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A Year in Review: Employment Law and HR in 2021

The new year has begun, and that means a lot of looking back, but also looking forward. As the saying goes, “those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it”. We are looking for a better tomorrow for employees, so it only makes sense that we should look back over the past year and see what still needs to be done.

We are taking a look at employment law and HR throughout 2021. What were the major changes and what can we learn from the environment we had to create positive change in the future.

Gig economy

The gig economy has been a place of unclarity for decades. New industries have popped up in recent years, like Uber and Deliveroo and have been considered gig jobs, allowing suppliers to underpay and over work staff for years. Meanwhile, the zero-hour contract is doing the same thing, with no stability and security of your hours and pay.

The Supreme Court has this year has found that, in the case of Uber BV v Aslam and Others, that Uber drivers are in fact “workers” under the Employment Rights Act, which means they are deemed entitled to employment rights like national minimum wage and holiday pay.

The grey area of the gig economy is clearing a little, and hopefully this judgement will prompt more action amongst jobs that are considered “gigs” and zero-hour contracts.

Flexible working

The lockdowns of 2020 and early 2021 sent a lot of people home to work from their dining table. A lot of people saw benefits in this, the most prominent being that they could work as and when they pleased. As long as every deadline was hit, they could take a break to pick up the kids, stop in the supermarket, do some exercise, etc.

The idea caught on, and when the time came to allow the public back into the offices, a lot of employees said “No, thank you”. Sure, some of that will have been due to fear of new variants, but there were also a lot of reports of preferring to work from home, in their own time and space.

And so, the UK Government started creating think tanks that looked at making “flexible working the default”. Currently, employees need 26 weeks continuous employment, but changes are being suggest to allow an employee to make statutory requests for flexible working from day one.

Care sector movements in sleep-in shifts

The care sector, especially, had a hard time throughout the pandemic, but if one small thing were to come out of all that turmoil, it would be that the world, and the government, became very aware of just how underappreciated care workers are.

And it might have prompted some change. Currently, there is no national minimum wage for hours spent asleep on the job, according to a judgement from the Supreme Court. There is talk of unionisation to correct this and for the law to be changed within the care sector. This will mean staff shortages, which the government really isn’t going to like, given the state of things.

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