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Reflecting on the year and looking forward to the new year

Published 21 December 2020
It’s that time of year when we tend to look back on the last 12 months and look forward to the New Year and what it may bring.

The year 2020 has been one like no other in recent memory.  The way in which we now live and work has changed drastically as a result of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

It has had a devastating impact on employment. Office for National Statistics figures show there were 819,000 fewer workers on UK company payrolls in November than at the start of the pandemic (1)

The hospitality sector was the worst affected, with a third of the job losses, followed by retail.

The unemployment rate rose to 4.9 per cent in the three months to October, with the jobless total up to 1.7 million people.

Redundancies hit a record high over the period with big names being forced to cut thousands of jobs.

Arcadia which owns Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge and Burtons, collapsed into administration with the reported loss of 13,000 jobs (2). And Department store Debenhams fell into administration putting 12,000 workers at risk of redundancy.

The events of 2020 have also resulted in the delayed introduction of employment law changes that were set to come into force this year.

It is hoped the introduction of a vaccine and new tiered restrictions will signal the beginning of the end of the pandemic in the new year.

What we can expect in 2021.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS)

The furlough scheme has been extended until the end of April 2021 with the government continuing to contribute 80 per cent towards wages (3)

Struggling businesses will have until the end of March to access government loan schemes.

So far, the CJRS is said to have protected 9.6 million jobs across the UK with more than one million businesses accessing loans to help them through the crisis.

Off-payroll rules for the private sector

Was initially set to be introduced in April, but was delayed until next year. (4)

From 6 April 2021, all public sector clients and medium or large-sized private sector clients will be responsible for deciding a worker’s employment status. This includes some charities and third sector organisations.

If the off payroll working rules apply, the worker’s fees will be subject to tax and National Insurance contributions.

Employment Bill

Is expected to be published in 2021. It is likely to detail a wide range of measures, which include:

  • The introduction of a single labour market enforcement body to ensure that vulnerable workers are better informed of their rights, and to support businesses in compliance.
  • Payment of all tips and service charges go to workers, with the distribution of these sums supported by a statutory Code of Practice.
  • A new right to request a more predictable and stable contract after 26 weeks’ service, aimed at those engaged under contracts with variable and unpredictable hours, such as zero-hours employees.
  • Extending redundancy protection to cover pregnant employees from the date they notify the employer of their pregnancy and for a period of six months after the end of their pregnancy.

Neonatal leave and pay

The government announced in March that it will create a new neonatal leave and pay entitlement for working parents.

It will provide up to 12 weeks paid leave so that parents do not have to choose between returning to work and taking care of their vulnerable newborn

There is currently no confirmed date for the introduction of this new right, although it is unlikely that it will be before the end of 2021.

Carer’s leave

Government consultation on carer’s leave took place between March and August.

The aim of the consultation was to seek views on a proposal to give employees a week of unpaid leave each year to provide care.

The government’s response is not yet available. There is no confirmed timescale for the new right to be introduced, but it is likely to be included in the anticipated Employment Bill.

 

 


References

(1) Fewer numbers on pay roll tham at start of pandemic [Internet] www.ons.gov.uk [Cited 21.12.2020]

https://www.ons.gov.uk/employmentandlabourmarket/peopleinwork/employmentandemployeetypes/bulletins/uklabourmarket/december2020#:~:text=the%20estimated%20UK%20unemployment%20rate,higher%20than%20the%20previous%20quarter

(2) collapsed into administration with the reported loss of 13,000 jobs [Internet] www.independent.co.uk [Cited 21.12.2020] https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/arcadia-group-debenhams-administration-jobs-b1764443.html

(3) Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) [Internet] www.gov.uk [Cited 21.12.2020] https://www.gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-extends-furlough-and-loan-schemes

(4) Off-payroll rules for the private sector [Internet] www.gov.uk [Cited 21.12.2020] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/april-2020-changes-to-off-payroll-working-for-intermediaries

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