March 2022 Newsletter

March 1, 2022

Who Pays the Bills / Commuting Costs / Office Perks / Employment Law Update…

Who pays the bills?

With the increase in working from home, should employers contribute towards peoples internet and heating bills?

heating

The cost of living is going to be a huge issue for many employees going forward. There is no obligation for employers to contribute to energy bills. However, as part of your organisation’s financial well-being strategy, you could offer signposting to good advice and support for employees on how to reduce their energy bills. This will be helpful both financially and from an environmental perspective.

At the start of the pandemic we saw some companies making one-off payments to contribute to office equipment as a way to support employees with setting up their home offices. Yet we haven’t really seen any companies continue to contribute to internet and utility bills in response to the increased level of home working. But this could likely we due to the availability of home working tax relief from the government.

For further advice and support with your financial wellbeing strategy, contact The HR Team. 

Employers to cover commuting costs?

Should an employer feel obliged to pay their employees’ commuting costs if they’re now required to come into the office for say, three days per week?

This will depend on the contract of employment – if this still states that the primary place of work is the office, then businesses would not be obliged to fund the commute to work. If however, employees are on home-based contracts, then typically travel to an office would fall under the travel policy and be reimbursed.

This is a challenging subject at the moment as the cost-effectiveness of commuting is being challenged by the recent skyrocketing of fuel prices across the UK.

For further advice and support with terms and conditions of employment, contact The HR Team. 

Office Perks and Incentives

Employers who value the benefit of a face-to-face team environment are keen to keep their office-based culture alive by introducing attractive office perks and incentives.

Office Incentives

Increasingly, companies are having to look at ways to encourage employees back to the office and overcome obstacles such as higher commuting costs. Companies are having to get creative by offering attractive office-based perks such as free coffees, a well-stocked fruit bowl and incentives such as ‘Breakfast Mondays’ and ‘Pizza Wednesdays’ to make office days more appealing than working from home.

The key to success is a regular review of your benefits package and office incentives. If take-up of certain perks such as a ‘cycle to work scheme’ has dropped off since the pandemic, you may need to reassess, to ensure you are offering a range of benefits that suit your staff. To get an overview of which benefits are being used and which would be most valued by your staff, you could run a survey. This will provide an evidence base to support any decisions to withdraw certain benefits if they are no longer financially viable or wanted by the majority of your staff. Decisions to withdraw any benefits should be communicated clearly to your employees to avoid any surprises.

The HR Team can support you by developing a comprehensive company benefits package to help retain existing staff and attract the best new talent.

Employment Law updates

At a glance

15 March 2022 – Laws requiring mandatory vaccination for those working in care homes and working within health and social care will be revoked.

17 March 2022 – The SSP rebate scheme for covid-related sickness closes.

24 March 2022 – The COVID-19 provisions within the Statutory Sick Pay and Employment and Support Allowance regulations will be removed. This includes SSP payments for those isolating (unless too unwell to work), and the payment of SSP from day 1.
All claims under the SSP rebate scheme for covid-related sickness must be submitted, and all amendments to claims made before this date.

1 April 2022 – National Minimum Wage rates will increase.

3 April 2022 – Family friendly payment rates will increase, including SMP, SAP, ShPP, SPP, SPBP.

6 April 2022 – The ability to manually check the status of those with a biometric residence card or permit, or frontier work permit, will be removed. From that date, only online checks will be possible. In order to complete these checks, the employer will need the individual’s date of birth and right to work share code.

6 April 2022 – The following rates will increase:
-SSP rate
-Compensation limits, statutory guarantee pay and weekly redundancy payments
-National insurance contributions will increase by 1.25%
-6 April 2022 HMRC has asked that payslips include a message to say “1.25% uplift in NICs funds NHS, health & social care.” This is in place until 5 April 2023
-6 April 2022 The lower earnings limit will increase for the first time in two years, to £123

COVID-19
End of legal requirement to isolate
The government has recently announced that all Covid-19 restrictions in England, including the legal requirement to self-isolate for people infected with Covid-19, will end under the government’s ‘living with Covid plan’.

Instead of legislation, voluntary guidance will “advise” people with Covid-19 not to attend workplaces. Employers will once again need to consider carefully how to develop and implement new policies fairly and safely in the workplace so that staff and customers, particularly those who are clinically vulnerable, are not put at risk.

Closure of SSP Rebate Scheme
The Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme will close on 17 March 2022. Employers will no longer be able to claim back Statutory Sick Pay for Covid-related absences or periods of self-isolation that occur after 17 March 2022. Employers only have until 24 March 2022 to submit any new claims for absence periods up to 17 March 2022, or to amend claims they have already submitted. After then, there is a return to the normal SSP rules. This means employers should revert to paying SSP from the fourth qualifying day their employee is off work regardless of the reason for their sickness absence.

For further advice on amending your Company policies in line with the latest Employment Law updates, contact The HR Team

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