HR Implications of Brexit and Employment Law Changes in 2021

Guidance for Employers

HR Implications of Brexit and Employment Law Changes in 2021

Were it not for COVID-19, Brexit is a subject that would have received far more press coverage across 2020 but there have simply been other more pressing matters to deal with. However, there’s no getting away from the fact that Brexit is happening and it’s essential that business owners and managers know the changes and the implications on their business.

HR Implications of Brexit and Employment Law Changes in 2021

7 December, 2020

by Lianne Lambert

Brexit is happening, and it’s essential that business owners and managers know the changes to employment laws and the implications on their business.

Were it not for COVID-19, Brexit is a subject that would have received far more press coverage across 2020. There have simply been other more pressing matters to deal with, however, there’s no getting away from it.

This post provides insights into how Brexit may impact small and medium sized businesses as well as other employment law changes in 2021.

The questions answered in this post are:

1. What are the HR implications of Brexit on SME businesses?

The impact of Brexit on your business is going to be heavily dependent on what you do and how you do it.  From an HR perspective, however, there are some key things you need to consider.

As a business owner considering the HR implications of Brexit, here are the priorities:

  • Worker status – you need to make sure that your employees have taken the relevant actions to enable them to continue working in the UK after 31st December 2020.
    • If you have workers/employees from other EU countries, then they should have already applied for pre-settled or settled status.
    • You need to check this with them.
    • You are not able to apply on their behalf, but you will be held responsible if you are employing people on 1st January 2021 who do not have the correct right to work documentation.
  • Business travel – from 1st January 2021 the entry requirements into EU countries will change for business travellers. You should check the country requirements ahead of time and you can find them here.

We’re going to say right now that there is still very limited, official information available on the impact of Brexit which is challenging given the lack of time left to plan.  When more information is released, we will review and extend this section of the post.

2. What impact does Brexit have on UK employment law?

Whilst key elements of UK employment law are derived from EU regulations, in the short term there is little change.  From 1st January 2021, existing EU law will be converted to domestic law; thereafter, it will be down to the UK Parliament to decide whether to retain, amend or repeal the laws.

Note, however, UK employment law will continue to be influenced by the EU for many years to come. This is because our courts will be bound by any decisions made by the European Courts prior to 31st December 2020.

So, for 2021, we think very little will change as a result of Brexit when it comes to UK employment law.

3. What are the changes to employment law in 2021?

At present, there are 2 main changes to UK employment law in 2021:

  • Changes to IR35
  • Update to Redundancy Law for Pregnant Employees and New Parents

Changes to IR35

Whilst it’s not an employment law change directly, and really has more of a financial implication for businesses, you should be ready for the IR35 changes. 

These changes were supposed to have been implemented in 2020 but, due to Covid, they got pushed to April 2021. 

For more details, see our post How do the Changes to IR35 Impact SME Businesses?

Redundancy Protections for Pregnant Employees and New Parents

It is also possible that there will be changes to the protections offered to pregnant employees and new parents in redundancy situations. 

At the moment, pregnant employees and new parents who are on a period of family leave have the right to be offered ‘any suitable alternative employment’ in a redundancy situation. 

The proposed change is that the right to be offered any suitable alternative employment extends to cover:

  • Pregnant employees, once they have told their employer that they are pregnant;
  • Employees who have returned from maternity or adoption leave within the previous six months;
  • Parents returning from shared parental leave.

This is definitely one to watch as it could be a change that receives little publicity so goes by unnoticed but that catches employers out in redundancy situations.

Family Leave is the collective name for the different types of leave employees are entitlement to regarding pregnancy and childcare. See our post Insights into Family Leave Pay: Shared Parental Leave, Maternity Leave, Paternity Leave, and Parental Leave for more information.

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