BOSSES in York are being warned of potential Covid-related workplace challenges as the pandemic continues to bite.

Employment law experts at Torque Law are cautioning against any notion that 2022 will bring an easier ride for employers who have already grappled with furlough, hybrid working and Brexit.

Tiggy Clifford, who established the specialist practice in 2016 with Emma Whiting, said there were still plenty of issues to come this year.

"Recruitment and retention are likely to be key issues for employers as they look to recover and grow following the pandemic," said Tiggy, whose York-based practice leads employers and senior executives through complex, high stakes and sensitive employment issues.

"It’s more important than ever to invest in people to ensure that employers stand out from the crowd and be somewhere that employees want to join and remain.

"Lots of employers are permanently embracing flexible working and flexible holiday arrangements.

"Employees really like to feel part of an organisation where these forward-thinking arrangements are in place, but we often see that the take-up, and therefore cost to the employer, is low."

Tiggy said that being able to demonstrate that the workplace was progressive and inclusive was essential.

"Recent Employment Tribunal claims are having the effect of gradually widening the scope of the Equality Act, giving protection to gender fluid and menopausal employees.

"It’s likely that 2022 will see the first Tribunal claims about employers’ adaptations for employees with long Covid.

"Covid-related work issues are likely to continue to put pressure on employers."

Tiggy said the duty to provide a safe workplace meant Covid workplace risk assessments would need to be regularly reviewed, taking account of government guidance and employee vulnerabilities.

When considering whether employees can work from home, employers can look at whether the work needs to be completed in person.

But Tiggy said they should also think about the employee’s circumstances - particularly whether working from either home or the workplace may cause mental or physical health or wellbeing issues.

"Employers should also think about protecting employees who are higher risk, and this is likely to include staff who are unvaccinated," she added.

Other tribunal cases have highlighted the importance of following fair and transparent procedures when dismissing or disciplining staff, even at difficult times like the first national lockdown.

Talks and careful consideration should be given to their responses to avoid potentially costly claims for unfair dismissal or discrimination.

Tiggy said further changes include the planned introduction of up to a week’s unpaid carer’s leave and additional protection for employees who return from maternity leave and face potential redundancy.

"Flexible working is also up for review with the government likely to make this a right which will apply from day one of employment, instead of having to wait for six months like now."