Employment law changes and priorities for 2021

Wednesday January 6, 2021

We’re almost a week into 2021. What has made your list of to-do’s or resolutions for this year? In stark contrast to Januarys gone by, the BBC reports that many people are looking to quit the gym. They’re not throwing in the towel as such, but have found new ways to exercise since life in lockdown.

Hobbies and passion projects were also big hitters in 2020, as many people had no choice but to either slow down or refocus their attention as day-to-day life was put on hold.

With fitness aims and hobbies seemingly in swing since last year, where does this leave the usual list of January goals?

Something that we think should be high up on everyone’s list is to make more time for mental health. That’s your own and that of your employees.

Stress less in 2021

Just like physical health, mental health continues to be at risk from the pandemic. The aftershock is expected to last for some time.

One crucial way to protect mental health and well-being is to manage stress. This can be done in many ways, such as resilience training, workload redistribution, exercising, or simply finding the time to talk.

Another key element to stress management is planning, even for the unknown. 2020 has shown that an updated crisis management plan is essential in any business.

Thankfully, not everything is a guessing game and there are some employment related changes planned for this year that we already know about.

So to help you achieve goal number one of stressing less, we have listed a few important reminders below to add to your calendar. Giving you a head start by getting ahead with your HR admin.

Employment law changes in 2021

Brexit – Technically Brexit has already happened and the UK is no longer in the EU, but not all deadlines were set for 1st January. The EU Settlement Scheme is open for applications for EU nationals until 30th June 2021. Whilst it is an employee’s responsibility to apply, you can share a reminder and you are responsible for ensuring right to work checks are carried out for all new hires.

Separately, the new points-based immigration system did kick in on 1st January and you will need to abide by the new rules when hiring from overseas.

Coronavirus – Unfortunately, COVID-19 persists. Some relief for employers is that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme also known as the furlough scheme is open until the end of April 2021. Employers only need to contribute National Insurance and pension payments when accessing the scheme this year. Planning what you will do once the scheme ends is worth thinking about now.

IR35 – Delayed for a year due to coronavirus, new rules regarding IR35 come into effect on 6th April. Although there is an exemption for small employers with less than 50 employees who meet additional turnover criteria. Employers engaging contractors from this date will be responsible for identifying their employment status for tax purposes. You may need to make National Insurance contributions. It’s worth doing a workforce audit now to assess how this may affect your payroll budget and contracts.

NMW – In April, the full national living wage will become available to 23- and 24-year-olds. Previously, it was only available to those aged 25 and older. The rate is increasing by 2.2% to £8.91 per hour.

For those aged 21 and 22 the NMW will go up to £8.36. For 18- and 20-year-olds it will be £6.56 and for 16- and 17-year-olds it will be £4.62. The apprentice rate rises to £4.30. Make sure you budget for the increase in payroll.

The Employment Bill – Although dates are unconfirmed, we do hope to receive an update this year on some other pressing employment issues which come under the Employment Bill. These include:

  • A possible extension to redundancy protection for pregnant employees.
  • A code of practice regarding tips in the hospitality sector.
  • The right to a week’s unpaid leave for carers.
  • The right for those on zero-hour contracts to request more predictable working hours.
  • Extended leave for parents who have children in neonatal care.

We will provide further information when it becomes available. In the meantime, if you could do with some help getting ahead with your HR admin, we are here to help. Contact us for advice and get peace of mind knowing that your business is compliant.

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