Employment law changes to look out for this year
The silence in many homes across the country has been deafening this week as children return to school in the first stage of lifting the Lockdown. With Brexit done; the Budget done; a roadmap in place for a return to “normality”; and the vaccination program starting to make inroads into the working population, employers really can start to properly plan ahead.
So what employment law changes should you have in mind as part of that process?
Extension of the CJRS
In his Budget on 3 March 2021, Rishi Sunak announced the extension of the CJRS under which employers can Furlough their employees to the end of September 2021. The scheme will be subject to similar tapering provisions that we saw last summer as part of phasing out the CJRS. In July, employers will be required to contribute 10% and then 20% in August and September towards the employee’s Furlough payment (as well as employer National Insurance and pension contributions).
After postponing the reform of ‘IR35’ in 2020, the changes will now come into force on 6 April 2021. The reforms will bring the tax treatment of contractors or consultants engaged through a personal service company in the private sector into line with those in the public sector. It will be the responsibility of mid and large sized employers to determine the employment, and hence tax, status of such people.
The Domestic Abuse Bill is expected to gain Royal Assent in April this year, which follows the Department for BEIS January 2021 report on ‘Workplace support for victims of domestic abuse’. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on victims and survivors of domestic abuse. The BEIS Report encourages employers to implement Domestic Abuse Policies in the workplace to spot and support employees who may be victims of such abuse in their personal life. The Report also encourages employers to implement flexible working practices to assist victims of abuse.
Reform of post termination restrictions
At the end of February, the Government consultation on ‘Measures to reform post-termination non-compete clauses in contracts of employment’ closed. Although we don’t expect to see non-competes banned altogether, there may well be some serious changes, such as a requirement to pay remuneration to former employees for the period they are bound by non-competes.
Extension of exclusivity clause ban
The Government consultation on ‘Measures to extend the ban on exclusivity clauses in contracts of employment’ also closed in February, which ran alongside the consultation on non-competition clauses. The proposal is to extend the ban on including exclusivity clauses beyond just zero hours contracts. The ban would extend to contracts where the workers’ guaranteed weekly income is less than the Lower Earnings Limit (currently £120 per week) to allow low-income workers to work for multiple employers at the same time, should they want to take on additional work.
Gender Pay Gap reporting postponed
Employers’ Gender Pay Gap reporting duties were suspended last year due to the pandemic. The Gender Pay Gap reporting deadline for 2021 has been pushed back to 5 October 2021 in respect of data based on a snapshot date of 5 April 2020. So while employers have a little more time to prepare, the obligation to report is still in force this year.
Other employment law changes
We continue to await the details of the Employment Bill as mentioned in the Queen’s speech. Possible changes could include:
- the extension of redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents
- a right to request a stable working or predictable contract
- the creation of a new single enforcement body for employment rights
- the right to flexible working as the default position
- extended leave for neo-natal care