A number of changes are in the pipeline in 2021 which businesses must prepare for now.
Here’s what to look out for in this coming year:
- Lockdown III. New COVID restrictions came into force on 6 January 2021 requiring workers to once again work from home if they can. Despite this more people appear to be going into work than during this first lockdown. We would strongly advise employers to ensure that their COVID risk assessment ensures the safety of their workforce to reduce the risk of claims being brought by those who believe that their health and safety at work has been detrimentally compromised. Click here to find out more
- Due to the Lockdown the Government has recommenced the shielding programme throughout the UK to those who are clinically extremely vulnerable. Anyone who receives a notification from the Government has been advised to stay at home and work from home if they can. Such employees can be Furloughed assuming that they were on the payroll on 30 October 2020 and meet the requirements. Use the Government checklist to see who is eligible to be Furloughed.
- End of Furlough. The Furlough Scheme is due to end at the end of April 2021 unless it is further extended or replaced with another Scheme. The Scheme is only applicable if certain criteria is met. The Job Retention Bonus has now been cancelled. However, another job retention incentive may be introduced at some point.
- Extension of Holiday Carry Over for 2 years. The Working Time Regulations have been amended to allow staff to carry over 4 weeks’ holiday if they were not able to take their 2020 holiday as a result of the pandemic.
Gender Pay Gap Reporting
- By 4 April 2021 data must be published by all qualifying organisations of their gender pay gap for the snapshot date of 5 April 2020. The data must be published on the Government website and a searchable website accessible to both employees and the public.
- From 1 January 2021 Brexit will make it more bureaucratic, difficult and costly to recruit and employ someone from outside the UK & Ireland.
- The right to freedom of movement ended on 31 December 2020 when the UK left the EU. Other than Irish nationals anyone who wishes to work in the UK will have to comply with the new “points based” system. This system is designed to attract only skilled workers who are on the relevant Workers will have to speak English, have at least A Level or equivalent qualifications, have a job offer from a licenced sponsor and earn at least £25,600 per annum. However, employers can recruit from the shortage occupational list and pay them slightly less. Employers will therefore need a Sponsor Licence to recruit non-UK workers. More details on how to apply for the Licence can be found here. Employers will need to pay £199 for each sponsorship licence issued and £1000 for each skilled worker for the first 12 months and £500 for each subsequent 6 months period. These costs cannot be passed on to the worker.
- EU workers who are already living and working in the UK can continue to be employed until 30 June 2021. But, such workers will need to obtain settled or pre-settled status from 1 July 2021. After this they will become illegal workers. The Home Office has a template letter employers can use to send to their EU employees.
National Minimum Wage
- The national minimum wage increases in April 2021 to:
|23 and above||£8.91|
|Apprentice (under 19 or in first year)||£4.30|
Statutory Maternity, Paternity, Shared Parental Leave, Adoption & Sick Pay
- Weekly rates increase to £151.97 from Monday 12 April 2021. Statutory Sick increases to £96.35.
Increase to Cap in Tribunal Cases and Statutory Week’s Pay
- The cap to the compensatory award for Unfair Dismissal increases on 6 April 2021 shall increase but we do not yet know by how much. The weeks’ pay will also increase but again we do not yet know to what amount.
- The Government has stated its intention to introduce the Employment Bill which it states will “protect and enhance” workers’ rights beyond Brexit. It has committed to introducing the right to a more predictable and stable contract after 26 weeks in view of the increasing Gig economy and will extend redundancy rights to tackle maternity and pregnancy discrimination in this area. The Bill will also cover new rights to extended leave for neonatal care and give carers the right to take one week’s unpaid leave a year. Interestingly in light of COVID, the Government has also stated that it will consult on making flexible working the default unless employers have good grounds to require otherwise. Watch this space as the Bill continues to make progress in 2021.