Welcome to the March edition of the AdviserPlus Newsletter.
In this month’s newsletter, we will be focusing on the latest updates on the Coronavirus including the Job Retention Scheme (furlough) as well as the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak’s employment related headlines.
In addition, we will bring you the latest updates on the Supreme Court’s ruling regarding Uber and a tribunal case relating to employees refusing to wear a face mask as well as taking another look at the upcoming changes to the National Living and National Minimum Wages and the impact of Brexit and employee’s right to work in the UK.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
On 3 March 2021, the Chancellor announced a further extension of the scheme until the end of September 2021.
The rules of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) summer extension will remain largely unchanged. This means that both full-time furloughing as well as flexible furloughing continue to be permitted, as at present, until 30 September.
However, the scheme will be subject to a return of last summer’s tapering provisions, with employers required to contribute 10% in July and 20% in August and September towards the hours their staff do not work as well as employer National Insurance and pension contributions.
The extension of the scheme will give employers further time plan in the hope and expectation that the impact of the vaccine programme and subsequent lockdown easing will allow them to trade more normally.
From 1 July 2021, the scheme will be subject to tapering provisions:
- Now to 30 June: The government will pay 80% of wages up to a cap of £2,500 monthly for hours the employee does not work, as well as ER NICS and pension contributions. Employers are not required to pay anything.
- From 1 to 31 July: The government will pay 70% of wages up to a cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 10% of wages to make up the 80% total (up to a cap of £2,500).
- From 1 August to 30 September: The government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours the employee is on furlough. Employers will pay ER NICs and pension contributions and 20% of wages to make up the 80% total (up to a cap of £2,500).
The Government has extended incentive payments for hiring new apprentices.
You’re now eligible if you take on apprentices as new employees from 1 August 2020 to 31 March 2021. You can apply for the payment until 30 April 2021. You must set up an apprenticeship service account if you want to apply for an incentive payment. The payment is in addition the £1000 employers already receive for hiring an apprentice:
- Aged 16 to 18 years old
- Under 25 with an education, health and care plan or has been in the care of their local authority
For apprentices aged:
- 16-24, employers will receive £2,000
- 25 and over, employers will receive £1,500
National Living Wage
From 1 April 2021 the national living wage will increase 2.2% from £8.72 to £8.91 and applies to all those aged 25 and over. You will also need to ensure you make note of the national minimum wage changes for other age groups, and the new apprentice rate as follows:
23-24 year olds £8.20 to £8.91
21-22 year olds £8.20 to £8.36
18-20 year olds £6.45 to £6.56
16-17 year olds £4.55 to £4.62
Apprentice rate £4.15 to £4.30
Highly skilled migrants
The Government has provided more details of the new immigration system and announced further measures to modernise the UK’s immigration system and attract and retain the most highly skilled individuals to drive innovation and support jobs.
It intends to by March 2022 introduce an elite points-based visa. A ‘scale-up’ stream will be included within the highly skilled visa category. This will aim to allow individuals with a job offer from a pre-approved UK scale-up business to access a fast-track process. It is unclear from the budget statement whether this will be fast-track visa processing, fast-track settlement or both. The mention of having a job offer to qualify under the scale-up stream may indicate that this could be one way that the government hopes to be able to control the skill level at which highly skilled individuals enter the UK labour market under the new visa.
Why employment status matters
Earlier this month the Supreme Court made a judgment setting out why Uber drivers are in fact workers and not self-employed.
This decision could mean thousands of Uber drivers are entitled to minimum wage and holiday pay, protections they were unable to access whilst classified as self-employed.
The court considered several elements in its judgement:
- Uber set the fare which meant that they dictated how much drivers could earn
- Uber set the contract terms and drivers had no say in them
- Request for rides is constrained by Uber who can penalise drivers if they reject too many rides
- Uber monitors a driver’s service through the star rating and has the capacity to terminate the relationship if after repeated warnings this does not improve
Looking at these and other factors, the court determined that drivers were in a position of subordination to Uber where the only way they could increase their earnings would be to work longer hours.
The impact on this judgement could have a ripple effect for all gig workers.
Dealing with employees refusing to wear a face mask
An Employment Tribunal has recently provided useful guidance on how to deal with those employees refusing to wear a face mask. In case Deimantas Kubilius v Kent Foods Ltd, Mr Kubilius (a delivery driver) was dismissed after being asked twice by a customer to wear a face covering. The decision in this particular case was found to fair in the circumstances of this particular case. Be mindful however, this does not mean that the dismissal of every employee who refuses to wear a face covering will be lawful there are some useful points to take away.
Firstly, the importance of having clear policies in place setting out the behaviours expected and the consequences of failing to do so. Ensure you are regularly communicating your polices to ensure your employees are fully aware of what is expected. If any of your employees are refusing to wear a face mask it is important you fully explore the reasons why. There may be an underlying medical condition as an example and remember failure to make reasonable adjustments could give rise to a discrimination claim. If you require any further guidance on particular cases you may have please seek advice before you act.
By 30th June 2021 you need to be clear that your employees all have the right to work and reside in the UK. By this point you need to have audited your workforce and checked the right to work documentation so that you can substantiate continuing with their employment should be challenged.
Ensure your employees are aware of any steps them and their families need to take to remain and work in the UK and ensure they understand the potential consequences of them not having the right to work and the impact this will have on their future employment. You may want to now consider what your dependency on EU employees is and whether you need to use the Skilled Worker visa scheme. Finally, consider communicating your inclusion and diversity policies along with any refresher training to help protect your business from the risk of harassment and discrimination claims as employees from the EU may be feeling vulnerable as a result of Brexit.
Note: The above guidance was correct at the time of writing this article on 10/03/21 however, you need to be fluid in your approach to coronavirus as the policy and government guidance is changing rapidly. We therefore recommend you regularly check the government official guidance on the gov.uk website and news for updates or contact us if you have any specific questions.
If you have any questions regarding the content of this newsletter, or would like more information to support your business with the changes, please get in touch.