The SSP Rebate Scheme Re-opened
The Coronavirus SSP Rebate Scheme was re-opened on 21 December 2021. The scheme covers up to two weeks’ SSP per employee costs for COVID-related absences. You are eligible for the scheme if, as of 30 November 2021:
- Your business is UK-based
- You had a PAYE payroll system
- You employ fewer than 250 employees
- You have already paid their employees’ COVID-related SSP
Live from mid-January 2022, this two-week limit is reset so that you can claim even if you claimed under the previous scheme for that same employee. You can backdate claims for any COVID-related absences beginning on or after 21 December 2021. As yet, there is no end date for when this scheme will close.
Compulsory Vaccines for Health and Social Care Workers
On 9 November 2021, it was announced that all front-line workers and those in ancillary positions, including porters and receptionists, who may have contact with patients and service users must be vaccinated. Expected to come into force on 1 April, staff will need to get vaccinated, or face redeployment or dismissal, during the 12-week grace period prior to 1 April.
Many other organisations are not legally required to have fully vaccinated workers. But to minimise the disruption of COVID, and for the health and safety of staff and customers, do encourage your staff to have all vaccinations and boosters. Do also keep track of everyone’s vaccination status.
National Minimum/Living Wage and Other Statutory Pay
Changing in April, you need to be aware of important birthdays (as staff may move within pay bands) for the changes to be implemented. The new 2022 rates will be:
- 23+ year olds = £9.50
- 21-22 = £9.18
- 18-20 = £6.83
- 16-17 = £4.81
- Apprentices = £4.81
From 3 April 2022, statutory maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental, and parental bereavement pay will increase from £151.97 to £156.66 per week.
SSP increases on 6 April from £96.35 to £99.35 per week. The lower earnings limit for payment eligibility also increases from £120 to £123 per week.
Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Holidays
The late May bank holiday has moved to Thursday 2 June 2022 with an additional bank holiday on Friday 3 June 2022. Check contracts carefully to understand what your employee obligation is in case there is no automatic right to the extra day, or to time off on fixed bank holidays.
Employment Bill for Family Friendly Rights
Expected to be passed this year, the Bill introduces statutory neonatal leave and pay for parents of babies requiring neonatal care. It also extends the redundancy protection period for employees on maternity leave to up to six months after they return to work.
Carer’s leave will be introduced, allowing employees with caring responsibilities to take up to five working days of unpaid leave per year from their first day of employment.
Proposed changes to flexible working include making it the default position, with a day-one right to submit a request multiple times per year, reviewing the eight fair refusal reasons and your timeframe to respond. An outcome is expected in early 2022.
Third Party Harassment
Changes to harassment laws are expected soon, including an extension to the time period your employees have for raising tribunal claims and enhanced protection against harassment from third parties, such as clients, customers and the public. Training for employees will need to be updated, as will organisational policies.
Permanent Digital Right to Work Checks
Digital right to work (RTW) checks were temporarily introduced to alleviate the issues with completing physical checks whilst working remotely. Initially set to expire in June 2021, they were extended to make the process easier and quicker in case you were struggling with staff shortages and ongoing remote working arrangements.
As from 6 April 2022, a permanent system of digital RTW checks will be put into place. The Home Office review states that the costs of using the new digital system, varying from £1.45 to £70 per check, will have to be met by employers.
These costs will only apply to RTW checks conducted on UK nationals, so you can continue to use the existing free online checking service for overseas candidates. This could result in a two-tier system which disadvantages UK jobseekers.