New minimum wage rates apply from 1 April 2022:
|Hourly rate from 1 April 2022|
|National Living Wage (age 23 and over)||£9.50|
|21-22 year old rate||£9.18|
|18-20 year old rate||£6.83|
|16-17 year old rate||£4.81|
The new rates represent a significant increase, and as rates rise, so more employees come within scope of minimum wage legislation. With the complexity of the rules, it can be only too easy for employers to make errors unintentionally. This can happen, for example, after birthdays, when younger employees pass from one age band to another. Salary sacrifice arrangements are another area where mistakes are often made. Regularly monitoring payroll procedures for minimum wage compliance is always prudent in view of the penalties and reputational damage that can attach to errors.
Right to work checks have changed during the pandemic. Though it’s still necessary to carry out such checks, and remains an offence knowingly to employ anyone without the right to work in the UK, employers have been able to perform checks remotely via videocall and the use of scanned documents or photos of documents, rather than originals. But this temporary concession is due to end on 5 April 2022.
So what comes next? Firstly, there is no need to carry out retrospective checks on those who had a Covid-19 adjusted check between 30 March 2020 and 5 April 2022. Secondly, the Home Office is expected to release further guidance nearer April; a new digital solution is in the pipeline enabling checks to continue to be conducted remotely, but with enhanced security. This should include many who are unable to use the Home Office online checking service, including UK and Irish citizens.
From 6 April 2022, employers will again need either to check the original documents, rather than scans or photographs – or to use the Home Office online right to work tool. Checks will be done with the individual physically present, or via live video link while the employer has the original document in their possession.
Responsibility for deciding the employment status of workers, who provide services through an intermediary, has moved from the worker to the client. It is important to look at all aspects of a working arrangement when making a status determination. A single factor, such as the right to provide a substitute, may be insufficient to keep a worker outside the rules, as we explained in a recent blog post. Checking whether the contractor is in business on their own account, and how, practically, they mesh with your business, make good starting points.
Equality law places obligations on employers to create a more level playing field for people with disabilities, and physical and mental health issues. One is the duty to make reasonable workplace adjustments. This extends not just to existing workers, but to the recruitment process as well.
What is considered reasonable for an employer to do will vary depending on the business. Expectations of a multi-national employer will be different from what’s expected of the owner of a local shop. Similarly, staff needs may differ, even among those with the same health condition.
The essence of the idea of reasonable adjustment is that disabled people shouldn’t be put at a ‘substantial disadvantage’ as against those who aren’t disabled. If such a disadvantage exists, the employer must practically try to remove, reduce or prevent it.
The responsibility to make reasonable adjustments only comes into play where an employer is aware, or should reasonably be aware, that someone has a disability. This means employers should take steps to inform themselves of needs within their workforce, though with an eye also to staff privacy and confidentiality.
There are three main areas involved: change to policies and procedures; change to the physical layout of the workplace; and change by providing extra equipment or services. Where hot desking is normal policy, for example, someone with autism may need their own desk and a quiet place to work. Where the height of light switches or shelves causes problems for a wheelchair user, these may need repositioning. Provision of extra equipment could entail something like additional software for someone with visual impairment, allowing them to use a computer with speech output.
Reasonable adjustments are made at the employer’s cost, and we are on hand to discuss your plans for expenditure, and areas where tax relief may be available.