We round up the latest employment news.
Shielding programme paused from 1 April 2021
The shielding programme was paused nationally from 1 April. Anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable doesn’t have to shield anymore, but should continue to work from home, according to
updated government advice. But, if that’s not possible, they ‘should’ attend their workplace. Government announces roll-out of twice a week coronavirus testing
From Friday 9 April 2021, everyone in England will be able to take free rapid coronavirus tests twice a week. The government wants people to take regular tests to help prevent outbreaks and ‘reclaim a more normal way of life’. Testing will be delivered through a home ordering service which allows people to
test themselves at home, workplace testing programmes, community testing or via a new ‘pharmacy collect’ service.
COVID-19: four more countries added to travel red list
The Department for Transport has added four more countries to the
coronavirus red list. Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Philippines and Kenya have been subject to a travel ban since Friday 9 April 2021. The government has said this is to protect the UK against variants of concern.
Only British and Irish citizens, or people with UK residency rights, can enter the UK from these countries. They must stay in a government-approved quarantine hotel for ten days upon arrival. They must also have a coronavirus test before departure back to England, and then on the second and eighth days after they return.
Cabinet Office opens review into coronavirus certification
The Cabinet Office has announced that it’s considering introducing coronavirus status certificates as part of its
strategy to help the country to re-open safely. If they go ahead, they’ll use testing or vaccination data to confirm that people have a lower risk of transmitting the virus to others.
The government expects to complete its review prior to Step Four of its lockdown easing plan, currently projected to be 21 June 2021.
Lowering of National Living Wage age thresholds and increase in National Minimum Wage rates
From 1 April 2021, the rate of the National Living Wage increased by £0.19 to £8.91 per hour. This will now be payable to more workers because the age threshold has been reduced to 23. Previously, only workers aged 25 and above qualified for the higher rate.
The National Minimum Wage rates also increased as follows:
Those aged 21 to 22 should receive £8.36 per hour – an increase of £0.16
Those aged 18 to 20 should receive £6.56 per hour – an increase of £0.11
Those aged 16 to 17 should receive £4.62 – an increase of £0.07
Apprentices under the age of 19 or in their first year should receive £4.30 – an increase of £0.15.
These rates will, therefore, increase your wage bills.
Increase in ‘injury to feeling’ bands
Anyone who wins a discrimination claim is entitled to receive an award to compensate them for ‘injury to their feelings’. These are referred to as the ‘Vento’ bands.
From 6 April 2021 these have increased in line with the Retail Price Index as follows:
Lower band (less serious cases) - £900 to £9,100
Middle band (cases that don’t merit an award in the upper band) - £9,100 to £27,400
Upper band (the most serious cases) - £27,400 to £45,600
Tribunals can make awards over £45,600 for exceptionally serious cases.
Please note: these awards relate to any claim submitted on or after 6 April 2021.
Increases to the statutory rates for maternity, paternity, shared parental pay, adoption and sick pay
Weekly rates for family related leave increased by 77 pence to £151.97 from Monday 12 April 2021 and the rate for Statutory Sick Pay increased by 50 pence to £96.35 per week.
Employers must keep National Minimum Wage records for six years
New regulations which came into force on 1 April 2021 extend the period for which employers must keep NMW records from three years to six years.
You must maintain records to demonstrate that your employees have been paid at least the NMW for their age.
Right to work checks for EU workers
The Home Office has confirmed that employers only need European Economic Area (EEA) citizens to show them their passport or national ID card in order to get a statutory excuse against a civil penalty for illegal working until 30 June 2021.
But any EEA citizen you employ from 1 July 2021 will need to demonstrate they have either applied for (or received) settled or pre-settled status or has a visa to work in the UK under the new immigration rules. You can
read their updated guidance here. New guidance on Skilled Worker recruitment issued by UK Government
The UK Government has updated the
Sponsor Guidance for Workers and Temporary Workers. This is to clarify what records UK employers have to keep if they recruit someone from overseas.
The Sponsor Guidance for Workers and Temporary Workers includes a new section which explains what documents you have to retain where there’s been no formal resident labour market test. See
Appendix D. Home Office reverses immigration rules on ‘foreign suppliers’
A recent change to immigration laws has made it easier for foreign businesses to send EU workers to the UK to fulfil contractual obligations they owe to UK customers.
Free movement rights ended on 31 December 2020. Despite this, it was expected that EU workers would still be able to fulfil their contractual obligations or carry out after-sale services to their UK customers without having to apply for a visa to carry out this work. This was because UK immigration rules permitted ‘foreign manufacturers and suppliers’ to perform certain after-sale services in the UK to their UK customers. This visa is called a standard visitor visa (also known as business visitor visa).
But last December, the immigration rules relating to business visas were changed in preparation for Brexit, and surprisingly they became stricter. Instead of widening the scope, the words ‘foreign suppliers’ were removed from the rules altogether, leaving only ‘foreign manufacturers’. This left many foreign suppliers extremely concerned about their ability to continue providing after-sale services to their UK customers’ post-Brexit.
The changes effectively excluded a whole class of sellers from benefiting from these provisions and forced them to explore alternative options which were far more costly and time-consuming. But on 4 March 2021, the Home Office published a new
Statement of Changes to the Immigration Rules which reinstates the original wording to include 'foreign suppliers'.
An employee of a foreign manufacturer or supplier can now:
'install, dismantle, repair, service or advise on equipment, computer software or hardware, where the manufacturer or supplier has a contract of purchase or supply or lease with a UK company or organisation'.
This change has taken effect from Tuesday 6 April 2021.
Recent review finds some improvement in ethnic diversity on FTSE 100 boards
The latest results published by the Parker Review Committee of the FTSE 100 companies reports a steady improvement on ethnic diversity of FTSE 100 boards. The
results reveal that 74 out of 100 companies now had representation on their boards in November 2020 compared to 52 in January 2020. By March 2021, a further seven companies had reported the appointment of a director from a minority ethnic group.
FTSE 250 companies will be surveyed by the end of 2021, and have a target of ‘One by 2024’ to appoint at least one ethnic minority director on their boards.
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