- Employment Law in 2020 – This Is The Year That Was

Every year, UK Employment Legislation sees a number of changes, to accommodate new precedents set by cases and court rulings, and to reflect changes to lifestyles, societal needs, political landscapes and more.

I think we can probably all agree that 2020, possibly more so than any other year in recent memory, handed those out in spades! We have certainly been kept on our toes keeping up to date and there is still much more in the pipeline!

Therefore, our final blog of 2020 will be a quick look-back over just a few of the notable changes that have taken place this year – some motivated by recognised needs in the world of employment, some to fall in line with preparations for Brexit, but most driven by the gigantic elephant in the room…

1 January 2020 – New regulations under the Companies Act, which came into force in 2019, required all UK companies with more than 250 employees to report the pay ratios between their chief executive and a representative average worker.  This requirement would form part of their annual company reports.

13 March 2020 – Covid-19 arrived on our shores at the end of January, and the practice of self-isolating and social distancing to help prevent the spread of the virus was introduced within guidance published by Public Health England, NHS Scotland and Public Health Wales.  To support employees needing to self-isolate, from 13 March, Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) became payable from day one of an employee’s absence (previously, it has been from day four), if the reason for absence related to preventing the spread of Covid-19, such as an employee showing symptoms of the virus, or having been exposed to someone with Covid-19.

20 March 2020 – Chancellor Rishni Sunak announced the new Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), designed to help protect the livelihoods of millions including those in the entertainment and hospitality sectors as they were instructed to close their premises from midnight.

25 March 2020 – The Coronavirus Act 2020 became law, giving the Government temporary emergency powers to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.  This included creating regulations to allow employers to recover additional Statutory Sick Pay paid out (see above update to SSP), granting the Statutory right for workers to take emergency volunteer leave to help out NHS and related support services, and most notably, the power to restrict events and close down businesses and retail premises where needed to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

27 March 2020 – Amendments to the Working Time Regulations 2020 allowed workers to carry over any annual leave (into the next two years) where it had not been reasonably practical for them to take leave due to the impact the Covid-19 outbreak had had on their workplace; for example health care workers.  This applied to the four weeks statutory leave under EU rules.

1 April 2020 – The National Living Wage for workers aged 25 and over rose to £8.72 per hour.

6 April 2020 – The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 came into force.  The act gives an employee who loses a child under the age of 18, or suffers a stillbirth beyond the 24th week of pregnancy, the right to two weeks’ leave, taken as one block or two non-consecutive blocks, at any time within 56 weeks of the child’s death.  Leave would be paid at the normal Statutory Rate if the employee had 26 weeks’ service.

31 July 2020 – The Government produced Regulations requiring employers to calculate Statutory Redundancy Pay on the basis of an employee’s normal pay rate (subject to the Statutory cap), not their reduced pay rate under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

28 September 2020 – The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions)(Self-isolation)(England) 2020 came into effect, allowing fines between £1,000 and £10,000 to be imposed on workers who unreasonably failed to self-isolate when officially notified to do so by the NHS Test and Trace system.  Workers were required to inform their employers by the next working day that they had been told to self-isolate, and employers would be committing an offence if they allowed their workers to work anywhere other than at home. 

1 November 2020 – The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which was due to end on 31 October 2020, was extended until 31 March 2021.  The Job Support Scheme (JSS) which was due to start on 1 November, was postponed until the end of the CJRS.

5 November 2020 – Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the planned Job Retention Bonus Scheme, which promised to pay employers a one-off taxable payment of £1,000 for each employee kept on payroll after furlough and continuously until 31 January 2021, had been withdrawn, in light of the extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

28 November 2020 – The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) changed its rules governing the extent to which criminal records are disclosed to employers carrying out employee checks – childhood police cautions would no longer be disclosed, and individuals with more than one conviction would not automatically have all of those convictions disclosed.  We’ll be blogging in early 2021 on the topic of job applicants with convictions, so watch this space for more.

1 December 2020 – Applications for non-EU workers, arriving in the UK to live and work on or after 1 January 2021, opened under the new post-Brexit immigration system.  Changes to the former points-based system include the requirements that gross basic salary meets or exceeds £25,600, that skill level must be equivalent to A Level, and that applicants must have an intermediate-level ability in communicating in English.  EU workers already resident in the UK on this date have until 31 June 2021 to apply for Settled Status, enabling them to remain.

Employment Legislation throughout this year has been dominated by the pandemic and this promises to be a continuing feature going into 2021, not forgetting that Brexit is now stepping forward into the headlines once more.  Many aspects of these topics can be tricky to manage, so if you require more in-depth information, guidance or have specific questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.