Employment Law Coffee Break | Covid-19 workplace risks in 2021, new statutory pay rates published and gender pay reporting

Written on 17 Dec 2020

Covid-19 workplace risks for managers

As Covid-19 will continue to impact on the workplace in 2021, this week we look at some of the legal risks managers should be alert to on the ground and the practical steps for managing these.

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As we start the New Year, it will be important to ensure that appropriate and up to date policies and procedures are in place to guide managers and employees in dealing with issues, particularly with Covid-19 raising new and sometimes tricky problems. Manager training will also be key to maintain consistency across the business, so that managers understand the potential risks of specific situations and where they should be calling on support from HR. Please contact us for more details on how we can assist you in this respect.

We have also been running a series of webinars looking at specific issues as employers navigate this new world of work; please click here to access the recordings.

Gender pay reporting still on the cards for 2021?

The statutory obligation to report on gender pay data (for employers with 250 plus employees) for reporting year 2019/2020 by 4 April 2020 was suspended due to Covid-19. There has not been any announcement as yet that a similar suspension will apply to gender pay data for reporting year 2020/2021 which must be reported on by 4 April 2021.

Broadly, the gender pay gap reporting obligations require employers to report on gaps in hourly pay and bonus pay. Calculating the hourly gender pay gap requires employers to look at "full pay relevant employees" on a snapshot date, 5 April 2020. With the first national lockdown implemented on 23 March 2020, there is concern that taking data as at 5 April 2020 will be skewed by Covid-19 factors, with many staff furloughed or on sick leave by that date; it has been reported that women were most adversely affected by the immediate impact of Covid-19 given their job roles and caring commitments. Latest government guidance indicates that staff furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and who received less than full pay during the relevant pay period are not "full-pay relevant employees" for these purposes. Note though that for the purposes of determining whether the 250 threshold is met and calculating the gender pay gap for bonus pay, all "relevant" employees are included.

There is no obligation to provide a narrative to support any figures reported but this is something that employers should carefully consider given the significant changes happening in many workforces back in April 2020. Employers who missed reporting last year may also want to consider whether now it would be sensible to voluntarily report on these figures to demonstrate any progress which had been made pre Covid-19. As businesses restructure their working practices in their Covid-19 recovery and respond to other challenges impacting their business, such as digitalisation and the influence of movements such as #metoo and #BLM, employers should now reassess what actions may be required to close any gender pay gap.

A private members bill before parliament also proposes further reforms around diversity and pay and the government has already committed to undertake a review of gender pay gap reporting in 2022, at which point we may see further reform on this. We also await further developments on proposals around ethnicity pay gap reporting.

New statutory pay rates published

The government has announced new statutory national minimum wage rates rom 6 April 2021. From this date, those aged 23 or over will become entitled to the statutory national living wage rate. The new rates will be as follows:

  • Age 23 or over: £8.91 (currently £8.72)
  • Age 21 to 22: £8.36 (currently £8.20)
  • Age 18 to 20: £6.56 (currently £6.45)
  • Age 16 to 17: £4.62 (currently £4.55)
  • Apprentice rate: £4.30 (currently £4.15)

The government has also announced that from 6 April 2021 it is proposed that statutory sick pay will be £96.35 (currently £95.85) and from 4 April 2021 statutory family leave (maternity pay, paternity pay, shared parental pay, adoption pay and parental bereavement pay) will be £151.97 (currently £151.20).

This is our last Employment Law Coffee Break for this year. We hope you have enjoyed the series and that you will join us in 2021 as we focus on the latest legal and practical challenges for businesses.