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Budget 2021: implications for employers

The Chancellor announced a number of important changes today which will impact employers.

Furlough scheme extended

The furlough scheme will be extended to 30 September 2021. It will remain open to all employers and qualifying employees. Employees will continue to receive up to 80% of their salary for hours not worked but employers will have to contribute 10% towards the grant from July and 20% in August and September. 

Furlough fraud targeted

HMRC will recruit over 1,000 new investigators as part of its Taxpayer Protection Taskforce to tackle furlough fraud.


The government will pay £3,000 to any business who takes on a new apprentice of any age between 1 April and 30 September 2021. Under the previous scheme, employers received £1,500 per new apprentice hire (or £2,000 for those aged 24 and under). 

Businesses can still claim £1,000 for engaging new 16-18 year-old apprentices or those aged under 25 years old with a Education, Health and Care Plan.

From July 2021, the government will also provide a new  'flexi-job' apprenticeship programme in England, that will enable apprentices to work with a number of employers in one sector. 


By March 2022,  a new 'elite' points-based visa will be available to attract and retain the most highly skilled, globally mobile talent to the UK. The government is particularly keen to attract highly skilled professions in academia, science, research and technology. Within this visa there will be a ’scaleup’ stream, enabling those with a job offer from a recognised UK scale-up to qualify for a fast-track visa.

Skills training

A new 'Help to Grow' UK-wide management programme will be available to help upskill SME's.  The scheme will combine a national curriculum delivered through business schools and will provide practical case studies and mentoring from experienced business professionals. The course will last 12 weeks and 90% of the cost will be subsidised by government.


Small and medium-sized employers will continue to be able to reclaim up to two weeks of eligible Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) costs per employee from the government. This scheme is a temporary COVID-19 measure intended to support employers while levels of sickness absence are high. 

NMW rate increases

From April 2021, the rate of the National Living Wage will increase by £0.19 to £8.91 per hour and will be payable to more workers because the age threshold is being reduced to 23 (currently, only workers aged 25 and above qualify).

The National Minimum Wage rates will also increase as follows:

  • Those aged 21 to 22 will receive £8.36 per hour – an increase of £0.16
  • Those aged 18 to 20 will receive £6.56 per hour – an increase of £0.11
  • Those aged 16 to 17 will receive £4.62 – an increase of £0.07
  • Apprentices under the age of 19 or in their first year will receive £4.30 – an increase of £0.15