK company, covering 45,000 employees, and moved to private practice on qualification. Charlotte enjoys helping growing companies understand their legal obligations and has given training and presentations to start up entrepreneurs, and business students, at a local University. Charlotte also specialises in business immigration law for the UK and has helped employers obtain sponsor licences in order to recruit from outside the UK.