This timetable outlines the major changes to UK employment legislation from 2019 to 2021, and what's expected beyond that time period. For information on employment law in Northern Ireland, CIPD members can see our factsheet.

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1 January 2020

Executive pay ratio reports published

New regulations under the Companies Act 2006, in force from 1 January 2019, require UK listed companies with more than 250 UK employees to report on the pay ratio between their chief executive and their average UK worker as part of their annual company reporting requirements.

Around 900 businesses will have to state, in their directors’ remuneration report, the pay gap between their CEO and a representative employee from the:

  • 25th pay percentile
  • 50th (median) pay percentile
  • 75th pay percentile.

Companies can choose between three options for calculating the pay ratio but must account for their choice in the report. A strengthening of the Corporate Governance Code also requires them to say what action they’ve taken to improve employee engagement and consultation in their remuneration reports.

The first reports will be published from the beginning of 2020 reporting on pay awarded in 2019.

13 March 2020

SSP amendment for Coronavirus self-isolation

From this date, statutory sick pay (SSP) is payable from day one of an employee or worker’s absence from work, rather than day four as previously, if the reason for the absence is self-isolation to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in accordance with guidance from Public Health England, NHS Scotland, or Public Health Wales.

Employers are responsible for paying SSP and ‘will know the reason their staff are giving for not being at work’ according to a government press release. The legislation is temporary, subject to ministerial rule and automatically lapses after eight months.

Legislation to make SSP payable from day one for absence due to Covid-19 sickness is also promised.

18 March 2020

Tribunal proceedings during Coronavirus outbreak

The employment tribunal service for England and Wales, and Scotland, has issued guidance (pdf) on conducting tribunals during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The guidance says that hearings may be conducted using electronic communications (including by telephone and video conferencing) where the tribunal thinks it ‘just and equitable’ to do so, in order to reduce the risks to parties and their representatives caused by having to travel to tribunals and interact with a range of individuals.

Hearings conducted by employment judges and only one lay member are also encouraged where it is not possible to convene the usual 3-person panel. The tribunal service has asked for applications to tribunals to be sent electronically because judges may not be working from the tribunal building.

25 March 2020

Coronavirus Act 2020

A bill containing a wide-ranging set of provisions giving the Government temporary emergency powers to respond to the Coronavirus pandemic by regulation was debated in Parliament on 23 March and became law on 25 March.

One set of regulations, the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020, bring into law some of the employment measures already announced by the Government. The Government now has the power to make further regulations that will allow:

  • employers to recover the additional statutory sick pay paid out due to the scrapping of the 3-day waiting period (see ‘SSP amendment above’)
  • rebating to be extended to larger businesses, if necessary
  • the amount of rebate payable to be increased or decreased.

Other measures include a new statutory right to take emergency volunteer leave to help in health or social care for workers certified as appropriate by a local authority, the NHS, or the Department of Health, and working in businesses with 10 or more staff. 

Workers can take the leave in blocks of two, three or four weeks and may take one block of leave in any volunteering period. The first 16-week period begins on the day the legislation takes effect. 

Volunteers must give three working days’ notice of their intention to take the leave. There are no provisions allowing employers to refuse it. The leave is unpaid but a fund will be established to compensate volunteers for loss of earnings, travel and subsistence. All other terms and conditions other than salary continue during the leave and the volunteer has a right to return to their own job.

The Act also gives the Government the power to restrict events and close down business premises where needed to prevent the transmission of Coronavirus, or to avoid the deployment of medical or emergency staff.

The legislation is limited to two years' duration, although this period can be lengthened or shortened as required, and the measures within it can be brought in, suspended and reactivated in response to current needs.

Go to our Coronavirus FAQs for more details on coping with COVID-19, including links to government guidance on support for businesses.

27 March 2020

Holiday carry over extended

The government announced a temporary relaxation of the rules on carrying over untaken holiday on this date in response to the Covid-19 emergency. The Working Time (Coronavirus)(Amendment) Regulations 2020 allow workers to carry over leave they were unable to take due to the Coronavirus outbreak into the next two leave years.

The relaxation of the rules only applies to the four weeks statutory leave under EU rules. The UK’s extra 1.6 weeks’ leave can still only be carried over into the next leave year.

Acas guidance says reasons for being unable to take leave could include:

  • self-isolating or being too ill to take leave
  • being temporarily laid off or ‘furloughed’
  • having to work through holidays.

The amended regulations have immediate effect.

30 March 2020

Gender pay gap reports (public sector)

Specified public authorities, including government departments, the armed forces, local authorities, the NHS and state schools, with 250 or more employees, are required to publish their gender pay gap reports annually by this date, based on data gathered on 31 March each year.

The requirements for the reports, under the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties and Public Authorities) Regulations 2017, are largely the same as those that apply to private and voluntary sector organisations of the same size (see below).

For more information, visit our Gender pay gap reporting topic page.

COVID-19: the Government has announced a suspension of enforcement measures on gender pay gap reporting for 2019/20 in view of the unprecedented pressures businesses are currently experiencing.

1 April 2020

National living/minimum wage rises

From this date, the National Living Wage for workers aged 25 and over rises to £8.72 an hour.

The new rates were announced on 31 December 2019 and follow the Low Pay Commission’s recommendations.

For more details, visit our Statutory rates page.

4 April 2020

Gender pay gap reports (private and voluntary sectors)

Private and voluntary sector employers in England, Wales and Scotland with at least 250 employees are required to publish information about the differences in pay and bonuses between men and women in their workforce, based on a ‘snapshot’ date of 5 April each year, under the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017. The third set of reports are due by 4 April 2020. Similar reporting requirements apply to larger public sector employers (see above).

Provisions under the Northern Irish Employment Act 2016 mirror these, but have yet to be brought into force.

For more information, visit our Gender pay gap reporting topic page.

COVID-19: the Government has announced a suspension of enforcement measures on gender pay gap reporting for 2019/20 in view of the unprecedented pressures businesses are currently experiencing.

6 Apr 2020

Good work plan: agency workers, calculating annual leave, statement of terms

Agency workers In the ‘Good work plan’, published in December 2018, the government made a commitment to abolish a legal loophole known as the ‘Swedish derogation’ in the agency worker rules. This allowed agencies to opt out of equalising the pay of agency staff with the permanent workforce, when the worker had been with the same employer for more than 12 weeks, by paying agency workers between assignments. The opt-out ceases on 6 April 2020 when the Agency Workers (Amendment) Regulations 2019 come into force.

Agency workers also become entitled on this date to a ‘Key information’ document, specifying what type of contract they are on, their rate of pay, how they will be paid and by which company.

Annual leave The government is lengthening the reference period for determining an average week’s pay from 12 weeks to 52 weeks from 6 April 2020 - see the Employment Rights (Employment Particulars and Paid Annual Leave) (Amendment) Regulations 2018. The reform is intended to improve the holiday pay for seasonal workers, who tend to lose out over the way it is currently calculated.

Statement of terms Both employees and workers must receive a statement of ‘written particulars’ (basic employment terms and conditions) as a day one right from this date (see Part 3 of Employment Rights (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019). Both became entitled to an itemised payslip on this date last year.

6 April 2020

NMW ‘naming and shaming’

The government is resuming the public naming of businesses that don’t comply with the National Minimum Wage regulations from this date, while raising the threshold at which this occurs from £100 to £500 in payment arrears. Fines still exist for underpayments of less than £100.

Other changes to the regulations being introduced on this date include:

  • Broadening the definition of ‘salaried hours workers’ (those receiving an annual salary in equal installments for a set number of contracted hours) to include fortnightly and 4-weekly payment cycles
  • Allowing employers to choose the most appropriate ‘calculation year’ for pay monitoring purposes
  • Ensuring salaried workers can be paid premiums (for working on Bank Holidays, for example) without this affecting their entitlement to the NMW on other days.

The government is also promising better guidance on the NMW, more compliance support for small businesses, and a helpline for employers operating salary sacrifice or other pay deduction schemes.

6 April 2020

Tribunal compensation limits increase from 6 April 2020. The new rates are:

  • Limit on guaranteed payments – £30
  • Limit on a week’s pay – £538
  • Maximum basic award for unfair dismissal and statutory redundancy payment – £16,140
  • Minimum basic award for unfair dismissal – £6,562
  • Maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal – £88,519

For more information and levels of other rates, see Statutory rates and compensation limits page.

On the same date, the Vento bands for calculating injury to feelings awards in discrimination claims for England and Wales increase as follows:

  • Lower band £900-£9,000
  • Middle band £9,000-£27,000
  • Upper band £27,000-£45,000 

Exceptionally serious cases could exceed the £45,000 cap.

For more information, see Presidential guidance Vento bands (pdf).

6 April 2020

Parental bereavement leave and pay

On 23 January 2020, the Government announced that the Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 will be coming into force on 6 April 2020.

The Act, which became law in 13 September 2019, gives employees who lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from the 24th week of pregnancy, on or after this date, the right to two weeks’ leave. Regulations specify that the two weeks’ leave may be taken as one block, or as two non-consecutive one week blocks, at any time during the 56 weeks following the child’s death.

The leave will paid at the same statutory rate as other family friendly rights (see our Statutory rates and compensation limits page) if the employee has 26 weeks’ service.

Employed parents are already entitled, as a day-one right, to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with emergencies involving a dependent, including dealing with a dependent’s death.

6 April 2020

Extension of IR35 to private sector postponed

On 17 March 2020, the government announced that it was postponing the rollout of the new off payroll working rules (known as IR35) to the private sector until 6 April 2021. The government emphasised that this was a “deferral, not a cancellation” in response to the Coronavirus situation, and that it remained committed to the policy of ensuring that those contractors working like employees pay the same tax as employees.

(For more information on this topic, see below '6 April 2021 - Extension of IR35 to the private sector'.)

6 April 2020

Information and consultation changes

From this date, the threshold for making a valid request to set up information and consultation arrangements under the ICE Regulations 2004 drops from 10% to the 2% of the workforce. There still needs to be 15 employees making the request.

The regulations apply to businesses with 50 or more employees in the UK, and the changes are being introduced under the ‘Good work plan’.

6 April 2020

Tax on termination payments

From this date, termination payments over the sum of £30,000 become subject to employer NICs. This change was delayed from April 2018.

31 July 2020

Redundancy pay and furlough scheme

The government has produced regulations, in force from this date, requiring employers to calculate statutory redundancy pay based on the redundant employee’s normal pay rather than their reduced pay under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The regulations, made on the 29 July and laid before Parliament the following day, also apply to other statutory entitlements associated with dismissal such as compensation for unfair dismissal, notice pay and so on.

The regulations are expected to be extended to Northern Ireland in August.

28 September 2020

Fines for self-isolation breaches

On this date, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions)(Self-isolation)(England)2020 came into force. They allow fines of between £1,000 and £10,000 to be imposed on workers and employers who unreasonably fail to follow the self-isolation guidelines when officially notified to do so by the NHS test and trace system.

Workers must inform their employer no later than their next working day that they have been told to self-isolate. Employers will be committing an offence if they allow workers (including agency workers) who are required to self-isolate to work in any place other than from home.

The regulations only apply in England, but Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are expected to replicate them in their own regions.

1 November 2020

Furlough extension and job support scheme postponement

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which was due to close 31 October 2020, has been extended until 31 March 2021, and mirrors the provisions operating in August. As before, the government will pay 80% of furloughed employees’ wages, either for full or part-time hours, subject to a monthly £2,500 cap. the scheme will be reviewed again in January 2021.

The Job Support Scheme (JSS), which was due to start on 1 November and run for six months, has been postponed until the CJRS ends. It is designed to top up the pay of employees brought back into work but working fewer hours due to decreased demand.

4 November 2020

Public sector exit payments

On 21 July 2020, the government confirmed its intention to introduce a £95,000 cap on exit payments in the public sector. The change allows these payments to be recovered from highly paid public servants moving between jobs.

The change was first consulted on in August 2015 and resurrected in April 2019 with a further consultation. More consultation followed in September 2020.

The Restriction of Public Sector Exit Payments Regulations 2020 were made on 14 October 2020 and come into force on 4 November 2020. Reforms to the terms governing exit payments to local government workers are in a separate set of regulations expected to come into force during December 2020.

5 November 2020

Job retention bonus scrapped

On 31 July 2020, the government announced that it would pay employers a £1,000 one-off taxable payment for every eligible employee that the business had furloughed and kept continuously employed until 31 January 2021.

On 5 November, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the scheme had been scrapped, in view of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) having been extended, and that a new retention incentive would be introduced at an appropriate time.

25 November 2020

NLW increased and extended

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on this date that from April next year, the National Living Wage would rise to £8.91 an hour (an increase of 2.2%) and be extended to 23 and 24 year olds for the first time (previously the NLW applied only to 25 year olds and older). All other NMW rates will increase at the same time but only the rate for apprentices represents a higher percentage increase (up by 3.6% to £4.30 an hour).

The increases are in line with Low Pay Commission recommendations.

28 November 2020

DBS criminal record changes

The Disclosure and Barring Service has changed the rules governing the extent to which criminal records are disclosed to employers carrying out a standard or enhanced check on employees. From this date, childhood police cautions will no longer be disclosed and someone with more than one conviction will not automatically have all those convictions disclosed, regardless of the offence or length of time that’s elapsed. Instead each conviction will be considered individually.

The changes are in response to a Supreme Court ruling in January 2019 which found that the previous rules breached human rights law (right to respect for family and private life).

The DBS has produced new guidance on the change.

1 December 2020

New immigration system opens

The government published a parliamentary statement (pdf) on 22 October 2020 setting out how the new post-Brexit immigration system will work. Applications for non-EU workers, arriving in the UK to live and work on or after 1 January 2021, opened on 1 December 2020.

There are several changes to the former points-based system, including:

  • Replacement of the Tier 2 General category with a Skilled Worker route (requires a job offer in an eligible skilled occupation from an approved sponsoring employer)
  • Abolition of maximum six-year stay for workers in this category
  • Gross basic salary must be £25,600 or over
  • Skill level must be equivalent to A-levels
  • Applicants must have an intermediate-level ability to communicate in English.

EU workers already resident in the UK on 1 December 2020 have until 31 June 2021 to apply for settled status enabling them to remain here.

For more details, see government guidance on the UK points-based immigration system

17 December 2020

Furlough extension to April 2021

On this date, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, already extended to the end of March 2021, would be further extended until the end of April. He said the government would continue to contribute 80% towards furloughed workers’ pay and would announce its next steps in response to the Coronavirus pandemic in the Budget to be held on 3 March 2021.

24 December 2020

Post-Brexit trade agreement published

The government published the Trade and Cooperation Agreement – the Brexit deal it had reached with the EU – on Christmas Eve, coming into force on 1 January 2021. The agreement establishes a principle of non-regression whereby the UK agrees not to reduce its existing level of social protection in such a way as to distort competition.

After 31 December 2020, except for some discrimination laws in Northern Ireland, the European Court of Justice no longer has any constitutional role in the UK. No judgments it makes in the future will apply in the UK and there will be no obligation for the UK courts to follow these precedents although they may choose to do so.

The EU Withdrawal Act 2020 had already determined that existing ECJ decisions will continue to apply in the UK unless and until the Supreme Court decides to alter any precedents when ruling on a relevant case.

For more details, see our Employment law: UK, EU and Brexit factsheet

31 December 2020

Brexit transition period ends

To find out about the CIPD's viewpoint on immigration policy post-Brexit, and how to cope with the workforce issues it presents, go to our Brexit and future immigration policy page.

2021

On this date, a new immigration system that applies equally to EU and non-EU citizens came into effect. There are several changes to the former points-based system, including:

  • Replacement of the Tier 2 General category with a Skilled Worker route (requires a job offer in an eligible skilled occupation from an approved sponsoring employer)
  • Abolition of maximum six-year stay for workers in this category
  • Gross basic salary must be a minimum of £25,600
  • Skill level must be equivalent to A-levels
  • Applicants must have an intermediate-level ability to communicate in English.

EU workers already resident in the UK on 1 December 2020 have until 31 June 2021 to apply for settled status enabling them to remain here.

For more details, see our Employers’ legal guide to post-Brexit immigration.

On 21 July 2020, the government confirmed its intention to change the law so that exit payments to public servants in excess of £95,000 could be clawed back if the employee moved into another highly paid public sector job. Consultations on the reform began in 2015 and culminated in a final consultation in September 2020. The Restriction of Public Sector Exit Payments Regulations 2020 were made on 14 October 2020 and came into force on 4 November 2020.

On 12 February 2021, the regulations were revoked on the grounds that a review had indicated unintended consequences arising from them. The government has issued Guidance to employers on paying additional sums to employees whose exit payments were capped between 4 November 2020 and 12 February 2021.

Specified public authorities, including government departments, the armed forces, local authorities, the NHS and state schools, with 250 or more employees, are required to publish their gender pay gap reports annually by this date, based on data gathered on 31 March each year.

COVID-19: the government announced a suspension of enforcement measures on gender pay gap reporting for 2019/20, in view of the unprecedented pressures on businesses caused by the pandemic. Employers have until 5 October 2021 to report their 2020/21 figures before enforcement measures are taken but are encouraged to report by the usual reporting deadlines.

For more information, visit our Gender pay gap reporting topic page.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on November 2020 that from April 2021, the National Living Wage would rise to £8.91 an hour (an increase of 2.2%) and be extended to 23 and 24 year olds for the first time (previously the NLW applied only to 25 year olds and older). All other NMW rates will increase at the same time in line with Low Pay Commission recommendations.

For a full breakdown of the rates, go to our Statutory Rates page.

Private and voluntary sector employers in England, Wales and Scotland with at least 250 employees are required to publish information about the differences in pay and bonuses between men and women in their workforce, based on a ‘snapshot’ date of 5 April each year. Provisions are not yet in force in Northern Ireland.

COVID-19: the government announced a suspension of enforcement measures on gender pay gap reporting for 2019/20, in view of the unprecedented pressures on businesses caused by the pandemic. Employers have until 5 October 2021 to report their 2020/21 figures before enforcement measures are taken but are encouraged to report by the usual reporting deadlines.

For more information, visit our Gender pay gap reporting topic page.

Statutory maternity, adoption, paternity, and shared parental pay rises.

See our Statutory rates page.

The IR35 rules prevent contractors who are performing similar roles to employees, and working through Personal Service Companies (PCS), from paying less tax and NICs than if they were permanently employed by the client organisation. In April 2017, responsibility for deciding whether contractors’ working in the public sector were caught by IR35 switched from them to their end users, which also became liable for deducting the right amount of tax and NICs.

From 6 April 2021, deciding whether IR35 applies becomes the responsibility of all private sector employers that in a tax year have:

  • more than 50 employees
  • an annual turnover over £10.2 million
  • a balance sheet worth over £5.1 million.

COVID-19: The extension of the rules to the private sector was due to take effect from 6 April 2020 but was delayed due to the pandemic.

HMRC has published guidance on the new rules, Prepare for changes to the off-payroll working rules (IR35), a statement on the outcome of its consultation, Off-payroll working rules from April 2021and further guidance in February 2021, saying that it would take a ‘light touch’ to compliance in the first year.

See also our IR35 implications for people professionals guides.

From this date, workers will gain the right not to be subjected to detrimental treatment for leaving or refusing to return to work if they believe themselves to be in 'serious and imminent danger'. Previously the right under s44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 only applied to employees.

The change follows a High Court decision last autumn in a case involving the gig workers union, the IWGB, that the government had failed to implement the EU Health and Safety Framework Directive properly into UK law by omitting workers from s44 protection. The right is now being used more frequently by employees worried about travelling to or being in work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Employment Rights Act 1996 (Protection from Detriment in Health and Safety Cases) (Amendment) Order 2021 comes into force on 31 May.

An employee at risk of redundancy while on maternity, adoption, or shared parental leave has the right to be offered any suitable alternative vacancy that is available.

The government is proposing to extend this protection to:

  • pregnant employees, once they have told their employer of their pregnancy
  • employees returning from maternity or adoption leave within the previous six months
  • parents returning from shared parental leave (although how the limits on this right will operate is still to be worked out).

The proposals are in response to a consultation earlier in the year on pregnancy and maternity discrimination. The government has said that legislation will be brought forward when Parliamentary time allows.

The Good work plan contained a commitment to introduce extra statutory leave and pay for all parents of premature babies needing specialist care in a neonatal unit. In March 2020, the government confirmed its intention to introduce 12 weeks’ paid leave for parents in this position to avoid them having to choose between returning to work and taking care of their newborn. Announcements prior to the Budget indicated the premature baby leave would be in addition to existing maternity and paternity pay provisions. Although details on how it will work are yet to be released, the leave is expected to be taken after maternity/paternity leave, in blocks of one or more weeks, and paid at the statutory rate for those employees with 26 weeks’ service.

There was also a Budget 2020 commitment to consult on a new ‘in-work entitlement’ for employees with unpaid caring responsibilities, such as for a family member or a dependant.

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