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Employment law 2020 – did I miss anything?

In short yes just a bit! 2020 has been a frantic year for keeping up with employment law and changes to legislation, so here are some of the key changes that you may have missed.

The furlough scheme has dominated the news agenda in 2020, and the second phase (which replaced the scheme due to end 30 October 2020) continues until 31 March 2021.  However,  the job retention scheme which was going to be paid as a bonus to employers in January 2021 if they didn’t dismiss furloughed staff continues to be put on hold.

Also due to Covid-19 there are changes to the statutory sick pay (SSP) scheme which remains in place and means SSP it is now payable by the employer from the employees’ first day of absence and where they were having to self-isolate under advice from official health authorities.  Small and medium sized employers can also claim up to two weeks SSP paid to employees for Covid-19 related absence.

There continues to be the responsibility for workplaces to be Covid-19 secure which includes ensuring social distancing, providing adequate handwashing and sanitising facilities, PPE and following face covering regulations. Many businesses have made a considerable investment to change work practices and the challenge ahead will be getting people back into workplaces and or introducing a new, blended working arrangement once current tier restrictions change.  There is still a long way to go and working from home for many will remain for the foreseeable future.

As Britain now has a new trading relationship with Europe and many other countries there are changes to the immigration system being trialled which went live from 1 December 2020.  These changes include the introduction of a skilled worker scheme where applicants have an approved sponsoring employer and an employment offer for one of the eligible skilled occupations. Restrictions for these workers to stay a maximum of six years have been removed.

Annual Gender Pay Gap reporting was and continues to be suspended for the 2019/20 period however it is still not known if this data will need to be reported on in the future or if the period will be skipped completely. Employers are advised to continue with producing this disclosure as it has been an important catalyst for change in many organisations and not prioritising it could be seen as sending the wrong message to employees and customers.

From 6 April 2020 there have been new compensation limits for terminations of employment.  Redundancy payment calculations are based on a new maximum limit of one week’s pay which is £538.  For general unfair dismissal awards there is a maximum basic award of £16,140 and the maximum compensatory award is £88,519.  There is a new minimum basic award of £6,562 for unfair dismissals specifically relating to trade union membership, health and safety duties, pension scheme trustee duties or employee representatives.  There is a new weekly rate of statutory sick pay of £95.85 and a new weekly rate of parental statutory entitlements of £151.20.

Also, for parents there is now a new (and many agree a long overdue) right to statutory parental bereavement leave for those who lost a child under the age of 18 or suffered a stillbirth from the 24th week of pregnancy. Parents are now entitled to two weeks leave which may or may not be consecutive, however statutory pay is limited to employees with more than 26 weeks continuous service or who are earning in excess of the lower earnings limit.

Employers must now provide a written statement of terms to all workers and employees including a list of additional information to provide a greater degree of certainty regarding working arrangements. These statements should be provided on the first day of working at the latest and apply regardless of their length of service.

For businesses who fail to pay their workers the national minimum wage the Government has the right to ‘name and shame’ them where they exceed £500 in payment arrears. There are also further changes which include enabling employers to select the most suitable calculation year for pay monitoring purposes, expanding how salaried hours workers are defined and guaranteeing that workers entitled to the NME remain unaffected by any extra payments made to them (for example for working on a bank holiday).

Holiday leave can now be carried over (up to four weeks) of accrued statutory annual leave for two years (2021/22).  Employers will therefore need to carefully manage requests for annual leave over the next couple of years.

Finally, from November 2020 there is a new cap of £95,000 on exit payments made in the public sector which apply where a public sector employee or office holder receives a payment for the loss of employment or position excluding death in service.