Increase in awards for the purposes of redundancy and Employment Tribunal awards
A week’s pay, used to calculate the basic award at employment tribunal and for statutory redundancy pay purposes, increases from £525 to £538 per week for all dismissals on or after 6 April 2020.
The maximum compensatory award at employment tribunal increases from £86,444 to £88,519, or a year’s salary, whichever is lower.
Statutory Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay
Parents who suffer the devastating loss of a child will be entitled to 2 weeks’ statutory leave and 2 weeks’ statutory pay.
The Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Regulations, which will be known as Jack’s Law in memory of Jack Herd whose mother Lucy campaigned tirelessly on the issue, will implement a statutory right to a minimum of 2 weeks’ leave for all employed parents if they lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy, irrespective of how long they have worked for their employer.
Parents will be able to take the leave as either a single block of 2 weeks, or as 2 separate blocks of one week each taken at different times across the first year after their child’s death. This means they can match their leave to the times they need it most, which could be in the early days or over the first anniversary.
The right to Parental Bereavement Leave (PBL) will apply to all employed parents who lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth (from 24 weeks of pregnancy), irrespective of how long they have been with their employer (the leave is a ‘day-one’ employment right). Parents with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employer and weekly average earnings over the lower earning limit (£118 per week for 2019 to 2020) will also be entitled to Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (SPBP), paid at the statutory rate of £148.68 per week (for 2019 to 2020), or 90% of average weekly earnings where this is lower.
A third of people leave a business in their first six months of employment
Statistics from a recent survey show shocking figures demonstrating that a third of people are choosing to leave businesses within their first six months of employment.
This is particularly pertinent when we consider that the cost of bringing someone on board in the first place is equivalent to 6-9 months’ worth of the previous incumbent’s salary. Good onboarding practices can help to avoid early leavers:
The different methods of onboarding are:
Operational Onboarding: This is about providing the tools and equipment that the employee will need to carry out their job such as a laptop, email address and assigned desk, locker and so on. To prepare for a new arrival, a checklist of requirements is a useful tool so that nothing is forgotten.
Knowledge Onboarding: This is about the knowledge to do the job. Information for new starts should be delivered in easy to understand elements. It is also at this point that the new start forms his or her first workplace relationship with the person who is giving them their knowledge.
Performance Onboarding: New starters should be set short-term objectives that are achievable from day one so that they understand how you measure their success and what to aim for.
Social Onboarding: Social Onboarding is about people feeling included. A buddy scheme is a useful tool to help with this.
Increases to National Minimum Wage
The National Living Wage (NLW) and the National Minimum Wage (NMW) will both increase from 6 April 2020.
National Living Wage from £8.21 to £8.72
NMW 21-24 year old rate from £7.70 to £8.20
NMW 18-20 year old rate from £6.15 to £6.45
NMW 16-17 year old rate from £4.35 to £4.55
NMW Apprentice rate from £3.90 to £4.15 in year 1 of the apprenticeship
Remember that if you have designated furloughed employees these increases still apply with effect from 1 April 2020.
Extension of IR35 postponed
The Government has announced that the extension of IR35 to medium and large companies in the private sector is being postponed by a year, to 6 April 2021.
What is IR35?
IR35 is a tax reform that was unveiled in 1999 by the UK Tax Authorities. The latest regulation change will force medium and large businesses in the UK to set the tax status of their contractors and freelancers. Previously, this was set by the contractors themselves. Contractors found to be within the scope of the legislation (i.e. inside IR35) would have had to pay the same tax and national insurance contributions as full-time employees, despite not receiving the same level of benefits (including holiday pay, sick pay, pension)
The rollout of changes to private sector off-payroll rules has been delayed as part of the government’s response to the Coronavirus outbreak.
It is said that the delay will allow businesses that have not yet adequately prepared for the change enough time to take action.
Guidelines for immigration post-Brexit
Whilst Brexit seems to have been forgotten in the fog of Coronavirus, it is likely that the subject will come to the forefront of the news again soon. The UK Government has announced that a new system will apply to work visas, and will have the following features:
A tier of visas available to those without a job offer. Further details of this are to be announced but it is likely to comprise the existing Global Talent/Exceptional Talent route, the Start up and Innovator visas and the new Post Study Work visa being introduced later this year.
A second tier of visas available to skilled workers with a job offer with some changes to previous rules:
• The minimum salary will be reduced to £25,600
• The resident labour market test, requiring businesses to advertise roles for 28 days before recruiting from outside the EU, will be removed.
• The minimum skill level will be reduced from Degree level jobs to A level jobs.
There will be an expansion of the Agricultural/Seasonal Workers Scheme but roles which are considered to be “unskilled” in other sectors will not be given similar arrangements.
The intention is for the new system to open to applications in Autumn 2020, so that it is fully operational by January 2021. Up until the end of December 2020 EU nationals will be able to continue to come to the UK and register for Pre Settled Status.
Businesses will need to consider applying for sponsor licences if they intend to recruit from the EU for skilled roles in future. For businesses who have a number of employees from the EU in roles considered to be “unskilled”, the priority is to secure ensure that they have applied for the pre settled status/settled status scheme. In the long term these businesses will need to consider alternative sources of recruitment.
Changes to contracts of employment in April
April 2020 will see changes to the rules on the provision of written statements of particulars of employment that will affect every employer.
What is the law now?
At the moment all employees must, as a minimum, be given a written statement of terms and conditions within two months of their start date.
What will change?
Written statements of terms and conditions must be given to “workers” as well as employees – so people who are on zero hours’ contracts fall under the same guidance.
Contractual terms must be provided in a single document on or before the first day of work. There are exceptions for specified terms relating to pensions, collective agreements, training entitlements and certain information about disciplinary and grievance procedures which must be given no later than two months after the beginning of employment.
Additional information must be included in the statement such as
• details of any probationary period including any conditions and its duration
• days of the week that are required to be worked, whether or not such hours or days are variable and, if they are, how they vary
• details of any paid leave to which the worker is entitled
• details of all remuneration and benefits
• details of any training entitlement including whether it is mandatory and/or if the worker must pay for it
Other changes that are taking place which may impact on the contracts of some employers, or their policies or handbooks, relate to the increase in the period for determining an average week’s pay, for the purposes of calculating annual leave, from 12 to 52 weeks. If this is something that is mentioned in employment documentation it will require to be updated.
New legislation will also be taking effect that requires employment businesses to provide agency workers with information called a “Key Information Document” The has also been updated so that all agency workers will have the right to pay parity after 12 weeks.
Mental health strategies in the workplace
With the increasing focus on the impact of mental health and the struggles this can cause, it’s often easy to consider dismissal when aware of an employee’s disengagement and/or their quality of work slipping.
Whilst many employees can and do work while experiencing mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, with little impact on productivity, there will be some cases where an employee might be struggling to cope, and supportive performance management can be the key to continued productivity.
If you’ve hired an otherwise-strong team member—someone who’s smart, fits the culture, and has a good track record—training or reassignment is often a better solution. Here are some things you should consider:
Communicate without judgment. Personal struggles, health issues, and even a behind-the-scenes conflict in your organisation can dramatically affect work behaviour. That’s why it’s crucial to start with a kind and honest conversation. If the problem isn’t personal, there’s another root cause. Be aware of your assumptions and judgments about an employee’s behaviour. While assumptions or judgments are part of human behaviour, it is possible to communicate without allowing these to dictate or influence your response.
Explore training opportunities: Highlight the employee’s strengths first. This could include emphasising the employee’s efforts, value to the team and previous accomplishments. When mental health is a factor, it is especially important to engage the employee in developing their own solutions and build on existing strengths. If an employee needs to expand their skills, training is a great option.
Performance Improvement Plan: this could be a very effective way of not only helping the employee to set small achievable goals either weekly or monthly, but it will increase level of performance and productivity if the employee is working hard towards certain goals. Acknowledge with the employee that while the development of the review may seem tedious, it will provide long term value to help you gain a better understanding to support them in all aspects of their job.
Once you’ve considered training, new roles, and other HR techniques, such as a performance improvement plan (PIP), dismissal is the end of the road. And if you’ve reached this juncture, it should never be a surprise to your employee. The intent is to use this approach to help support success, uncover challenges and develop solutions.
Businesses do not have business contingency plans in place
Fewer than 10% of employers had protocols in place covering a disease pandemic prior to the coronavirus outbreak. Employers are continually having to adapt and evolve as coronavirus continues to spread and new facts emerge.
According to the data, almost 60% have implemented a workplace policy which addresses pandemic diseases in response to coronavirus.
Firms have adopted other precautionary measures including halting all non-essential travel too. Nearly a quarter have limited both international and domestic UK travel to help contain the spread.
Other policies have included remote working arrangements. Over 80% of businesses questioned in an online survey requested that employees work from home as a precaution.
The Government has issued further guidance relating to Statutory Sick Pay
Statutory Sick Pay will be payable to people who are staying at home on Government advice, not just those who are infected, from 13 March 2020 after regulations were laid on 12 March 2020 – employers are urged to use their discretion about what evidence, if any, they ask for.
If employees need to provide evidence to their employer that they need to stay at home due to coronavirus, they will be able to get it from the NHS 111 Online instead of having to get a fit note from their doctor – this is currently under development and will be made available soon.
Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be able to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay for employees unable to work because of coronavirus. This refund will be for up to 2 weeks per employee.
It is expected that the amount to be reclaimed will be deducted from normal PAYE payments but it is important that employers keep a record of those employees who are absent, and when in order that they can balance the reclaimed amounts, if necessary.
As always, we will keep you up to date as developments unfold.