With the Government understandably fixated on COVID throughout 2020, the legislative outlook for 2021 is relatively quiet. However, employers looking at the next year should keep in mind the following:
- Furlough scheme changes
Inevitably employers will need to keep an eye on the news for changes to the furlough scheme. Speculation will continue regarding its extension or its eventual withdrawal (currently due to end on 30 April 2021). If the Government follows the pattern from 2020, the scheme may be wound down in a gradual fashion, perhaps with employers being asked to contribute more.
- Employment Bill
The Queen’s Speech back in December 2019 (pre-pandemic) included several measures which the Government intended to legislate arising from the previous “Good Work Plan”. We are expecting a draft of the Employment Bill to be published in 2021, but amongst other details, it is likely to include provisions as follows:
- Potential right to request a more stable contract after 26 weeks’ service.
- Extending redundancy protection to pregnant employees and potentially for 6 months after return from maternity leave (plus shared parental leave/adoption leave).
- A proposal that workers should receive full payment for tips.
- A statutory right for up to 12 weeks’ leave for neonatal care.
- A right for carers to take unpaid statutory leave of one week per year.
- Changes to make flexible working more accessible.
- EU Settlement Scheme Deadline
A reminder that EU nationals working for employers had to be resident in the UK by 31 December 2020 in order to qualify for Settled Status, but they have until 30 June 2021 to apply for Settled Status.
- National Minimum Wage Changes
In April 2021, the bands for the National Minimum Wage are changing slightly. The National Minimum Wage for age 23-24 banding is going to be removed, so that the National Minimum Wage applies from age 23 upwards.
In April 2021, the bands will be as follows:
National Minimum Wage 23+ up from £8.72 to £8.91 National Minimum Wage 21-22 up from £8.20 to £8.36 National Minimum Wage 18-20 up from £6.45 to £6.56 National Minimum Wage under 18 up from £4.55 to £4.62 National Minimum Wage (Apprenticeship Rates) up from £4.15 to £4.30
- IR35 Changes
Employers will need to remember that changes to IR35 were to come into effect in April 2020 but were delayed by a year until 6 April 2021. They apply to organisations which engage personal service companies. Medium and large private sector organisations will be responsible for deciding the employment status of such workers. If the IR35 rules apply, then the organisation engaging the personal service company will be responsible for assessing and potentially deducting tax and national insurance.