2020 Employment law developments, Covid-19 and a new member

As 2020 has drawn to a close, Birkett Long lists key changes that have taken place in the employment law sector.

Employers have had to overcome many new challenges because of Covid-19.

  • The new word of the year “furlough”, a job retention scheme where UK based employers will be reimbursed 80% of furloughed workers wage costs up to £2,500 per month
  • working from home, for some a brand-new way of working for the business and technology
  • redundancies have had to take place following the closure of an entire business, part of a business or reduced requirement for employees to carry out work
  • holiday legislative changes. The reference period for calculating holiday pay for variable hours workers will increase from 12 to 52 weeks
  • temporary changes to sick pay; employers who had fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020, are eligible to reclaim up to two weeks' SSP per eligible employee whose absence was due to coronavirus and started on or after 13 March 2020, and
  • making the workplace Covid secure.

But this is not the end for employers and employees, with Brexit just around the corner in 2021. A new immigration system is going live following Brexit: there will be changes to the way in which all migrants come to the UK to work. Also, annual increases to statutory payments and employment tribunal awards are being made, rules for the National Minimum Wage (NMW) are being amended. The first updates the NMW in line with the Low Pay Commissions Recommendations and the second makes several technical amendments to the NMW.

When lockdown hit, Birkett Long’s BLHR and Employment team had more than 100 clients all requiring advice on an entirely new area of law, and one which was constantly changing. Like many, the law firm saw a huge increase in demand but still on a limited resource. The team and business had to look at innovative ways to develop and to not let clients down.

In September, Birkett Long invested in the recruitment of a new solicitor into the BLHR and Employment team. Helena Oxley is based at the firm’s Colchester office in Sheepen Road, advising on contentious and non-contentious issues for employers and employees.

Helena said: “Aside from family and friends, employment is at the centre of our lives, whether you are an employer or an employee. I have always wanted to  understand the law to support employers and employees alike to implement the law in practice and support them through the highs and lows of the employment process.  

“Employment is about people, wellbeing and legality – the human experience. Working with clients during the pandemic, with the  numerous legislative changes and ensuing impact, has been particularly interesting and important.”

Helena explained that Birkett Long provides employment law support to clients from business owners managing staff, single in-house HR managers, HR Directors running a whole human resources department or working hand in hand with HR advisers through a BLHR retainer offering.


Alongside Helena joining Birkett Long, Birkett Long has launched an online portal which includes redundancy and collective redundancy guides, information, and advice. Access to this portal can be purchased for a one-off fixed price of either £400+VAT or £800+VAT, depending on how many employees are affected. Clients subscribed to the BLHR retainer benefit from free access to this portal, and an additional Covid-19 resource. To find out more visit www.birkettlong.co.uk/myBL.