Covid News, statutory rate changes and Work-Life Blend


A summary of key HR and employment updates affecting small businesses:

Covid News

Shielding (1st April 2021)

People categorised as extremely clinically vulnerable will no longer be advised to shield or be eligible to receive SSP on the basis of being advised to shield. This category of worker are being advised to work from home where possible, but if this is not possible, they should return to work.

Kay’s comment: Do speak to those affected and try and address any concerns or anxieties, to find workable and practical solutions wherever possible to assist with their reintegration back to work.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (Extension)

Full time furloughing as well as flexible furloughing now continues until 30th Sept 2021. However, the scheme will be subject to a return of last summer’s tapering provisions, with employers required to contribute 10% in July and 20% in August and September towards unworked hours as well as National Insurance and pension contributions.

Kay’s comment: Although an employee does not need to have been furloughed previously, they do need to have been on the employer’s PAYE payroll on or before 30th October 2020.

Workplace Testing and Vaccinations

In order to encourage businesses to take up rapid workplace testing, the government has extended eligibility to all businesses as long as they register for the government’s free workplace testing scheme by 12th April 2021. Lateral flow self-test kits will remain free until the end of June. However, organisations will also need to implement relevant and suitable testing policies and adhere to current data protection legislation. The government is currently considering whether or not to introduce a vaccine certificate or passport system. The review is considering privacy and ethical issues and whether employers would be able to request Covid passports if they were implemented. Currently, employers are only being advised to encourage and reassure regarding vaccination but not enforce.

National Living Wage, National Minimum Wages and Statutory Rates (April 2021)

The national living wage for 23 year olds and above increased to £8.91 p/hr, the NMW for 21-22 year olds is £8.36; for 18 to 20 year olds £6.56; for 16-17 year olds to £4.62 and the apprenticeship rate is £4.30. Statutory maternity/paternity/shared parental/adoption pay is £151.97 and statutory sick pay is £96.35 p/week. The maximum limit for statutory redundancy calculations has increased to £544 per week.

Kay’s comment: Please note that this year the National Living Wage has been lowered to include 23 and 24 year olds for the first time.

Kickstart Scheme Update (currently running to December 2021)

The scheme has been updated to make access easier for smaller businesses. Kickstart placements are aimed at 16-24 year olds who are on universal credit and at risk of long-term unemployment. The Government pays 100% of the age-relevant National Minimum Wage, National Insurance and pension contributions for 25 hours a week, but the employer can pay more voluntarily. The Kickstart grant can now be accessed via approved Gateways which includes local authorities, colleges and trade bodies which liaise directly with DWP and provide extra support.

Kay’s comment: The grants are only applicable for new job placements, not existing roles or vacancies, and employers have to explain how they will support the young people to make them more employable. After the six month placements, apprenticeships or full time employment can then also be considered.

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Please Note: The information contained above is provided for your general use only. It should not be treated as a substitute for obtaining professional employment advice on specific issues. If you require HR advice or support, please contact me at:

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