With effect from 6 April 2020 there are additional requirements coming into place in relation to the written terms of employment that staff need to be provided with. Most schools will include these terms in a contract of employment.
The main points to note are that:
- the days of the week the individual is required to work (if these are variable how they will be determined?)
- any paid leave to which the worker is entitled
- details of any benefits provided by the employer
- any probationary period, including any conditions and its duration
- any training entitlement provided by the employer, including whether any training is mandatory and/or must be paid for by the worker
Although we are still waiting for the Regulations, it is anticipated that the 6 April 2020 will see the introduction of a statutory right for 2 weeks of leave for parents who lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from the 24th week of pregnancy. For employees with 26 weeks' service (and qualifying earnings) this will be paid at the flat statutory rate. Whilst most schools would already have supported staff in this way it will be important to consider how it dovetails with existing policies on compassionate leave, absence, and family-friendly leave, and that a consistent approach is taken.
With effect from 6 April 2020 the rules that have been in place in the public sector which apply where work is provided through an individual's 'personal service company' will apply to all medium and large employers, which will include most independent schools. The essence of the change is that where a school contracts for services with an individual's personal services company, then it is necessary to establish whether the individual should be deemed to be "employed" for tax purposes, and if so, the school will have responsibility to account for tax and national insurance. This shifts responsibility for IR35 tax compliance from the personal service company to the school.
The government has just launched a review around the implementation of the changes, but it is thought that this is more about the detail of how the changes will take effect, rather than if.
Although such arrangements are not widespread in schools, there may be some contracted services carried out on this basis and schools should take steps to identify these. HMRC has provided an online check which can be used to help establish the tax status of any such contractors, known as CEST. Although there is no requirement to use this tool we would recommend it, as HMRC have advised that they will be bound by the outcome (providing the information that is input is correct). Schools with services contracts that are caught by these changes should review the contractual documentation that is in place to ensure status and tax are covered off appropriately.
On 6 April 2020 the National Living Wage for workers aged 25 and over will increase from £8.21 to £8.72 per hour, with corresponding increases to the National Minimum Wage for younger workers.
Schools will need to ensure that any worker paid below this rate has their pay reviewed to take effect on 6 April, even if this may be outside of the usual pay review period.
The vexed question of which hours count as "work" for residential staff, for the purposes of receiving the national minimum wage, should reach its conclusion in February when the Supreme Court considers the case of Royal Mencap Society v Tomlinson-Blake . The Court of Appeal had found that such workers were only working when they were required to respond to call outs, rather than for the duration of the time they were required to be on site. All schools will be hopeful that the Supreme Court does not disagree.
The government is committed to a programme of employment law developments following the recommendations of Matthew Taylor and the Good Work Plan. The Queen's Speech in December also indicated a range of additional employment law protections that we may see in an Employment Bill 2020. We will continue to keep these under review and update schools of any developments that may impact on the sector.