Following the government’s removal of its work from home guidance, many businesses are likely to be organising another return to the office push in February. This month, in-house lawyers should also take note of the forthcoming introduction of mandatory climate-related financial disclosures and consultations on corporate taxation and environmental protection.
On 19 January 2022, the Prime Minister announced the lifting of the Plan B restrictions introduced in England in December 2021 in response to the Omicron variant. Of particular relevance to businesses is the removal of the work from home guidance, effective from 19 January, and the removal of the legal requirement to wear a face covering, from 27 January. Many businesses will be organising another return to the office push in February. This toolkit highlights Practical Law resources that will be useful to organisations contemplating a full or partial return to the office.
An employment tribunal has held that the summary dismissal of a care assistant working in a nursing home who refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19 was not unfair dismissal or wrongful dismissal, and the interference with the worker’s Article 8 right to privacy was justified. The judgment is of particular interest being, to our knowledge, the first domestic decision to consider the fairness of dismissing an employee for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19. While specific to the facts of a small employer in the care home sector, the decision demonstrates how a tribunal will approach the argument that mandatory vaccination is an unnecessary invasion of an individual’s Article 8 right to privacy.
Sick pay for self-isolating unvaccinated employees without a medical exemption, mitigating circumstances or a confirmed vaccination appointment is being reduced to the statutory level by some employers. From 10 January, Wessex Water employees are being paid only statutory sick pay if they must self-isolate after being identified as a close contact of someone with COVID-19. Ikea implemented a similar policy in September 2021. This policy change by some employers has been met with a warning that offering reduced sick pay may lead to breach of contract or discrimination claims.
Two cyber security related consultations have been launched by the government. The first invites input into proposals to standardise qualifications and certifications across the cyber security profession, with responses required by 20 March. The second seeks views on proposals for new laws to improve the cyber resilience of organisations that are important to the UK economy and closes on 10 April.
The government has also published a review detailing the progress made in improving cyber resilience between 2016 and 2021 and what action is needed to further enhance cyber resilience in the UK.
The Companies (Strategic Report) (Climate-related Financial Disclosure) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/31) have been published and come into force on 6 April. The Regulations introduce mandatory climate-related financial disclosures contained within the new non-financial and sustainability information statement required for certain companies as part of their strategic report for financial years beginning on or after 6 April.
HM Treasury has published a consultation on UK implementation of the OECD pillar 2 proposals for a global minimum corporate tax rate of 15%. The consultation also proposes a domestic minimum tax for large groups. The consultation closes on 4 April, with draft legislation expected to be published in summer 2022.
The newly-formed Office for Environmental Protection has published a consultation on its draft strategy and enforcement policy, which sets out how it will carry out its role to protect and improve the environment by holding public authorities, including government, to account on environmental law. The term “public authority” could include other organisations, for example water companies, when they are carrying out public functions. The consultation closes on 22 March.
Dates for your diary
- ESMA amended guidelines on enforcement of financial information come into force.
- ISS 2022 Proxy Voting Guidelines updates will be effective for meetings held on or after this date.
- BEIS consultation on payment practices and performance closes.
- European Commission consultation on EU corporate reporting by listed companies and public interest entities closes.
IPO survey on designs law ends.
European Commission consultation on proposed listing act closes.
The use of CE-File is introduced on a mandatory basis in relation to existing proceedings and new proceedings for professional users of the Court of Appeal from this date.
Consultation on miscellaneous amendments to the Takeover Code closes.
The Pensions (Extension of Automatic Enrolment) Bill is due to have its second reading. It is a private members’ bill with the purpose of extending pension participation among lower paid, younger and part-time employees.
Corrections to the 2018/19 or previous year’s annual reports on the CRC Energy Efficiency scheme can be made until this date.