22 Dec 2021
At the end of 2020 we all breathed a collective sigh of relief as we looked back on the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic had brought to businesses and employees alike and looked forward to a brand new, much more positive year ahead. Fast forward to the end of 2021 and it is clear that it has been another challenging year for many businesses. It seems that 2022 will begin with many similar challenges, due to the emergence of the Omicron variant.
With the COVID-19 financial support for businesses and staff all but gone, it has continued to be a testing time for many businesses. While restrictions did ease over recent months, public confidence is still in recovery mode, affecting volumes and profitability for many businesses. It is hoped that 2022 will be the year that firms see a return to normality and can start planning ahead to the future.
Just a few days in 2021 and the UK entered its 3rd national lockdown. Schools in Wales and Scotland remained shut after the Christmas Break and staff once again found themselves juggling work and childcare commitments.
Whilst many businesses continued to trade with staff working from home, industries such as hospitality and non-essential retail found themselves at home without the ability to carry out their jobs.
With a large proportion of the population vaccinated and rates beginning to fall, businesses will be hopeful that we have seen the last of the enforced lockdowns, however with the ever increasing threat of new variants it remains to be seen whether this will be the case or not and sadly as we write lockdowns are starting to occur in some sectors in parts of the UK.
Driven by widespread homeworking brought on the pandemic many businesses abandoned their usual ways of working and embraced a more flexible approach. Hybrid-working became the buzz-words of 2021 with articles and content weekly filling our newsfeeds on employer’s plans and employees’ expectation of a mixture of home and office working.
While flexible working isn’t new to many businesses, who previously rejected flexible methods of working have found themselves having to adapt and accept new work patterns.
30th September saw the end of the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, otherwise known as Furlough. The scheme which ran for 18 months was a lifeline for many businesses and it is estimated that the scheme helped in excess of 11.6m workers over the 18 months it was running. One million workers were estimated to still be on the scheme at the end of September and it remains to be seen whether redundancy rates have risen since the scheme ended as businesses shoulder the full responsibility for those employees for the first time since March 2020.
IR35 Rule changes finally came into force in the private sector following a 12 months’ delay due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic. Businesses were encouraged to prepare in advance of the rules coming into force on the 6th April 2021. IR35 refers to the off-payroll working rules being put in place to ensure that contractors working for companies and those companies themselves are paying the correct levels of tax and national insurance. Despite a 12-month delay to the rules and detailed HMRC guidance, areas of uncertainty still remain. Businesses may have taken comfort in assurances from HMRC that it will take a light tough approach to penalties until April 2022. However, what is clear is that any on-going issues will need to be resolved before then.
Britain’s exit from the UK, coupled with challenges brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic brought about shortages in the road haulage and poultry farming industries with many issues across the supply chain. The UK Government scrambled to make thousands of temporary work visas available to help address the shortages and fill critical positions with staff able to enter the UK on a Seasonal Worker Visa. With restrictions on how long these roles can be undertaken it remains to be seen what will happen longer term to address these supply chain shortages. The temporary work visas had little take up and supply chain problems seem set to continue in to 2022.
We will be providing regular updates on all changes as they happen through our series of blogs and social media posts but if you require any more detailed employment law-related advice, please drop me a line at email@example.com, call me on 01633 760662 or visit www.hardingevans.com.
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