Unsurprisingly the primary focus of the Spring budget was measures to assist individuals and the larger economy to deal with the consequences of the coronavirus outbreak. The key points on this and other employment law related matters are as follows:-
Statutory Sick Pay
The Chancellor confirmed that legislation would be introduced to Parliament which would extend SSP to include individuals who are self-isolating (but not showing any symptoms of ill health) in accordance with public health guidance. This legislation came into force within 24 hours of the budget taking place. It was also confirmed that legislation would be introduced which will temporarily allow SSP to be paid from day one (rather than day four) and that is expected imminently.
The medical evidence required to support a claim for SSP is also to be temporarily changed. This will allow those who are self-isolating to obtain a notification from NHS 111 without the need to be seen by their GP.
An attempt was made to address the issue of those who do not qualify for SSP (the self-employed or those below the Lower Earnings Limit) with it being made easier for those either affected by the virus or self-isolating to claim Universal Credit or Employment and Support Allowance.
Employers with fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020 will be able to claim for re-imbursement of SSP costs for the first 14 days of their employees' absence where the absence is caused by coronavirus.
National Minimum Wage
The increases to be made to both the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage in April 2020 were confirmed. It was announced that, provided economic conditions allow, the National Living Wage will be extended to include workers aged 21 and over by 2024.
It was confirmed that a consultation is planned on the design of carers' leave - a statutory leave for employees with unpaid caring responsibilities. No timescale was given for the introduction of this leave.
It was confirmed that a statutory entitlement to 12 weeks neonatal leave and pay will be created but, once again, no timetable has been given for the introduction of this new right.
New interactive guidance will be introduced in Summer 2020 to assist self-employed tax payers and, as part of a wider review of parental pay and leave, consideration is to be given as to how to provide support to self-employed parents to continue to run their businesses.
The workings of the apprenticeship levy are to be reviewed and sufficient funding will be made available in 2020/21 to support an increase in the number of apprenticeships in small and medium sized businesses.
The changes to the rules on off-payroll working will take effect from April 2020 as planned.
The UK Government's commitment to increase the NI threshold for employees and the self-employed to £9,500 from April 2020 was confirmed.
A NIC holiday is to be introduced for employers of veterans in the first year of civilian employment with transitional arrangements taking effect from April 2021 and full relief available from April 2022.
The maximum flat rate income tax deduction for employees working at home under homeworking arrangements to cover additional household expenses will increase to £6 per week with effect from April 2020.
The scope of non-taxable counselling services (provided to employees as part of an employer's welfare counselling services) will be extended to include related medical treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy.