Looking back on 2021

When I originally planned to write this blog post looking back on 2021, I have to admit I thought things would be a bit more positive. But the discovery and spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has put us all on the back foot a bit as we head into the festive season. But there have been some positive developments this year so it’s still worth reminding ourselves of how far we’ve come.

New year, new vaccines

The year started with hope as the incredible effort by the NHS to get us all vaccinated started. Down here in Cornwall, it was as efficient as in much of the rest of the country and soon we were discussing Pfizer or Astra Zeneca, sharing stories of side effects and proudly holding our vaccination cards.

As we now know, many of us have now had or are about to receive our booster dose of the vaccine and so we end the year and begin 2022 once again in the midst of a vaccination drive.

Continuation of Furlough

As we described in our September blog which you can read here, we started 2021 with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme in place and planned to end in March, then April and finally being extended until September.

Managing payroll schemes that were part of the CJRS has undoubtedly been one of my biggest challenges this year especially with those employers who chose to run under flexible furlough, but it has also been gratifying to be able to help my clients through extraordinary times. Businesses have survived and household incomes have been retained thanks to CJRS and so are in a better place than they might have been as we close the year.

I was also anticipating having to handle quite a few redundancy situations as the furlough scheme started to taper and finally came to an end in September but thankfully that hasn’t been the case so far.

Emerging from lockdown

Another significant impact of the pandemic for me this year has been supporting employers as their businesses reopened as we progressed along the road map out of lockdown.

For some, that meant bringing employees back off furlough and for others, it meant recruiting and training new team members. In the end, the final stage of lifting lockdown was delayed for four weeks but it ended just in time for us to have an incredible summer here in Cornwall – it was so busy and payroll preparation was non-stop! Yes there were a few traffic jams but it was good to see my hospitality clients busy again.

The Great Resignation

That’s quite a big fancy title for what, on the ground, is a simple case of extreme staff shortages. Hospitality has been particularly hard hit but many other industries such as construction and healthcare have had problems recruiting staff.

There are a number of factors at play, but some have attributed it to people using the lockdown to reassess their lives and choose a change of direction. The ONS reported this week that unemployment is down to 4.3% and there are a total of 1.22m job vacancies currently available. In November, 257,000 people were added to payrolls in the UK which certainly reflects how busy I’ve been with adding new staff to payroll schemes and preparing contracts of employment.

With such a tricky recruitment environment,  we dedicated our July blog to best recruitment practice which you can read here.

2021 for Pixie Payroll

As I mentioned before, there’s no doubt that 2021 has been another busy and challenging year for me as I’ve supported employers and employees through another year of the pandemic.

I have been very pleased to have added to my client base this year and it’s been so good to meet new clients and manage new payroll schemes. On a personal level, 2021 has also been an exciting year for our family as we welcomed my new grandson Oliver in August.

So as the festive season is nearly here, I’d like to wish you all a safe and happy Christmas and best wishes for 2022.

Building a payroll scheme

The construction industry has been in the news a lot recently with shortages of both staff and materials being an issue. Although building sites were allowed to keep working during part of lockdown, like many businesses they experienced shutdowns, staff absence and delays to projects.

But behind the scenes, many subcontractors and traders have a unique arrangement in terms of their pay and taxation and there is a special scheme to manage it. As we look after a number of these, we thought it would be an interesting topic for this month’s blog.

Why does construction need a special scheme?

Because construction is such a project-based industry and many of the people working on sites are self-employed, it needs a special way of paying people and helping them manage their tax liabilities.

HMRC administers the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) and it has two elements – contractors and subcontractors; although somewhat confusingly, a person can be both a contractor and subcontractor.

All contractors must register with the scheme. Subcontractors don’t have to register but if they don’t, their deductions will be at a higher rate that if they were.


Anyone who pays subcontractors to do construction work is classed as a contractor and so must register for CIS. A contractor can be a sole trader, limited company or in a partnership and they must register before they can start working with subcontractors.

Once the scheme is set up, contractors need to verify each subcontractor they take on with HMRC to check whether they are also registered and to confirm what the correct rate of deductions is. They’ll also need to show that the subcontractor couldn’t have been an employee instead and there are penalties to pay if this isn’t the case.

Contractors have to keep records of their scheme and file monthly returns as well as deducting the money and paying it over to HMRC.


It’s not compulsory for subcontractors to register with CIS but doing so means deductions are taken at a lower rate. It also helps subcontractors to keep on top of their tax liability and manage cash flow. In addition, many contractors specify CIS when they are advertising vacancies.

As for contractors, a subcontractor can be an individual, limited company or partnership. It is possible for any one entity to be both a contractor and a subcontractor and so must register as both with the scheme.

Once a subcontractor is registered, the contractor they’re working for must deducted 20% of their payments and pass it to HMRC as a contribution towards their tax and national insurance. Then, when the subcontractor comes to do their self-assessment tax return, they can record the amounts already deducted which will go towards the overall tax bill.

Getting help with a CIS scheme

The good news is that if you are a contractor, you don’t have to do all this by yourself. If you have a CIS up and running already, we can administer it for you – verifying new subcontractors, calculating deductions and keeping records.

If you don’t yet have a CIS scheme and think you’re going to need one, just get in touch. We can register your business with HMRC for you and ensure everything is done correctly from day one.

Either way, let us help you and then it’ll be one less thing you’ll have to worry about when on site or project planning.

If you want to read more about CIS as a subcontractor, click here or as a contractor click here.  

It’s budget day

The budget always makes headlines even in normal times but this year; as we emerge out the other side of the coronavirus pandemic and the cost of living is increasing, there was even more anticipation than usual.

There were a few headline announcements related to business and earnings which we have covered in this blog.


This was first announced over the weekend, but the Chancellor today confirmed that the National Living Wage will increase from £8.91 per hour to £9.50 next year. The other minimum wage rates are also increasing next year including a nearly 12% increase in the apprentice rate and nearly 10% increase in the rate for 21-22 year olds. You can find the table of all the new wage rates here.

Higher wages are great news for employees of course but some employers might be worried about managing a higher wage bill so do get in touch if you’d like to talk through the new figures.

This comes on top of the recently announced increase in National Insurance which means employees, employers and the self-employed will all pay 1.25p more in the pound for National Insurance from April 2022.

There was some better news for those who are working but also claim Universal Credit – they will be able to keep more of the money earned as the taper is being cut so instead of losing 63p of benefit for every £1 earned above the work allowance, the amount will be reduced to 55p. The amount that can be earned before the taper kicks in has also been increased by £500.


Apart from the National Insurance increase mentioned above, there won’t be any other tax increases and the personal allowance will also stay the same. That means the amount you can earn before paying tax will be fixed at £12,570 for the next tax year and in fact for future tax years until 2026. This isn’t such good news with inflation predicted to be around 4% so money earned won’t go quite as far.

Businesses will be glad to hear that business rates will not be increasing next year as originally planned and more frequent revaluations will be introduced. Many of my clients are part of Cornwall’s vibrant hospitality industry to a 50% cut in business rates for pubs, cinemas, restaurants, gyms and other hospitality venues will be welcomed, especially after the very difficult 18 months they’ve just been through.

Essential purchases

There was also some good news on the cost of some of our day-to-day purchases. There will be no increase in fuel duty as was originally planned and there also won’t be a rise in duty on beer, wine, cider and spirits. In fact, rates on many lower alcohol drinks including rose wine, lower strength beers and wines will be reduced and the reduction in rates for draught beer will mean drinkers saving around 3p per pint…but not until 2023.

Overall, The Budget presents a fairly mixed picture for employees – the increase in wage rates may be offset by an increase in National Insurance. Some of the bigger announcements in terms of government spending are interesting though and may even be good news for Cornwall – there’s a promise of funding for a new Scillonian ferry, a commitment to match the EU money we used to receive and even the possibility of a share of the Levelling Up fund.

The end of furlough

There are now only a few more days until the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) – known better to us all as furlough – comes to an end. The scheme has been supporting employers and employees for 18 months now throughout the pandemic, so we thought we’d look back over that time and at this groundbreaking government intervention.

Start at the beginning

It was back in March 2020 that the government announced the first Covid-19 lockdown and the immediate closure of many businesses. At the same time, the CJRS was announced and the first employees placed on furlough in April. At this point, employees who couldn’t work would have 80% of their salary paid by the scheme, leaving the employers with the option to top up the remaining 20%.

The plan at this stage was for the scheme to run until October 2020 because, of course, at this point no one knew what would happen with the spread of the virus. Employers embraced the scheme with over 8 million employees paid via the scheme by May 2020.

Cautious reopening and flexible furlough

At the beginning of summer 2020, some of the restrictions started to ease and businesses were allowed to reopen. This led to the introduction of flexible furlough, where employees could be bought back to work part time for which they would be paid in the normal way, but then be paid via the scheme for the time they didn’t work.

The plan at this stage was for the scheme to close in October and for the amount of salary the government paid to reduce from the original 80%.

An autumn of change

It soon became clear that it would not be possible to close the scheme entirely in October 2020 as originally planned, so the Chancellor announced a number of different plans that varied the amount of salary covered.

In the end, in early November as the second significant lockdown was announced, he swept all that away and the 80% CJRS was extended for 6 months until March 2021. By this point, approximately 2.4million people were included in the scheme but by early December 2020, the numbers had increased again to over 4 million.

Furlough in 2021

The events of this year are fresher in our memory and the first half of the year was mostly all of us counting down the days to the various dates when lockdown restrictions were due to end. The furlough scheme was extended to April 2021 at one point but then finally in the Budget in March, it was extended once and for all until 30th September 2021.

As we will all remember well, our original ‘Freedom Day’ was due to be on 21st June but we had to wait a further four weeks in the end. Since then, we’ve had a summer of relative respite from restrictions and guidelines and a time that felt a bit more like normal.

What about the future?

As I write this, Coronavirus numbers are still worryingly high and there is a lot of talk about a further lockdown at some point next month. But there is no sign that the furlough scheme will be extended again so employees will either be returning to work or face the risk of being made redundant.

The job market has a high number of vacancies so unemployment numbers may end up being lower than feared although of course people may not always find new jobs in the right sector or paying the equivalent salary that they earned before.

Overall, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is expected to cost over £80billion. It has also generated more admin and work to administer but there is no doubt it has helped many families survive the pandemic and allowed employers to retain their talented and experienced employees ready for when they could reopen.

About Me

My name is Kellie Burslem T/A Pixie Payroll Services, I am a local Payroll Bureau based near Helston, Cornwall. I provide a reliable, professional service at a competitive price.

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