The Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered the Autumn Statement yesterday. This update breaks down everything you need to know from an employment law perspective.
We’re not tax advisers, so we won’t be covering the tax reliefs, changes to national insurance or other changes in taxation, but you can find more details here.
Fit note reform
Although only fleetingly mentioned in the Autumn Statement, the Government is proposing changes to fit notes, aiming to encourage support and reasonable adjustments, rather than “only” recommending time off.
Take a look at this fit note checklist for employees and employers for current guidance
Disabled workers required to work or risk their benefits
Under a new proposal made as part of the Autumn Statement, those with mobility or mental health problems will be asked to work from home or lose their benefits. In short, there will be a more rigorous “back to work” requirement.
According to an article from The Guardian, UK Government minister Laura Trott has suggested that disabled individuals with mobility and mental health issues should work from home or risk losing their benefits.
This proposal is part of the Government’s efforts to make changes to the welfare system. Under the policy, individuals would be required to find remote work or face a cut in benefits of £4,680 annually.
It’s difficult to see how this requirement would fit practically; there is a difference between employees who are disabled but fit for work, or fit for work with adjustments, or those who are simply not well enough to work (for example, due to a mental health condition or another long-term health condition).
It does not seem fair nor practical to sanction those who are too unwell to work, and could cause risk factors for a business if they are required to work in spite of this.
The further difficulty is that there are not necessarily remote jobs available for disabled individuals, and employers are not necessarily sufficiently aware of the requirement to make reasonable adjustments to support their disabled employees. If the flexible working rules make flexible working a day one right, this may change but currently the pool of working from home roles is limited.
We are also concerned that the requirement for disabled employees to work remotely could be causing division or isolating disabled employees; and could cause further detriment to wellbeing where an employee is mentally not fit for work.
Just because someone is disabled doesn’t mean they need to work from home, they may need other adjustments. The focus should be on helping those people back into work with the right adjustments rather than punishing those who can’t work.
Those who are not disabled will be required to engage in a mandatory ‘work search’ programme, if they do not engage legitimately for 18 months, then their benefits can be withdrawn.
Increases to National Minimum Wage
As of 1 April 2024, the National Minimum Wage (NMW) will increase. Other statutory payments have not increased but typically increase in April 2024, and may be announced in due course.
The changes are as follows:
- 23 and over: £10.42 / £11.44 (April 2023 / April 2024)
- 21 to 22: £10.18 / £11.44 (April 2023 / April 2024)
- 18 to 20: £7.49 / £8.60 (April 2023 / April 2024)
- Under 18: £5.28 / £6.40 (April 2023 / April 2024)
- Apprentice: £5.28 / £6.40 (April 2023 / April 2024)
This is the largest ever increase to the minimum wage in cash terms. The National Living Wage will also now apply to all workers aged 21 and over for the first time (before, it was only those aged 23 and over).
Why does this matter?
This is particularly important if you employ people on the National Minimum Wage; their payments should be increasing, effective 1 April 2024. If you have a third party doing your payroll, you will want to ensure that they action these payments correctly—delegating this task is not an excuse for a failure to pay correctly.
In particular, you should consider:
- Do any of your employees change age this year or end apprenticeships and does that change their minimum wage entitlements?
It was announced that a further £50m funding will be provided for apprenticeships in engineering and “other key growth sectors”, over the next two years.
This is great for social mobility and something businesses should engage with if they can.
Please note this blog is for reference purposes only and is only accurate at which the date it was published. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any actions. Please contact us if you have any questions on email@example.com.