Employment Law Update 2021
The CIPD produces an annual timetable which outlines the major changes to UK employment legislation. We hope you will find this information useful!
1 April 2021 – NLW/NMW increases
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on November 2020 that from April 2021, the National Minimum Wage will rise to £8.91 an hour (an increase of 2.2%) and will be extended to 23 and 24 year olds for the first time (previously the NLW applied only to 25 year olds and older). All other NMW rates will increase at the same time in line with Low Pay Commission recommendations.
For a full breakdown of the rates go to the CIPD’s Statutory Rates page.
4 April 2021 – Gender pay gap reports (private and voluntary sectors)
Private and voluntary sector employers in England, Wales and Scotland with at least 250 employees are required to publish information about the differences in pay and bonuses between men and women in their workforce, based on a ‘snapshot’ date of 5 April each year. Provisions are not yet in force in Northern Ireland.
COVID-19: the government announced a suspension of enforcement measures on gender pay gap reporting for 2019/20, in view of the unprecedented pressures on business caused by the pandemic. Employers have until October 2021 to report their 2020/21 figures before enforcement measures are taken but are encouraged to report by the usual reporting deadlines.
For more information visit the CIPD’s Gender pay gap reporting topic page.
6 April 2021 – Extension of IR35 to the private sector
The IR35 rules prevent contractors who are performing similar roles to employees, and working through Personal Service Companies (PCS), from paying less tax and NICs than if they were permanently employed by the client organisation. In April 2017, responsibility for deciding whether contractors’ working in the public sector were caught by IR35 switched from them to their end users, which also became liable for deducting the right amount of tax and NICs.
From 6 April 2021, deciding whether IR35 applies becomes the responsibility of all private sector employers that in a tax year have:
- more than 50 employees
- an annual turnover over £10.2 million
- a balance sheet worth over £5.1 million.
COVID-19: The extension of the rules to the private sector was due to take effect from 6 April 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic.
HMRC has published guidance on the new rules, Prepare for changes to the off-payroll working rules (IR35), a statement on the outcome of its consultation, Off-payroll working rules from April 2021 and further guidance in February 2021, saying that it would take a ‘light touch’ to compliance in the first year.
31 May 2021 – Health & Saftety Protection Extended to Workers
From this date, workers will gain the right not to be subjected to detrimental treatment for leaving or refusing to return to work if they believe themselves to be in ‘serious and imminent danger’. Previously the right under s44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 only applied to employees.
The change follows a High Court decision last autumn in a case involving the gig workers union, the IWGB, that the government had failed to implement the EU Health and Safety Framework Directive properly into UK law by omitting workers from s44 protection. The right is now being used more frequently by employees worried about travelling to or being in work during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Employment Rights Act 1996 (Protection from Detriment in Health and Safety Cases) (Amendment) Order 2021 came into force on 31 May.
30 June 2021 – Settled Status Application Deadline
EU, EEA or Swiss nationals who were in the UK on 31 December 2020 and who wish to continue to live and work here must apply for settled status by 30 June 2021. EU nationals who have applied for British citizenship but are still waiting to receive it must also apply for settled or pre-settled status by this date to avoid becoming illegal immigrants on 1 July 2021.
The government has produced general guidance, including a digital application form, on how to apply to the EU settlement scheme. Those whose absences from the UK during the pandemic would ordinarily make them ineligible may now be able to apply due to a slight rule change on 15 June. The government has produced specific guidance for applicants on the Covid-19 amendment to the rules.
Irish nationals do not need settled status in order to work here.
26 August 2021 – Temporary ‘Right to Work’ Check Rules Extended
During the pandemic, the Home Office has allowed employers to carry out right to work checks using video calls to job applicants and scanned copies of identity documents. Guidance produced on 18 June 2021 said that employers must resume checking applicants’ original documents with the person present. On 26 August, the Home Office announced that it was extending the temporary adjustments to the procedure until 5 April 2022.
The government has updated its guidance on Coronavirus (COVID-19): right to work checks.
23 September 2021 – Flexible Working ConsultationThe government launched a consultation on this date proposing, among other changes, to remove the service requirement for making flexible working requests. Currently employees must have worked for their employer for at least 26 weeks.In addition to making flexible working requests a ‘day one’ right, the consultation also proposes:
- Requiring employers to suggest alternatives if they reject the employee’s request
- Allowing the change to be temporary rather than permanent
- Reviewing whether the eight business reasons for refusing a request remain valid.
The consultation closes on 1 December 2021.
No date – Extending pregnancy protection from redundancy
An employee at risk of redundancy while on maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave has the right to be offered any suitable alternative vacancy that is available.
The government is proposing to extend this protection to:
- pregnant employees, once they have told their employer of their pregnancy
- employees returning from maternity or adoption leave within the previous six months
- parents returning from shared parental leave (although how the limits on this right will operate is still to be worked out).
The proposals are in response to a consultation earlier in the year on pregnancy and maternity discrimination. The government has said that legislation will be brought forward when Parliamentary time allows.
Expected 2023 – Neonatal leave and pay
The Good work plan contained a commitment to introduce extra statutory leave and pay for all parents of premature babies needing specialist care in a neonatal unit. In March 2020, the government confirmed its intention to introduce 12 weeks’ paid leave for parents in this position to avoid them having to choose between returning to work and taking care of their newborn. Announcements prior to the Budget indicated the premature baby leave would be in addition to existing maternity and paternity pay provisions. Although details on how it will work are yet to be released, the leave is expected to be taken after maternity/paternity leave, in blocks of one or more weeks, and paid at the statutory rate for those employees with 26 weeks’ service.
There was also a Budget 2020 commitment to consult on a new ‘in-work entitlement’ for employees with unpaid caring responsibilities, such as for a family member or a dependant.