It's that time of the year when employment law changes traditionally take effect in the UK. There is little legislative change this April, but we expect new guidance on living with Covid to be published and the usual limits and statutory payments will increase.
Here is our summary of the most important changes taking effect this month.
Changes to Covid guidance in England
Under the government's Living with Covid strategy, many Covid measures ended on 1 April:
- Universal free Covid testing ended.
- Employers are no longer obliged to explicitly refer to Covid in their health and safety risk assessments.
- The sector-specific guidance on working safely during coronavirus will be replaced.
- The guidance on self-isolation will also be changed. The new guidance has not yet been published but a government press release suggests that it will advise anyone with symptoms of a respiratory infection and a high temperature or who feels unwell to remain at home until they feel well enough to undertake normal activities and no longer have a high temperature. Anyone receiving a positive Covid test result will also be advised to try to stay at home for five days. The new guidance will also recommend that anyone with symptoms or a positive test result who needs to leave their home should avoid close contact with those with weakened immune systems, wear a face covering and avoid crowded places.
For a more detailed discussion of the upcoming changes, see here.
Increases to the UK National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage
The government will implement the Low Pay Commission's recommendations in full, with minimum rates set to rise by between 4.1% and 9.8%. From 1 April 2022, the new hourly rates are as follows:
- age 23 + (national living wage): GBP 9.50
- age 21-22: GBP 9.18
- age 18 – 20: GBP6.83
- age 16-17: GBP 4.81
The accommodation offset will also rise to GBP 8.70 per day.
Increases to other employment limits and statutory payments
Other limits and statutory payments will be increased as follows.
Family related benefits
From 3 April 2022, the prescribed or flat rate of statutory maternity, adoption, paternity and shared parental pay will rise from GBP 151.97 to GBP 156.66 per week.
Statutory sick pay (SSP)
From 6 April 2022, SSP will go up from GBP 96.35 to GBP 99.35 per week, but in England and Wales there are no longer any special rules entitling employees to SSP because of Covid.
England and Wales unfair dismissal/redundancy pay
From 6 April 2022, the limit on a statutory week's pay will increase to GBP 571 (up from GBP 544). This means that the maximum statutory redundancy payment and unfair dismissal basic aware will be GBP 17,130. The cap on the compensatory award for unfair dismissal will increase from GBP 89,493 to GBP 93,878.
Northern Ireland unfair dismissal/redundancy pay
From 6 April 2022, the limit on a 'week's pay' will be GBP 594 (up from GBP 566). This means that the maximum statutory redundancy payment and unfair dismissal basic award will rise to GBP 17,820. Meanwhile the cap on the compensatory award for unfair dismissal will increase from GBP 89,669 to GBP 94,063.
The so-called Vento bands operate as the parameters for injury to feelings awards in successful discrimination claims. For claims presented on or after 6 April 2022 in Employment Tribunals in England or Wales, the new Vento bands will be as follows:
- lower band: GBP 990 to GBP 9,900 (less serious cases);
- middle band: GBP 9,900 to GBP 29,600 (cases that do not merit an award in the upper band); and
- upper band: GBP 29,600 to GBP 49,300 (the most serious cases), with the most exceptional cases capable of exceeding GBP 49,300.
In Northern Ireland, Employment Judges will often use the England and Wales Vento bands as a starting point, although they are not required to do so.
Introduction of social care levy
The Health and Social Care levy will be introduced UK-wide from 6 April 2022 and will be collected initially via a 1.25% increase in national insurance contributions (NICs) for working age employees, the self-employed and employers.
Introduction of paid parental bereavement leave in Northern Ireland
From 6 April 2022 eligible employees will be entitled to two weeks' paid leave following the death of a child under 18, see here.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.