Well, here we are in January, another year of the pandemic has passed, and no one knows if the restrictions are coming or going. But in a year where the meaning of the word “normal” was redefined for us all, nowhere were changes more prevalent than in our working lives. In this roundup article, we look at the big things that happened in 2021 and how things have changed in a year.
1st January 2021 marked not just a new year but a new era for the UK, as the Brexit transition period ended, and the new rules began. With sweeping changes to legislation, there was disruption in everything from the availability of certain foods to turmoil for lorry drivers who were getting stuck at ports and having to live in their cabs for weeks on end. Controversial from the outset, Brexit has continued to divide opinion, but since the pandemic has been relegated to second place on the list of top things to complain about.
In April 2021, changes to the off payroll working legislation (IR35) came into force for the private sector. With all contractors now needing to be assessed for IR35 status, the HMRC CEST (Check Employment Status for Tax) was widely criticised. Having been in effect for the public sector since 2017, the changes to IR35 led to widespread panic and worry in contractors and employers alike, who scrambled to get used to the new rules and meet compliance requirements.
Also in April, the National Living Wage increased by 2.2%. The rates for the National Minimum Wage (for 22-year-olds and under) was also increased. The government said that they would crack down on those employers who don’t comply with the National Minimum Wage regulations in 2021 and are now naming and shaming miscreant employers online for all to see, as well as issuing fines and orders to back pay those underpaid.
Schools reopened in April, amid much confusion and concern, as frequent testing was required by all children, but also much celebration as parents were able to reclaim their home working spaces.
Having gone from a confusion (“isn’t that something to do with horse racing?” – no, that’s furlong) to common lexicon, the much-debated government furlough scheme ended on 30th September 2021.
Both frustrating and celebrated in equal measure, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) cost the UK government nearly £70bn and covered 11.6 million workers since the start of the pandemic. Employees on furlough received 80% of their current salary for staying at home and not working, up to a maximum of £2500. Furlough pay was taxable.
The end of furlough caused concern among workers, many of whom were anxious about the possibility of redundancy. But with October seeing job vacancies at the highest levels since records began in 2001, the end of the year is highlighting one of the most buoyant candidate-led markets the labour force has ever seen.
In November, mandatory vaccinations for CQC registered care home workers were introduced, amid more controversy (is anything pandemic related ever lacking controversy?), and speculation that NHS workers might be the next targeted has failed to materialise.
Also in November we were all shocked at the statistics coming out of COP26, the UN climate change conference. In fact, climate change and sustainability was one of the key trends for business this year, as ESG agendas arguably pushed eco targets into all business processes.
With lots to contend with in 2022, from a further increase in NMW and NIC’s in April, even more demands for remote and hybrid working, and a shortage in workers across all industries, employers and agencies will have to be creative if they want to succeed in attracting and retaining the top talent.
JMK is always here to support you in your business goals and look forward to serving you in 2022 and beyond.
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