2020 was a busy year for organisations with many changes to the employer/employee relationship, particularly in regard to remote working, but what are the key employment law developments for 2021.
1. New immigration law
From 1 January, free movement of people is to end, and with it comes a whole new set of immigration laws. All foreign nationals will now need to seek to enter the UK in the same way, with many expected to use the ‘Skilled Worker Route’. To be able to work in the UK legally, foreign nationals have to meet specified criteria in order to earn at least 70 points. Crucially, this involves being offered a job from an approved sponsor.
If a company intends to take on foreign workers from 2021, it is essential that they apply for a license as soon as is possible.
2. The end of the furlough scheme
The JRS has been in place since March 2020 (actually announced a few weeks after that but backdated to the start of March) and was originally intended to end on 31 October 2020.
Several extensions have been announced and the latest will see the JRS in operation until the end of September 2021, subject to any further adjustment.
Organisations should start to plan the steps they are going to take when they no longer have this support from the government. If they are considering redundancies, they should remember to assess alternative options before making a decision to reduce headcount.
3. New IR35 requirements
From April 2021, eligible large and medium sized organisations engaging contractors through intermediary companies will also be responsible for assessing the employment status of those contractors. Under the new rules, where workers are engaged through their own companies, responsibility to apply IR35, and to pay any associated tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs), will fall to the private company, agency or other third party paying the worker’s company.
These new rules were expected in April 2020, but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
4. Extended redundancy protection for pregnant employees
Currently, those on maternity leave who are at risk of redundancy must be offered suitable alternative roles in advance of others. This protection ends once the employee returns to work. Future changes will mean that this protection starts from the date the employee informs her employers that she is pregnant. It does not matter whether the employee informs you verbally or in writing. This protection will last for a further six-month period once the employee returns to work.
The extended protection will also be available to those on adoption leave and shared parental leave. It is currently not confirmed when this will come into force.
5. More companies to produce Modern Slavery statements
There are plans to require an increase the number of companies that need to produce a Modern Slavery statement. Under these new plans, public sector organisations with a budget of at least £36 million must publish a statement.
Statements will also be required to cover specific topics and be published on the government registry. It has not been confirmed when the new requirements will come into force, but it is expected that the registry will be launched in ‘early 2021’.
Please get in touch with us if you need help to produce a Modern Slavery Statement KarenScott@SpecialistHRSolutions.co.uk
6. The return of gender pay gap reporting
The compulsory production of gender pay gap reports was paused due to COVID-19. This is expected to return next year. Organisations with at least 250 employees are eligible to produce a report.
7. Increase to the minimum wage and other statutory rates
The government have confirmed that minimum wage rates, including the National Living Wage, are to increase from April 2021 despite the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, the National Living Wage, currently paid to those aged 25 and over, is to be expanded to include those aged 23 and over. The rates are to increase as follows:
National Living Wage (23+)
21-22 Year Old Rate
18-20 Year Old Rate
16-17 Year Old Rate
In addition to this, family leave rates, such as those paid for maternity, paternity and adoption leave, are to rise to £151.97 per week from April 2021. In this month, Statutory Sick Pay is to increase to £96.35 per week.
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