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Employment law changes in 2021

Published: Thursday 28th January 2021

As businesses continue to feel the sting of COVID-19 it might be easy to miss some of the other big news in 2021. Namely the employment law changes that you will need to consider so you can avoid any untimely disputes.

Employment law changes in 2021

Working from home and furlough

During the United Kingdom’s 3rd lockdown in 12 months, the government has issued guidance that states people should not leave their homes without a reasonable excuse. One of these exemptions is to go to work where it is unreasonable to perform that job from home. That means workers in the nursing & medical, warehouse & distribution and health & social care are among a number of people who will still go to work unless they are placed onto the furlough scheme.

If your company is office based, you should provide all manner of support possible to get your team remote working. This should be at least until the lockdown is lifted but plan to do so beyond this as well. There are criminal sanctions for non-compliance, so if any employees are still attending your office to work, you must be able to provide a clear reason as to why. For example, low-quality internet or a lack of available working space. 

As an employer however you should be willing to help employees get set up at home if it’s possible to overcome the obstacles they’re faced with. If you have furloughed employees, remember that you can’t expect them to do any form of work whatsoever. The scheme is currently set to run until 30th April 2021. 

New immigration law

Following Brexit, free movement with the European Union ended. This brings in a whole new set of laws around immigration. If you’re planning to take on any foreign workers, it’s essential that you encourage them to apply for a license as soon as possible. 

They will be able to enter the UK legally via the ‘Skilled Worker Route’. This requires foreign nationals to meet specified criteria and earn at least 70 points. Which will need to include your job offer. One of the hiring trends of 2021 might see an increase in foreign workers who are statistically cheaper to employ. This could mean we see more redundancies before COVID-19 is over.

Passport and visa application

Gender pay gap reports

Due to COVID-19, the compulsory reporting of gender pay gap reports is returning. Organisations with a minimum of 250 employees are eligible to produce the report.

Any staff who were furloughed before from March 2020 onwards don’t need to be included in the report. This means figures won’t be entirely accurate but it’s important to make a note of the circumstances in the company narrative.

Modern slavery statements

The number of companies that will be required to produce a Modern Slavery statement is set to increase. If you don’t already have one drafted up, you’ll need to detail the steps you’re taking to combat modern slavery. The key focus will be on your operations and supply chain.

If you work in the public sector and have a budget of at least £36 million you will need to publish a statement. This will be published on the government registry. Keep an eye out for when the new requirements will come in, it’s expected to be early 2021.

Employment law changes regarding redundancy 

The amount of redundancies this year stretches beyond anything we’ve seen in recent years. While it’s important to follow the traditional redundancy processes thoroughly, there is one new part of the law that you must take into consideration. 

Any staff you have on maternity leave must be offered suitable alternative roles in advance of others. To follow the law you will need to make sure that if you’re applying special care for pregnant employees. Once they return to work they’re no longer protected by the law. 

Pregnant woman at work will receive more redundancy protection in new employment law changes

The law is subject to future changes sometime this year that will mean protection starts the moment the pregnant employee declares either verbally or in writing that she is pregnant, and also extends to six months after she returns to work. This new law will also apply to those on shared parental leave and adoption leave.

IR35 requirements 

You may already be aware of this change in employment legislation as it was due to come in last April. However, it was delayed initially due to COVID-19 and is now back on track. It states that eligible medium and large-sized companies will hold the responsibility of assessing contractors employment status. 

Under the new requirements, when employees are engaged through their own companies, the responsibility to apply IR35, and to pay any National Insurance contributions and associated tax will fall to the private agency, company or third party paying the worker’s company.

To stay up to date on the latest employment law changes and news, follow us on our social media channels or check out more of our hirer blogs or industry news.

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