Between Brexit, the election and a new prime minister, it’s been a long and confusing year in politics.
Rules, benefit systems – even the date we’re going to leave the EU – have been repeatedly chopped and changed.
And many of the changes made to our laws and budgets don’t take effect immediately.
Most will involve some lead time before the changes come into force – so it’s easy to forget what’s coming up.
So we’ve rounded up 17 of the major changes to UK law, benefits, financial and employment rules that are set to take place in 2020.
They include increases to the minimum wage, new rights for gig economy workers and changes to the laws on gay marriage and abortion in Northern Ireland.
Read on to see how they’ll affect you and your family.
January 2: Rail fares rise by 2.7%
Rail fares are to jump by an average of 2.7% as the latest inflation-linked hike kicks in.
Some long-distance commuters will see the annual cost of getting to work increase by more than £100 on 2 January.
It means a £1,500 season ticket will rise by £40.50, while a London to Guildford annual ticket, which typically costs £3,732 will rise by £104 to £3,836.
January 13: Gay marriage is legalised in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland’s ban on same-sex marriage will officially come to an end, after Westminster politicians stepped in and changed the law.
Although the weddings will be legal from this date, bureaucracy means the first civil same-sex marriages are expected to take place on the week of Valentine’s Day.
March 2: Alcohol minimum pricing launches in Wales
The Welsh Government is planning on a new law setting minimum alcohol prices, WalesOnline reports.
Currently set to come into force on March 2, 2020, ministers want retailers and bars to charge a minimum of 50p per unit – meaning a can of cider could cost at least £1 and a bottle of wine, £4.69.
Health minister Vaughan Gething confirmed the start date in a statement to Assembly members in October. However, the regulations which will set out the timetable and minimum prices, still need to be approved by the Welsh Assembly.
The policy has already been delayed from last summer.
March 20: The right to request decent affordable broadband
Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses have the choice of slow broadband, hideously expensive broadband, or no broadband.
That’s set to end for many with a new right called the Universal Service Obligation.
From March 20, anyone can request a connection that can deliver 10 megabits per second (Mbps) download speed and 1 Mbps upload speed and costs less than £45 per month.
If you don’t have internet of this quality, you have the legal right to request it, as long as the installation would cost less than £3,400.
If it costs more, you can still have broadband installed but may have to pay the excess cost.
The scheme is being administered by BT and KCOM in Hull. Once a request is made, there are set standards for how quickly they must assess and deliver on requests.
March 31: Abortion is made legal in Northern Ireland
From the end of March, women in Northern Ireland will be allowed to terminate pregnancies without fear of prosecution.
That means the region will be brought in line with the rest of the UK by the beginning of April.
The change was approved by the UK Parliament as part of the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill – introducing the law in the absence of the collapsed devolved government.
From April, abortion services will be available from two hospitals. Buffer zones will be in place to prevent protests outside the centres.
It’s thought around 1,060 will take place each year in Northern Ireland.
April 1: Councils can double council tax for empty homes
Property owners can already face Council Tax bills increasing by 50% if they leave properties vacant for more than two years.
And from April, that figure increases to 100% – potentially doubling the charge for homes left empty for long periods of time.
April 1: Hospital parking charges axed – for some
Hospital parking charges for thousands of NHS patients and staff will be scrapped in England from April 2020.
Blue badge holders, frequent outpatients and parents of sick kids are among the groups that will benefit from the Tory pledge – which comes after a long Mirror campaign.
But not all NHS staff and patients will get free parking, as they would have done under Labour’s plans.
Instead of being scrapped altogether, the £272m-a-year paid to park at NHS hospitals will be scaled back by just under a third, saving patients and staff up to £99m a year.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it would prioritise “those with the greatest need” adding: “One of the concerns mentioned regularly on the doorsteps was that vulnerable people, and staff working nights, have to pay for hospital car parking.
“So we are today delivering on our manifesto commitment and setting out our new approach to NHS hospital parking charges.”
April 1: Minimum wage rise
We’re currently expecting a new rate of £8.67 for those aged 25 and over, up from £8.21 an hour now, but the exact figure can’t be confirmed yet.
New hourly rates for the following April are announced in the Budget, which we are only expecting in February due to delays around the election.
April 6: Changes to rights for agency and gig economy workers
Currently, when people who earn varying amounts of money from week-to-week – particularly those on flexible contracts – take a paid holiday, the employer has to pay them holiday pay which equates to the average weekly wage they earned over the 12 weeks before that holiday.
From April 6, 2020, that is changing. Employers will have to calculate the average weekly wage from an entire year – 52 weeks – rather than just 12 weeks.
The reform is intended to improve the holiday pay for seasonal workers, who tend to lose out over the way it is currently calculated.
Employers will also be required to provide a ‘statement of particulars’ on day one of employment – which must include:
- Hours and days of the week the worker/employee is required to work, whether they may be varied and how
- Entitlements to paid leave
- Details of any probationary period
- Details of training provided by the employer
Parental bereavement leave
Way back in 2017, the Government backed a Private Members bill which proposed giving workers the right to unpaid leave of up to two weeks, as a right, from day one of their employment, should they suffer the tragedy of their child dying under the age of 18.
This became law in September, 2018, and is expected to come into force in early 2020.
While most employers do give discretionary compassionate leave in such tragic circumstances, some do not. This law, which also applies to women who suffer a stillbirth or miscarriage from the 24th week of pregnancy, changes that.
April 6: National Insurance is cut by up to £85 a year
The Tories pledged to raise national insurance thresholds in their manifesto.
From April, you will pay no national insurance contributions on the first £9,500 of your earnings – up from £8,632 at the moment – working out as a saving of around £85 a year.
The move has been criticised for falling short of the £500-a-year Boris Johnson promised, and only helping better earners who are already over the threshold.
For others it’s not quite the all out win you might think – with the move meaning some of the worst off might now miss out on some of their state pension as a result.
Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon, said: “Under current rules, those not paying any NI lose out on credits towards their state pension.
“Individuals need 35 years of qualifying NICs to receive the full state pension with those with fewer qualifying years seeing a reduction and receive none if they have fewer than 10 years of credits.”
April 6: Tories will let families inherit £1million tax free – finishing what George Osborne started
Families will be able to pass £1m of their wealth without Inheritance Tax when they die.
Currently someone who dies can leave £325,000 of their estate tax-free. But Tory George Osborne added an extra extra tax-free amount that applies only to property.
In April this extra portion rises from £150,000 to £175,000 – meaning if someone owns a home, they can leave £500,000 tax free. This doubles if a couple is married.
April 6: Student loan repayments will fall
People paying back student loans get a minor tax break in April too.
Recent graduates will be able to earn £26,575 a year before payments kick in – up from £25,725 this year. That should save them £76.50 in payments a year.
People who graduated between 1998 and 2011 will see their threshold rise too – from £18,935 a year to £19,390.
April 8: State pension will rise by 3.9%
The state pension will rise by 3.9% from April – more than double the rate of inflation.
Such an increase means pensioners can expect an rise of just over £6 per week on the New State Pension from the current rate of £168.80.
But hundreds of thousands of over-75s will see around half their pension rise wiped out by the cost of paying for their own TV licence, after the benefit was scrapped.
Tory ministers pledged to protect the state pension with a ‘triple lock’. That means it rises by inflation, 2.5% or average earnings – whichever is highest. Average weekly earnings rose by 3.9% in the year to May to July 2019.
April 8: Benefit freeze ends
After almost a decade of freezes and caps, about 2.5 million people on Universal Credit and millions more on legacy benefits will get a 1.7% increase in April.
The increase means someone on £500 a month in benefits will get an extra £8.50.
But it is less than the rise in average earnings and less than the rise in pensions.
April: Council tax to rise
Local authorities will get the power to raise council tax by up to 4% from April – 2% for general spending and 2% for social care.
That’s worth an extra £70 to on the average band D council tax home in England.
Council-by-council rises will only be confirmed in February and March.
June 1: The end of free TV Licences for over 75s
TV Licences are free for over 75s, but from June 1 you’ll only get one if you’re receiving Pension Credit.
Around 3million households are set to be affected.
BBC chairman David Clementi said: “Copying the current scheme was ultimately untenable.”
But the Tories were slammed for breaking their promise to protect the benefit by handing over responsibility for it to the BBC.
July or later: Millions will start being moved onto Universal Credit
The limited pilot scheme for migrating existing benefit claimants onto Universal Credit is set to finish by July 2020 and begin rolling out across the country shortly after. Current plans suggest it will take until 2023 until the system is fully up and running.
From July claimants moving from Income Support, income based Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment Support Allowance will get an extra two weeks of support from their old benefit while they transition onto Universal Credit.
October 5: The state pension age will finish rising to 66
From October you’ll need to be at least 66 to get a state pension – whatever your gender.
The age people can at has been rising for years – starting with increasing women’s state pension age until it matched men’s, then increasing both from 65 to 66.
AJ Bell analyst Tom Selby said: “The rise started incrementally in 2018 and is scheduled to complete by October 2020. That means anyone born after 5 October 1954 will have a state pension age of at least 66.”
It’s not the last time it will rise though.
“The Conservatives have set out plans to increase the state pension age again to 67 by 2028 and 68 by 2039,” Selby added.
December 31: The deadline for EU citizens to apply to stay in the UK…if there’s no Brexit deal
EU, EEA or Swiss citizens can apply for ‘settled status’ to continue living in the UK after June 2021.
The scheme is open now, and will remain open until June 30th…unless we crash out of the EU without a deal.
If that happens, the deadline comes forward a little bit – to December 31, 2020.