Agile Monthly Newsletter – February 2021

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February Newsletter 2021

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Government Latest Announcements 

 

Covid-19 is still presenting an unprecedented challenge for business. Whilst we are adapting to the current changes, employment law is also constantly on the move. We will keep track of the latest employment law changes so you do not have to. 

Here is the latest and confirmed within Employment Law 2021:

Brexit – Right to Work Checks
Following the introduction of the new immigration system, employers should continue to carry out right to work checks on all new recruits using a three stage process of obtaining, checking and copying relevant identity documents and recording the date the check was conducted.

Until 30 June 2021, when conducting right to work checks in respect of EU, EEA or Swiss nationals, employers must ensure they obtain the employee’s passport or national identity card, or if the individual has been granted permission under the EU Settlement Scheme, they can share evidence of right to work using an online service. From 1 July 2021 onwards, the employee must either provide proof of permission under the EU Settlement scheme, or if they have arrived in the UK on or after 1 January 2021, they must provide a visa and any other necessary ID documentation.

There is currently no requirement for retrospective checks to be undertaken on EU, EEA or Swiss nationals who were employed on or before 30 June 2021.

Job Retention Scheme
It is likely that the furlough scheme will finally come to an end as coronavirus restrictions ease. This is currently expected to end on 30 April 2021.

Employers should start to plan the steps they are going to take when there is no longer support from government. If you are considering redundancies or alternatives, please do speak to Agile HR for advice.

New IR35 requirements

From April 2021, large and medium sized organisations in the private sector who engage contractors through intermediary companies will be responsible for assessing the employment status of those contractors. – More information within this newsletter.

 If you are concerned about any of the changes and need further advice and support, please contact Petra Martins petra@agilehrconsulting.com.

IR35

IR35 which deals with ‘off payroll working arrangements’ comes in with the start of the new tax year – 6th April 2021. The new rules shift responsibility for determining the status of a contractor, and liability for deducting tax and national insurance if IR35 applies to the organisation engaging them. Employers should review their contracts and put in place the necessary procedures to ensure compliance.

Key points to consider

Identify those contractors who require assessing under the off-payroll rules. Include those employed via an agent.

Next, compare your employees and group together contractors with similar working practices or contracts.

Using the contractor agreement/ Contract for Services consider: 

  • What is the accumulative employment tax liability for ‘inside IR35’ contractors (who must be considered as employees for tax purposes)?
  • What status factors are imposing risk upon the company?
  • What projects are at most risk from the off-payroll rules?

You might find that certain policy changes to contractor working practices are enough to mitigate IR35 risk effectively and allow some contractors to operate outside IR35.

However, any changes made must be realistic, rigorously applied in practice and reflected in newly drafted contracts.

Key individuals could still be retained if contract rates were to increase to counter their tax hit, which in turn would limit disruption to projects.

Ultimately, a financial plan is required to weigh up the relative costs and prioritise expenditure to ensure the impact of off-payroll on projects is minimal. 

Any rate renegotiations for affected contractors who plan on staying should be conducted at this stage, while those who are leaving will require termination notices. Many recommend that hirers engage inside IR35 contractors via agency payroll, who may decide to outsource this process.

Those who are to be offered an alternative operating model will need to be served termination notices for their current contracts before switching. This needs to happen before March 2021.

It is important to know that firms cannot insure against the non-payment of tax, in the same way that you cannot insure against a speeding fine.

For advice regarding contractual challenges with IR35 contact  jenny@agilehrconsulting.com

All Zoomed Out’: Finding the balance in a virtual workplace

We’re essentially a year into a world of video calls and virtual meetings. In the golden days of 2019, you’d stick your head above the parapet of your desk’s boundaries and ask a question of Dave, two chairs down. You might walk and talk through a problem on the way to a well-known sandwich shop, or sit down in a meeting room and thrash out a project plan. However, with a large portion of Businesses’ offices fully or partially closed, we rejoice for the power of the internet and replace those face-to-face encounters with their virtual equivalents.

 

Whilst this transition has undoubtedly allowed Businesses to survive during one of the most challenging and unexpected set of circumstances for decades, there is another side to this virally-coated coin. Increasingly a common complaint amongst a new army of home workers; eye strain and migraines are becoming ever growing health concerns, which will challenge the Health and Safety policies of many businesses in the months and years to come. Ensuring you have completed the correct risk assessments and followed government guidance relating to Display Screen Equipment is essential.
There are a number of ways for both employees and employers to break up their day and subsequently introduce screen-free time. Leading by example is often the most effective: blocking out an hour for lunch on a reoccurring daily basis, and encouraging your team to do the same, for instance. Whilst this may seem obvious; with limited visibility, employees can be nervous to be seen ‘away’ or ‘inactive’ for fear of being perceived as bunking off work, especially during a period of economic uncertainty such as the one we are in currently. Subconsciously it is likely your staff are feeling more anxious about their employment: with an unemployment rate of 5% forecast to reach 7.7% in April 2021 according to the Office for National Statistics, and record levels of redundancies in Q4 2020, this is perhaps not surprising.
There are also more proactive ways employers can support their employees (and help protect themselves from any future claims). Some companies have introduced a monthly meeting-free day, others are adopting competitive step-counting challenges to encourage exercise and time away from the desk-cum-kitchen-table. There are a plethora of ways to reassure and encourage a healthier work-life balance for your staff.

 

The main trend difference in Lockdown 3.0? Less is more. In March of 2020, the novelty of Lockdown led to a frenzy of virtual pub quizzes, virtual drinks after work with colleagues, virtual ‘coffee catch ups’ with Leadership Teams and Line Managers. However, studies show that during these video calls, the brain is working overtime to read facial cues, guess body language and not be distracted by one’s own face (‘have I got something in my teeth?’). Indeed, according to the Psychiatric Times’ article, A Neuropsychological Exploration of Zoom Fatigue, ‘there is robust evidence on how eye contact improves connection—faster responses, more memorization of faces, and increased likeability and attractiveness. These tools that make interactions organically rewarding are compromised over video’.

 

If you would like us to help with your Health and Safety policies, carry out wellbeing and/or risk assessments with your employees, or run employee engagement surveys and implement solutions, please contact lydia@agilehrconsulting.com

 

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