April HR round-up

Amy Owens

Written By Hayley Saunders, Technical HR Consultant

26th April 2022

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This month, we’ll be looking at the some of the key actions that employers need to consider following the employment law developments in April 2022. These changes include rises in national minimum wage rates, increases to statutory redundancy pay and maternity pay and the end of HMRC’s IR35 enforcement ‘grace period’. We will take a look at some of the new schemes that have come into force this month including the new 3-month flexi-job apprenticeships and fit note digitalisation.

Key actions for this month

Comply with the national minimum wage rises and increases in statutory family-related pay, sick pay and statutory redundancy payments

A key task this month is to ensure you have checked your pay rates against the new minimum wage rates and ensure that, where necessary, you have increased the remuneration for the first pay reference period beginning on or after 1 April 2022. Remember to ensure that employees on maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental and parental bereavement leave, and on sick leave, are paid the increased statutory minimum rates which increased on 6 April 2022. You will also need to review your policies and documents to reflect these changes, such as your maternity policies and sickness absence procedures.

If you are having to make redundancies this month, you should ensure that calculations for statutory redundancy payments are made on the basis of the new maximum amount for redundancy dismissals, on or after 6 April 2022.

New limits on employment statutory redundancy pay came into force on 6 April 2022.

Employers that dismiss employees for redundancy must pay those with two years’ service an amount based on the employee’s weekly pay, length of service and age.

Other increases – Vento bands

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 – £990 to £9,900 (less serious cases);
• middle band – £9,900 to £29,600 (cases that do not merit an award in the upper band); and
• upper band – £29,600 to £49,300 (the most serious cases), with the most exceptional cases capable of exceeding £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.

Review your organisation’s IR35 compliance

It has been one year since the off payroll working rules (IR35) changed in the private and voluntary sectors. Therefore, it seems appropriate that one action this month would be to make sure you use the Employment Status Manual found on the Government’s website to check whether the rules apply to you. It is recommended you conduct this review at least once a year particularly if you have:

• become a newly formed business
• been brought by another organisation
• grown in size over the last few years

In April 2021, HRMC took a light-touch approach to enforcement and imposed penalties during the first year only if there was evidence of non-compliance.  The first 12 month ‘grace period’ has now ended, and penalties may now be charged on any inaccuracies relating to the operation of the rules that occur after April 2022. If IR35 does apply, the organisation that pays the individual’s fees is deemed to be their employer for tax and national insurance purposes.

What’s new this month?

Three-month Flexi-Job Apprenticeships

As of 6 April 2022, an apprentice can complete an alternative English apprenticeship by entering into a series of arrangements of at least three months’ duration with separate employers. When put together, the arrangements must total a minimum of 12 months. Therefore, employers employing an apprentice on a Flexi-Job Apprenticeship can commit to a minimum three-month apprenticeship contract as opposed to the usual 12 months. This will enable apprentices on the pilot to undertake a series of shorter contracts with a number of employers while completing their training in preparation for end point assessment.

Flexi-Job Apprenticeships have been designed to ensure that those sectors and occupations where short-term contracts or other non-standard employment models are the norm can access the benefits of apprenticeships. There will be available to employers and apprentices in two ways:

  1. With the involvement of a Flexi-Job Apprenticeship Agency: where an agency employs the apprentice directly for the duration of their apprenticeship but arranges placements for the apprentice with host businesses.
  2. Without the involvement of an agency: where the apprentice is able to secure multiple short employment contracts directly with businesses that support the requirements of the apprenticeship. Supported by their training provider, the apprentice takes their learning and progress with them as they move between employment contracts and change employers. This model is often described as a Portable Flexi-Job Apprenticeship.

Fit note digitalisation

From this month there is no longer a requirement for GP’s and other doctors to personally sign a fit note as evidence of an employee’s sickness absence. Following a new set of regulations, fit notes can now be issued digitally. A new form is being developed and both the old and new versions will be legally valid while the new version is being rolled out.

The government has updated its guidance – Getting the most out of the fit note: guidance for employers and line managers.

Right to work checks

Temporary adjustments to the right to work checks, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, were due to end on 5 April 2022 but this has now been extended to 30 September 2022.

From 6 April 2022 the government has also introduced a new digital service for checking British and Irish citizens’ right to work checks, although manual checks of applicants’ documents will remain valid. From the same date, electronic checks must be carried out for biometric residence permit holders and those with settled or pre-settled status under the EU settlement scheme. Manual checks are no longer acceptable. Please see the updated government guidance for further detailed information. Right to work checks: an employer’s guide.

What’s coming up?

Data Protection

The ICO is due to issue updated employment practices guidance in 2022. This will replace their employment practices code, which has not been updated since the Data Protection Act 2018, and will cover topics including recruitment and selection, employment records, monitoring of workers, and information about workers’ health.

Non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s)

It is anticipated that legislation this year will curb the use of NDA provisions in employment contracts and settlement agreements alongside a requirement for independent legal advice to be provided to individuals asked to sign an NDA. New enforcement measure will be introduced for NDA’s in employment contracts and settlement agreements that do not comply with legal requirements.

Note: The above guidance was correct at the time of writing this article on 20/04/22. This does not constitute legal advice and is for information purposes only.
If you have any questions regarding the content of this newsletter or would like more information to support your business with the changes, please get in touch.

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