As the effects of the pandemic continue to be felt over a year on, one of the hardest-hit brackets continues to be the 16-24-year-olds. As thousands of young people left full-time education, ready to take their first step on the career ladder, they instead were faced with more redundancies than had ever been recorded in previous years and dim job prospects.

This is exactly why in September 2020 the government introduced the COVID-19 Kickstart scheme. A £2 billion fund, which offers targeted support to young people who are struggling to get into work, through the creation of thousands of governments funded job placements, to kickstart the careers of both young people, and the UK economy.

In this blog, we’ll answers all your questions on the COVID-19 Kickstart Scheme, from what the benefits are to your business, to how you can apply.

 

What is the COVID-19 Kickstart Scheme?

 

The scheme is specifically aimed at young people between 16 and 24, who are currently claiming Universal Credit and may be at risk of long-term unemployment. The government will fund 100% of job placements for young people, covering the national minimum wage for 25 hours a week as well as national insurance and pension contributions so there is no cost to the business. You can choose to offer more than the national minimum wage, and more than 25 hours per week, however, this won’t be covered by government funding and you will have to pay the difference.

How Does the Scheme Work?

 

Any organisation, no matter how big or small, can apply to the scheme. There are however some criteria that the placement must meet:

It must last at least six months and be for at least 25 hours of work per week.

The placement must not be for a role that has already been advertised.

The placement must not cause existing employees or apprentices to lose their job or have their employment reduced.

The role shouldn’t require extensive training before the placement can start.

It must include support for young people to help them get work after they finish (if they’re not taken on longer-term following the placement).

How Do I Apply?

 

The scheme was officially launched in September 2020 and is expected to continue until at least December 2021. When the scheme first launched there was initially a caveat that employers would have to offer a minimum of 30 placements to qualify for the scheme. However, as this was ruling out many smaller employers, the government has recently removed this requirement.

To apply for the scheme, you can either do so online yourself or you can seek the assistance of a Kickstart gateway who is already working with the Kickstart scheme. A Kickstart gateway can be any type of organisation, but one that already has a Kickstart Scheme grant agreement in place, which they can add employers and job placements onto. More information can be found here.

What are the Benefits to my Business?

 

It’s clear that the COVID-19 Kickstart Scheme will help a lot of young people get back into employment, but this is also a great opportunity for businesses and employers. As the placements are fully funded by the government, businesses can benefit from an increase in skills and support, with no additional cost. There isn’t a long term commitment to provide roles after the 6-month placement has been completed, and providing all the necessary criteria are met, each employer will receive a £1,000 grant for every successful job placement.

How Can We Help?

 

If you are considering taking part in the COVID-19 Kickstart Scheme, we understand that managing the ever-changing payroll needs for an increased workforce may be confusing. Here at Azure Global, we are here to help.

Our team are ready and happy to help you through the ideal options for your business and put a plan in place for your business payroll needs.

Contact our friendly, knowledgeable staff today to discuss what we can do for you.

Protecting jobs and livelihoods was the focus of the 2021 Budget, which Chancellor Rishi Sunak recently revealed. Mr Sunak, speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday 3rd March 2021, pledged even more support to workers and businesses to keep them afloat over the coming months as the UK begins to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.

Part of the significant package of financial support was an increase to both the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage. As of 1st April this year, there will be a 2.2% increase to the National Living Wage, lifting it from £8.71 per hour to £8.91 per hour.

The National Living Wage previously only covered those aged 25 and over. However, the age threshold to qualify has now been extended to cover anyone aged 23 and over. This means over two million of the lowest-paid workers in the UK will benefit from this increase.

For those under the age of 23, the National Minimum Wage has also been boosted, to £8.36 for those aged 21-22 and £6.56 for 18–20-year-olds.

The rate of pay for apprentices has also increased by 3.6% and the Chancellor has further announced that the incentive payments to businesses for recruiting apprentices will be doubled to £3,000 for all new hires, of any age.

It’s worth noting that there weren’t any changes announced in regard to pensions, for both employer and employee contributions. Additionally, at present, there are no changes to employee national insurance rates.

We’ve outlined the wage increases by age in the table below:

Age RangeLast YearFrom April 2021
Apprentice Rate£4.15£4.30 (up 3.6%)
Age 16-17£4.55£4.62 (up 1.5%)
Age 18-20£6.45£6.56 (up 1.7%
Age 21-22£8.20£8.36 (up 2%)
Age 23 or over£8.72£8.91 (up 2.2%)


How Can We Help?
 

The increase to both the National Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage will undoubtedly be positive news for many low paid workers across the UK, especially when 16–24-year-olds are amongst one of the hardest-hit brackets for redundancies over the last year.

However, there is a concern with regard to the employment cost increase that businesses now face. If you are unsure about how the wage changes will impact your business and need some help with your payroll, here at Azure Global, we can help.

Our team are ready and happy to help you through the ideal options for your business and put a plan in place for your business payroll needs.

Contact  our friendly, knowledgeable staff today to discuss what we can do for you.

 

 

2020 was a challenging year for agencies and contractors alike, and not just because of the coronavirus pandemic. Brexit and the upcoming IR35 changes have added to the sense of uncertainty that business owners faced throughout the past year, which has continued into 2021.

However, whilst it may appear we’re facing the perfect storm as we move further into 2021 in this blog, we will look into how you can overcome that uncertainty in the contractor market to ensure your business’s success this year.

Coronavirus

As businesses attempt to recover from the financial devastation of the last year, or are making plans to do so later this year, and we hopefully see restrictions eased and the national lockdown come to end, employing contractors rather than permanent hires could be the perfect solution for many businesses.

By hiring contractors, businesses can fill any gaps in their resources and knowledge and bring new skills into the mix. This may also allow them to revitalize any projects that may have been paused in 2020 due to a lack of staff or resources.

In the meantime, there any many support packages available from the government that businesses can apply for in the hope this will keep them afloat through the latest lockdown. The latest grant, a one-off payment of up to £9,000 is specifically for those in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors. The Coronavirus Job Retention scheme, otherwise known as the furlough scheme, has also been extended until April and the 100% business rates relief measure is in place until the end of March. More information on the support available can be found here.

Brexit

As of 23:00 GMT on 31st December 2020, the UK completed its formal separation from the EU single market and customs union. The UK Government has since secured an approved trade deal, which sets out the framework for how the UK and EU will live, work, and trade together.

The full details of how the new trade deal will impact the contractor workforce is still to be disclosed. However, we know that it will impact the ability to move freely within the EU and the impact of the new rules, tariffs and regulations will hinder businesses ability to recruit EU nationals.

One of the impending changes that agencies and contractors should keep an eye on, is the changes that’ll affect right to work documentation. Employers will no longer be able to rely on an EU passport for example, as proof of an individual’s right to work within the UK. Rather, EU nationals who wish to stay living and working in the UK must apply for a new visa, to prove their Settled/Pre-Settled status. For any agencies who employ EU workers, to ensure compliance, your workers need to apply for this visa before the 30th June 2021 deadline to secure their right to continue living and working in the UK.

Contractors will still be able to work across numerous sectors throughout the EU, however, the nature of the Brexit regulations may dissuade businesses from doing so. On a more positive note, remote working has seen an influx in popularity due to the Coronavirus pandemic. And the flexibility that contractors can offer may see them relied upon more than ever as business shift to align themselves with the new rules and regulations.

More information on the trade deal and how the new regulations may affect your business can be found here.

IR35

As of April 2021, the responsibility for determining workers’ employment status will fall with the client (i.e. agency) rather than the worker themselves. This legislation change applies to all large, medium or private sector companies and agencies, and is called ‘off-payroll working’.

Agencies will be responsible for determining the employment status of their workers and whether they fall inside or outside of IR35, for example, if you are registered as self-employed but are found to be working as an employee, the end client will be responsible for paying any additional tax due.

It possible to work ‘outside’ the scope of IR35 if you are a limited company contractor genuinely working on your own, i.e., using a contract to provide services, not “employed” by a client.

Whilst the IR35 reform has caused a lot of concern, realistically the IR35 regulations shouldn’t result in businesses pushing contractors away. On the contrary, regulations simply encourage business owners to ensure all working relationships with contractors are compliant by defining the status of the contractor against HMRC’s criteria for tax purposes.

How Can We Help?

We understand that as we enter 2021, Brexit, the continuing Coronavirus pandemic and the upcoming IR35 reforms all have the potential to cause uncertainty and with so many changes it can be overwhelming. Here at Azure Global, we are here to put your mind at rest.

Our team are ready and happy to help you through the ideal options for your business and put a plan in place for your business payroll Solution needs.

Contact our friendly, knowledgeable staff today to discuss what we can do for you.

 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has recently announced a one-off grant worth up to £9,000 to help businesses survive the latest coronavirus lockdown, which was implemented on 6th January 2021, and is expected to last until at least mid-February.

The total package is expected to cost £4.6 billion and is being made available to businesses across the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors in an effort to keep some of the hardest-hit industries afloat until the Spring. These one-off top-up payments are expected to assist more than 600,000 businesses who are currently unable to operate due to the latest lockdown restrictions.

 

How Much Is My Business Entitled To?

 

If your business is in the retail, leisure or hospitality sector which has been legally required to close in the latest lockdown, and cannot operate effectively remotely, then you are eligible for a grant.

The amount of the grant to be offered will be based on the level of business rates typically paid by each business as outlined in the table below.

Rateable Business ValueClaim
£15,000 or lessUp to £4,000
Between £15,000 and £51,000Up to £6,000
More than £51,000 Up to £9,000

 

How Do I Apply for a Grant?

 

All businesses need to apply through their local authorities. Click here to be taken to the government website to find the right local authority to contact to submit your application.


What If My Business Is Not Eligible But I Still Need Financial Support?

 

An additional £594 million is also being made available for local authorities and the devolved administrations to support businesses who may not be eligible for the grants.

From this discretionary fund, the Scottish government will receive £375 million, the Welsh government £227 million and Northern Ireland £127 million.

As with the one-off top-up grant, you should contact your local authority to ask for support and see how much you might be eligible for.

 

Are There Any Other Options Available To Support My Business Through Lockdown?

 

Yes, the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme, otherwise known as the furlough scheme, has been extended until April and the 100% business rates relief measure is in place until the end of March.

Additionally, if you claim one of the one-off top-up grants, you will still be eligible for other business support measures in place such as grants worth up to £3,000 for closed businesses and grants up to £2,100 each month for businesses who have been impacted, once they reopen.

 

How Can We Help?

 

We understand it must be a very uncertain and worrying time to be a business owner. As the government announce their new financial support packages, we want to take this opportunity to remind you, that we are also here to help.

 

Need more information? The Azure team are here and happy to help you in thinking through the ideal options for your business and putting a plan in place for your business payroll needs.

Contact our friendly, knowledgeable staff today to discuss what we can do for you.