Key employment law updates | February 2021

Restriction of Public Sector Exit Payments Regulations 2020 to be revoked

The Restriction of Public Sector Exit Payments Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1122) introduced a £95,000 cap on public sector exit payments. After an extensive review of the application of the cap, the government concluded that it may have had unintended consequences and the regulations should be revoked.

An HM Treasury Direction has been published that will disapply the cap until the regulations have been revoked. The government has also published guidance which directs employees affected by the cap while it was in force to request the amount they would have received had the cap not been in place by contacting their former employer directly. Employers are encouraged to pay to any former employees to whom the cap was applied the additional sums that would have been paid but for the cap.

National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2021

In addition to increasing the hourly rate of the National Living Wage (NLW) and the National Minimum Wage from 1 April 2021, these Regulations will also change the age eligibility for the NLW so that it will apply to people aged 23 and over, rather than those aged 25 and over.

Brexit – review of employment law has been withdrawn

On 19 January 2021, the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng confirmed that his department was going to carry out a consultation on employment rights in the UK post-Brexit. Earlier press reports indicated that there would be changes to the rules on working time, in particular removing the maximum 48-hour working week. Rejecting any suggestion of lowering employment protections Kwarteng said that the UK government intends to "protect and enhance workers’ rights going forward". The business secretary has subsequently explained that the planned consultation on post-Brexit workers' rights has been withdrawn.

Six month suspension to the enforcement of gender pay gap regulations

Whilst enforcement for the reporting year 2019/20 was suspended in March last year, employers are expected to publish their gender pay gap for the 2020/21 reporting cycle. Under the regulations, the last date for publication for the private sector is 4 April 2021, however, in light of the continuing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has announced that gender pay gap enforcement action will be suspended until 5 October 2021. This means that employers have an additional six months to meet their reporting obligations for 2020/21. For information on the impact of Covid-19 on gender pay gap reporting please see Natalie Painter's article here.

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