The coming year holds considerable uncertainty for employers. Travlaw partner and head of employment Ami Naru assesses some of the key changes

Most employers will be glad to see the back of 2020, and 2021 still holds a lot of uncertainty for employers in the travel industry as the world continues to fight the battle against Covid.

However, there are a few key changes ahead this year that will impact employers and I summarise these below:

Brexit

The UK officially withdrew from the EU on 31st December 2020, thereby ending the free movement of labour. This means that anyone who wants to work in the UK (except Irish citizens) will have to comply with the new “points-based“ immigration system.

Employers are able to continue to employ EU citizens until June 30, 2021, provided they were already working in the UK by December 31, 2020, without worrying about the points system. However, any such employee will need to obtain settled or pre-settled status to work in the UK from July 1, 2021. Failure to make any such application by June 30, 2021 could render them illegal workers.

In terms of sending employees to work in European countries, then employers should take local advice of the requirements in each country. Please also see this article from my colleague Natalie Dindar.

Will workers’ rights really change post-Brexit?

There have been some ideas mooted by the government but, with everything going on in the world right now, at present they are just that; ideas. Some of the suggestions are:

  • Consultation on making flexible working the norm
  • The right to take extended leave for neonatal care for new parents
  • The right to take one weeks’ unpaid leave each year to carers
  • Prevention of maternity and pregnancy discrimination by extending redundancy protections

The government did say that as the UK left the EU it would introduce an Employment Bill to “protect and enhance” workers’ rights. This may be something that is put on the agenda for 2021.

Annual leave carry-over

Last year I advised of a change to the Working Time Regulations 1998, which were amended so as to allow employees who were not able to take annual leave in 2020 as a result of the effects of Covid the ability to carry over up to four weeks’ accrued annual leave and take it during the following two leave years.

This is something that employers will need to keep an eye on, particularly if leave has been carried over and the same staff are currently on furlough accruing further annual leave.

Increase to statutory pay

As part of the annual increases from April 12, 2021, weekly rates for statutory maternity, paternity, adoption and shared parental leave will increase to £151.97. Statutory sick pay will also increase to £96.35 per week.

National Minimum Wage and Living Wage

From April 6, 2021, more workers will be entitled to the National Living Wage as the age threshold is reduced from those workers aged 25 to those aged 23 (for more details, click here). The rate of pay will also increase by 19p to £8.91 per hour. This will be an additional cost that employers will need to factor in their budgets in 2021.

Furlough

I have given up predicting what the government will do next, given that the chancellor said last summer the furlough scheme would not be extended but then subsequently extended it several times. What we do know for now is that the current furlough scheme is in place until 30 April 30, 2021, with the government continuing to contribute 80% of furloughed wages and employers continuing to pick up national insurance and pension contributions.

It is likely that further changes will be announced in the chancellor’s Budget. The Job Support Scheme was withdrawn and the Job Retention Bonus was cancelled.

Finally, I wish all readers a better year ahead.