Each year, we look at the key trends that will shape HR strategies for employers, due to policy changes, social, economic, and political factors. It is likely that developments in HR policy will continue throughout 2022 and as we continue to adapt the way in which we work because of the pandemic, we must also be aware of other challenges such as recruitment and employee retention. Many employers are experiencing the ‘Great Resignation’; a term used to describe record numbers of people leaving their employment following the pandemic.
All of this combined means that employers need to remain relevant not just to their existing workforce, but to potential job applicants too and develop HR policies that tackle both high attrition and the lack of candidates.
So what are the key HR policies for 2022 that are trending?
1. COVID-19 Policies
The recent announcement that the requirement to self-isolate when testing positive could be removed earlier than planned, will require employers to start thinking sooner rather than later about how it can operate whilst maintaining a safe place of work.
Under health and safety laws, employers have a legal duty to protect the health, safety, and welfare of everyone in the workplace and to make appropriate arrangements to ensure this. This duty does not just cover employees but is also covers those who might be affected by the business, such as visitors, contractors, agency workers and customers. There are also legal duties imposed on employers to consult with the workforce on health and safety matters.
So, even if measures are no longer required under the Regulations in England, it will not automatically mean employers can immediately remove all COVID-19 measures. Infection levels could still require employers to take all reasonably practicable steps to reduce workplace risks to the lowest level and so there may still be a need for some measures remaining. What these will be, will be different for each workplace and in line with an employer’s legal obligation to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of risks, based on an updated risk assessment.
We have also heard in the last week that the Government is to consult once more on the requirement to evidence an employee’s COVID-19 vaccination status within the health and social care sector; this time to consult on removing the legislation that had been planned for April 2022 and so it will no longer be a requirement for employment.
We expect employers moving to a position of setting their own COVID-19 policies that ensure they continue conforming to their health and safety obligations if there is no longer a legal requirement to self isolate when positive. Given the risks surrounding the subject of mandating vaccinations, it is unlikely employers will move to developing any policy of this nature, instead it is more likely employers will start to become more reliant on lateral flow tests and requiring employees to remain off work, or work from home when having tested positive for COVID-19.
2. Diversity and Inclusion
Diversity and inclusion should always be an area that is kept under continuous review within organisations. In 2022 there is a possibility that we shall see new laws placing a proactive and specific legal duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment at work, as well as possibly bringing back the laws on 3rd party harassment (for example, protecting employees from being harassed by customers, and other 3rd parties).
We will also find out the outcome of a recent consultation on the potential introduction of disability reporting, which could be either voluntary or compulsory.
There is also a growing need within organisations for the introduction of a policy, guidance, and support on transgender in the workplace. This is an extremely sensitive and delicate area of employment which would warrant the training and upskilling of not just line managers, but all staff, as part of their normal diversity training and to offer help and support to those it applies to and to avoid the risk of unlawful discrimination.
3. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Following COP26 back in November, there is more of a focus and attention on climate change and the environment. The climate change conference discussed how countries could meet the target of ensuring global temperatures do not rise more than 1.5°. Every nation, every employer and every individual can play a crucial role in contributing to tackling climate change.
So, for 2022, we are likely to see more individuals wanting to work for an employer that is environmentally conscious and will mean this is an important area for your people plan, if the business is to remain competitive in the recruitment market.
CSR-conscious employers are likely to be looking at how their business can contribute and so we expect to see policy development that focuses on creating greener policies, working practices as well as business relationships with others who have similar values. All of which will form a key part of the employment relationship by enhancing the attractiveness of the employer brand and its values.
You may look to develop in this way by, for example, reviewing your organisations commuting and business travel policies, looking at how your health and safety practices focus on more efficient systems, supporting the use of electric cars or you may look at your own procurement practices and who you are prepared to work with.
4. Hybrid Working
We anticipate hybrid working continuing to be a priority for both employer and employee. The benefits clearly show that overall, it is good for both because of the advantages it brings to both parties, such as increased flexibility and commitment and reduced overheads.
5. Shorter working week instead of increased pay
There is also currently a trial underway in the UK as part of an international study on the impact of reduced or flexible working hours on productivity. 30 companies are taking part and will mean that individuals will work four days a week, rather than their usual five and will receive the same amount of pay as they normally would for working five days.
This six-month trial follows others which are being (or have been) implemented in other countries. The 4 Day Working Week Campaign are running the scheme in conjunction with the think tank Autonomy and researchers at the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and Boston College.
Given both recruitment and employee retention challenges that many employers are facing, this initiative may become a bigger trend as we progress through 2022 and when we know more of the results from this major trial.
6. Family Friendly
With the introduction of neonatal leave and carer’s leave on the horizon, 2022 is a good opportunity to undertake an overall review of your current policies in regard to family-friendly.
7. Pay Policy
It is expected that we shall see rules around gender pay gap reporting being reviewed. Furthermore, with the financial pressures also affecting employees (inflation, NI increases and impact of the pandemic and Brexit) plus the current ‘candidates recruitment market’ employers may need to think about their salary and reward packages. This will help to ensure they remain competitive with a view to retaining staff, their skills and knowledge of your organisation and avoid staff shortages, recruitment, and retraining costs.
8. Automated systems and tools to free up management time and improve performance
Since the pandemic, we have seen more employers move to more permanent hybrid and/or remote working. Whilst there are many positives that come with this for both employer and employee, there can also be challenges too. For example, how do you maintain high employee engagement when people are not working together? How do you ensure you maintain the company culture, team cohesion and social interaction amongst the workforce? These are all valid challenges, which if left unmanaged could contribute to poor employee engagement as well as people moving on.
Using technology to automate work will free up time for the manager to then focus on these challenges and build a more human relationship with their team. This in turn will also help with team performance both from higher engagement through more effective line management, but also because of new systems and process that have been introduced.
It is possible that we will see in 2022 the recommendation of best practice regarding whistleblowing. European Union countries will most likely be implementing the EU Whistleblowing Directive, but although we are no longer required to follow suit since having left the EU, it may be that the directive will provide us with best practice that employers may wish to adopt.
10. Modern Slavery Policy
We saw back in September, plans announced for the reform of the Modern Slavery Act. The Government has outlined on the back of a 2021 consultation that it seeks to introduce legislation that deals with six reporting areas such as organisation structure and supply chains, policies relating to slavery and human trafficking, due diligence processes relating to modern slavery, an organisation’s effectiveness in preventing modern slavery and trafficking and in the training of staff on human trafficking.
It is also due to be amended to mean that additional information will be required in modern slavery statements to improve clarity and enable scrutiny. Lastly, there will eventually be a new single reporting deadline of 30 September for all organisations and planned reforms Section 54 of the Act is also due to be extended (at a currently unknown point in time) to public bodies with a budget of £36 million.
Even if the legislation does not get introduced 2022, it is certainly worthwhile reviewing existing policies and working practices in readiness for it.
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