April also always comes with a new raft of employment law changes and, despite still dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, 2021 is no exception.

April 2021 has brought the extension of the off-payroll working rules into the private sector, new statutory rates of pay, changes to the national minimum wage (despite some whispers that there would be no change due to the pandemic) and increases to the Vento Bands used to calculate "injury to feelings" awards in discrimination claims. Employers will be expected to comply with these new obligations and policies/contracts may need to be updated to reflect this.

The changes are as follows:

  • The off-payroll working rules will be extended (following a year's postponement) to all medium and large organisations, in the private or public sector, who engage with individual workers or contractors through intermediaries on or after 6 April 2021 – further details of this can be found here.
  • The statutory rates for Maternity Pay, Paternity Pay, Adoption Pay, Shared Parental Pay and Parental Bereavement Pay will increase from £151.20 to £151.97 (or 90% of the employee's average weekly earnings, whichever is lower) from 4 April 2021.
  •  The statutory sick pay rate will increase from £95.85 to £96.35 per week from 6 April 2021.
  • From 6 April 2021, the prescribed cap on weekly pay will increase from £538 to £544. Consequently, statutory redundancy pay will also increase, with the maximum payment increasing to £16,320 as will the basic award awarded as compensation for unfair dismissal claims. The cap on the compensatory award for unfair dismissal claims will  also increase to £89,493.
  • The National Minimum wage will increase from 1 April 2021. In addition, this year, the National Living Wage will also for the first time apply to 23 and 24-years old as well as workers aged 25 and over. The new rates are as follows:
    • Workers aged 21 to 22: £8.36 (up 2% from £8.20).
    • Workers aged 18 to 20: £6.56 (up 1.7% from £6.45).
    • Workers aged 16 to 17: £4.62 (up 1.5% from £4.55).
    • Apprentices: £4.30 (up 3.6% from £4.15).
  • New Vento bands will apply for discrimination claims issued on or after 6 April 2021;
    • The lower band (for less serious cases) will now be £900 to £9,100.
    • The middle band (for more serious cases which do not merit an award in the upper band) will now be £9,100 to £27,400.
    • The upper band (for the most serious cases of discrimination) will be £27,400 to £45,600.

There are also many legislative changes in the pipeline that were previously delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The new Employment Bill, which was promised by the Government in the Queen's Speech in December 2019, is set to introduce a raft of measures including leave for neonatal care, extension of redundancy protection for pregnant employees and making flexible working the default.  The bill is expected to be published sometime this year.

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