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What's going to keep us busy in 2021?

2020 brought us so many different challenges and I believe that most people have benefited from a decent break at the end of the year to recharge the batteries and think about what comes next.

Amongst all of this COVID confusion there is a need to focus on both strategical and transactional changes within the workplace, and I wanted to highlight a few areas that are front and foremost in my mind.

Agile working

Working practices have had to change in some industries and agile/remote working has finally leapt into the 21st century. Workers have proven that they can work from home and can be trusted to deliver, not surprisingly! Technology is available to support flexible working and these opportunities sho

uld improve the landscape for many workers, especially those who are returning to the workplace after a period of absence due to sickness or maternity leave, especially if employers also introduce flexible start and end times.

There is a down-side to working from home. Whereas the flexibility of remote working can increase engagement and wellbeing levels, it can also lead to detachment issues, especially during times of forced remote working for those who are better suited to an office environment. We also need to be conscious of ‘EPresenteeism’ with people feeling the need to be online and present as much as possible and not taking the necessary rest that they need to function well.

One huge thing that has become obvious to me during the year is that people have needed to feel connected both at work and at home. Focussing on the human need for connection in the workplace is an absolute must in 2021 and beyond, and a new year is the perfect time to review your culture and values and put some great engagement ideas into practice.

Mental health support

Statistics show that there has been an increase in people experiencing mental health and substance abuse as a result of the pandemic in 2020. As an employer you must consider what sort of support you have for staff and what long-term measures can be put in place. It is paramount to have someone empathetic who can be available for people, whether that be HR or your line managers, so the right training will be required. You may have put something in place when the pandemic started but it is now time to review and make sure you implement a long-term solution.

Put together a wellbeing programme and focus on mental, physical, financial and social health. You could consider mental health first aiders or an employee assistance programme and there are many resources available to help you deliver this.

EU recruitment

Amongst the pandemic issues it has been easy to lose focus on other things that are in the news, but with effect from 31st December 2020, the UK is no longer part of the European Union and freedom of movem

ent between the UK and EU has ended.

For a lot of people it may be business as usual, but not if you intend to employ staff from outside the UK. You will need a sponsorship licence to employ them, and they will need to apply for a visa. Have you checked your existing staff to make sure they have applied for Settlement Status? You must get all your checks and documents in place in case you are audited by the Home Office.


With businesses considering agile working, which may include the need for temporary or contract staff you need to be aware of the changes to the off-payroll tax legislation, IR35, which was due to be implemented in April 2020 and was deferred to 6 April 2021.

This means that you should identify any self-employed consultants in your workforce who offer their services through a limited company (personal service company). You should use the government online tools to ascertain if there will be an obligation on the company to deduct income tax and national insurance contributions at source when paying the contractor. You will also need to make clear in all consultant contracts whether they fall inside or outside IR35. The changes will only affect medium to large companies.

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