Employment Law: What changes will happen in 2021?

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Gareth Edwards, Head of the Employment team at VWV.

It’s a good time to take a general look at what’s on the employment law horizon for 2021. The pandemic dominates all our lives at the moment but there are other developments worth noting.

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Looking at the pandemic first, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been extended to 31 March. Employers can currently claim 80% of an employee’s wages, capped at £2,500, for hours not worked. The level of employer contribution will be reviewed at the end of January. It is not clear what support (if any) will be offered from April onwards.

Employers using the scheme need to assess how they will transition out of it and whether re-structuring may be required. If 20 or more redundancies are likely, remember that the statutory consultation framework will apply, imposing a minimum of 30 days between the start of consultation and the first redundancy taking effect.

Turning to other issues:

Equalities

A number of Government initiatives are currently awaiting implementation. These include:

  • regulating the use of non-disclosure agreements in an effort to reduce sexual harassment in the workplace
  • extending the period of protection afforded to women and new parents from the date the employer is informed about the birth / adoption
  • ethnicity pay gap reporting
  • widening the scope of flexible working

It is not clear if 2021 will be the year when these initiatives are put into action.

Religion and belief continues to raise interesting issues. In 2021 we can expect appeal judgments on whether vegetarianism can be a belief meriting protection.  In addition, whether it is discriminatory to discipline an individual who, on religous grounds, refuses to refer to transgender people by their preferred pronouns.

It is likely that there will be a return to gender pay gap reporting following suspension as a result of the pandemic.

The Gig Economy

In an uncertain labour market the use of contractors and gig workers is likely to increase. This might be a win / win for employers and the highly skilled. For others it is more problematic. To address this we can expect the Government to begin to increase protections for those who fall outside traditional employment, for example around exclusivity clauses and continuous employment.

Supreme Court

In 2021 the UK Supreme Court will be looking at or giving judgment on the following important issues:

  • whether gaps of more than three months limit the scope of holiday back-pay claims (as is currently the case) or whether claims can go back two years
  • how much holiday someone accrues if they are employed under a permanent contract to only work part of a year
  • whether holiday pay must include voluntary regular overtime
  • whether Uber drivers are workers or self-employed
  • whether workers should earn the national minimum wage during sleep-in shifts

Action Points for HR Professionals in 2021

For more information on all of the issues highlighted above, please visit our Employment Law pages of our website or call Gareth Edwards on 07899 915 692.

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