NEWS / Blog / Ten employment law changes to be aware of in 2021


05 OCT 2021


EIC's Claire Clifford on the recent rule changes your business needs to know

Whether an SME or a large business keeping on top of new HR legislation can sometimes be tricky. The UK’s departure from the EU has meant more changes than usual in 2021 and as we approach the end of the year, it’s an opportune moment to take stock.

Here I outline the ten employment law changes that you need to be aware of.

1. New immigration laws in force

From the beginning of 2021, anyone coming into the UK to live and work is subject to a new points based immigration system which applies to both EU and non-EU citizens. Some key changes:

  • There is no longer a six year time limit for skilled workers.
  • Skills workers must receive gross basic salary of £25,600.
  • Their skill level must be comparable to UK ‘A’ levels.
  • People must be able to communicate in English to intermediate ability.

I covered more on the new immigration rules in a blog earlier in the year.

2. Living wage and National Minimum Wage changes

From April 2021 the living wage increased to £8.91 an hour. Anyone aged 23 years and older is now eligible.

The National Minimum Wage increased to £8.36 an hour for 21 to 22 year olds. As before the amount received will depend on a person’s age.


23 and over

21 to 22

18 to 20

Under 18


April 2021






3. Statutory Pay rises

Statutory maternity, adoption, paternity and shared parental pay have all increased from £151.20 to £151.97 per week, an increase of 0.5%.

Sick pay rises

As with the other statutory changes, statutory sick pay has increased by 0.5%, to £96.35.

5. Extension of IR35

The IR35 rules stop contractors performing similar roles to employees, while paying less tax and national insurance contributions.

As of 4 April 2021, deciding whether or not IR35 applies is the responsibility of private sector employers who:

  • Employ more than 50 employees.
  • Have an annual turnover over £10.2m.
  • Have a balance sheet worth more than £5.1m.

This was meant to be introduced in April 2020, but was delayed owing to the disruption cause by the pandemic.

6. Health & Safety protection extended to workers

As of 31 May 2021, it is illegal for employers to penalise workers who leave or refuse to work because they believe themselves to be in ‘serious and imminent’ danger.

Whilst previously applicable to employees, it is now also relevant to contractors, freelancers and agency workers.

Given many ACE members perform site visits, they should be aware of this new legal protection afforded to their people.

Settled status application deadline

The deadline for EU, EEA and Swiss nationals to apply for was 30 June. This means that anyone who previously worked and who wanted to continue to work in the UK, should have already applied for settled status. Please note these rules do not apply for Irish nationals.

8. Right to work checks extended

During the pandemic, employers were able to carry out right to work checks remotely. This means scanned copies of identity papers and video calls were sufficient. The Home Office has announced that these temporary adjustments will be extended to 5 April 2022.

9. Gender pay gaps reports

Any organisation working in the private and voluntary sectors with at least 250 employees must publish their gender pay gap information by 5 October 2021. Companies based in Northern Ireland are currently exempt.

10. Extending pregnancy protection from redundancy

Any employee who is at risk of redundancy while on maternity, adoption or shared parental leave has the right to be offered any alternative suitable vacancies.

The government is proposing to extend this protection to:

  • Pregnant employees who have told their employer about their pregnancy.
  • Employees who have returned from maternity or adoption leave in the previous six months.
  • Parents returning from shared parental leave.

No date has been confirmed for this change in legislation. 

Claire Clifford is director of people, skills and culture at the Environmental Industries Commission (EIC). Want to keep on top of your approach to HR? Our next HR forum on 19 October will feature legal experts Bird & Bird who will discuss legal changes in the world of HR following the pandemic. 

Claire Clifford

Claire Clifford

Director of People, Skills and Culture

Claire is EIC's HR expert.