Employment Law Changes for Schools and Colleges
On the 1st January 2021 a number of changes in employment law for schools and colleges came in to effect. Some of those changes applied immediately as a result of the end of the post-Brexit transition period, while some became applicable later on in 2021.
With the end of free movement, a points-based immigration system now applies. Designed to attract skilled workers the system sets minimum requirements that a prospective employee must meet, including the ability to speak English, a minimum of A-level education, an offer of employment from a licensed sponsor, and a salary of at least £25,600pa. There are, however, exceptions to the income limit for some occupations. The lists current include some teaching roles which apply to specific areas and subjects. Additionally, there are fees that must be paid by the sponsor, which would could be upwards of £1,200 per sponsored employee in the first year of employment.
Schools and colleges that were employing EU citizens as of 31 December 2020 had until the end of June without the need for sponsorship. This additional six months of leeway was intended to encourage EU citizens to apply for pre-settled status in order to continue working in the UK from 1 July. Any employee who did not receive this status in time would be regarded as an illegal worker, and a school, college, university, or any other company, would not be permitted to continue their employment.
In April, the national minimum wage threshold was reduced from 25 to 23, meaning more workers became eligible for the new minimum of £8.91ph. Additionally, the minimum wage was increased for workers in each of the age bands between 16 and 21 years old.
In addition to these more general changes, restrictions put in place to manage the COVID-19 pandemic are also due to change from Monday, 19 July. Initially, the changes will result in the lifting of “bubbles”, staggered start/end times can end, and social distancing requirements will be removed. Beyond July protective measures will remain in place, and will include maintaining good ventilation, hygiene, and regular testing until at least September.
Other changes are expected during 2021, though are yet to be confirmed. These potential changes include updates that affect trade unions, and an update to the Employment Bill which is said to “protect and enhance workers’ rights as the UK leaves the EU”. Details of these updates are thin at the moment, with some having been on the table since January 2020 without much development.
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