What Can I Do If My Staff Can’t Get To Work Because Of The Petrol Crisis?

We have all seen the disruption caused by the petrol panic and regardless of whether you think its due to a shortage of fuel, a logistical dilemma or a symptom of panic buying, the outcome is the same.

Some staff are affected by travel disruption because they are unable to get fuel or due to the congestion caused by queues to petrol stations.

So what can you do if your staff are unable to get to work?

Remote Working

The good news is that over the last 2 years many businesses have proved how adaptable they are and so lots of businesses now have the equipment and measures in place to allow staff to work from home. If you are able to allow staff to work remotely during this period, then this may be the option for you.

Carpooling

You will pleased to know that there is no requirement to sing karaoke like James Cordon but car sharing could help with the fuel dilemma. It may save on costs if staff share a lift and it’s better for the environment. You could offer incentives to staff who car share such as a free lunch or voucher. Of course we are aware that Covid19 is not over yet so we would suggest good cleaning and optional mask wearing to help reduce the spread of the virus.

Change Working Hours

This won’t help staff to get fuel but it could mean they are able to travel when there is less traffic on the roads. This will help with fuel consumption and ease the frustration of sitting in traffic.

Allow Annual Leave

If home working is not an option then consider allowing staff to take some annual leave or toil. You can also insist of staff using annual leave but employers should be mindful that they need to give twice as much notice as the leave that they want staff to take. EG, two days notice = one days annual leave or four days notice = two days annual leave.

If there is no annual leave available then you might want to allow staff to take unpaid leave.

I need to close my business due to staff shortages do I have to pay them?

As long as employees are willing and able to work then you will have to pay them even if you have been forced to close. The key being able and willing so those staff who are unable to come to work will not get paid.

You might not have to pay staff when you close if:

*You have the contractual option of lay-off (see our other blogs for more information)

*You have given staff notice to take annual leave

* Staff have agreed to take unpaid leave.

Where can I get more information?

The information in this blog is general guidance and not intended to be used as advice. If you need specific advice or you want to be sure that you are doing the right thing then contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk or visit our website at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

How Do Employers Manage Quarantine After Holidays?

We may have had Freedom Day in the UK but the pandemic is still very much here. What do employers do if employees wish to holiday abroad and how do we manage swift changes in the isolation rules? 

Holidays abroad seemed like a thing of the past for a while until the government introduced a traffic light system which has different procedures for those who wish to travel to another country.

The Traffic Light System

Currently Green countries are those countries which do not require quarantine upon return to the UK.

Amber destinations are deemed to have more risk than Green countries and will require quarantine for people who have not been vaccinated or travel before the rules change on August 16th 2021.

Red destinations are countries which the government has advised against travelling to and require a hotel quarantine period.

But what happens when a country moves suddenly from Green to Amber, Amber to Red or when the rules change at short notice just as they did with Paris?

Banning Staff From Going Abroad

Of course we cannot and would not want to ban staff from travelling abroad. Travelling means different things to different people. For some it is the joy of seeing somewhere new, to others it may mean a long awaited hug from a family member or loved one and for others still it is a matter of business.

It would not be reasonable or appropriate to stop staff from travelling and if it resulted in dismissal it could lead to an unfair dismissal claim.

However we do suggest advising staff that travelling might be at their own financial risk if they are required to isolate.

Do I have to pay staff to Self-Isolate following travel?

The current rules are that staff who are required to self isolate by law are entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from Day One of isolation. You can pay more but SSP is the minimum that you must pay.

Can I request that staff work during isolation?

If staff are able to work from home and they are well enough to do so you can ask staff to work from home. If staff are working from home they should receive full pay.

Can I insist that staff attend their place of work during Self Isolation?

As of September 2020 it became illegal for an employer to allow a member of staff to work anywhere but their place of isolation during self isolation. Insisting that a staff member attend work when they should be in quarantine can result in a £10,000 fine for the employer.

Aside from the legalities and the fine, it would also put other staff, service users and clients at risk.

What can I do if my employee asks to use annual leave during self isolation?

There is nothing stopping you allowing a staff member to use annual leave during self isolation. It may well help them financially.

Employers can also request that staff use annual leave at any time providing they give twice as much notice as the leave they would like the employee to take. In real terms this means, 2 days notice for 1 day annual leave or 8 days notice to use 4 days annual leave.

Should I be telling my staff the procedure for self isolation following the holiday?

There is no legal requirement to outline a self- isolation procedure following annual leave but this is good practice. It will help staff know what they should do if they find themselves in a quarantine situation after a holiday. It also helps managers know what they should be doing.

Where can I get HR and Employment Law Support with staff?

You can get free advice from acas and from our newsletters.

We are always happy to help employers with Employment Law, email us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk or visit our website at www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk to see how we can help you.

Do I Need A Working From Home Policy?

Working from home and Hybrid working has been a normality for some businesses for many years. However, many other businesses began working from home on a much larger scale during the pandemic. As we start to recover from the pandemic some employers have decided to ditch the office altogether whilst others have decided to opt for a Hybrid solution. 

I didn’t have a Working From Home Policy last year, why would I get one now?

Most businesses were not prepared for Boris’ ‘work from home if you can’ announcement in March 2020, but British businesses are adaptable and resilient and we rose to the challenge in a hurry. That meant scrambling for laptops and PC’s, moving documents onto a cloud and a mass rerouting of telephone lines. For many, the legal and security implications were not a consideration but we are still required to follow GDPR ( General Data Protection Regulations), Employment Law and Health and Safety Laws.

Data

You must still ensure that staff data and client data is secure. This can mean you need to consider a number of things such as:

How do staff dispose of documents containing data, will you supply a shredder, a confidential waste bin or require old documents to be returned to the office for safe disposal?

Are staff able to store documents safely in a locked cupboard?

Will they be sharing their computer with other members of their household?

Are they wearing headphones when they are having conversations which include sensitive data?

Is the email and internet usage encrypted?

Health And Safety

Employers are still responsible for the safety of staff whilst they are working from home. This doesn’t mean you need to do a daily home visit but you may well ask staff to carry out a risk assessment. At the very least you will want to ensure that they have the right chair and desk set up.

Who  Will You Allow To Work From Home?

Working from home is not suitable for everybody, some people do not have the space, the internet speed or the desire to work from home. If you are introducing working from home or hybrid working for a selection of staff then you should be able to explain why you have disallowed it for others. A working from home criteria is useful to help avoid discriminating against groups of people.

Expenses and Bills

Working from home can incur additional expenses for staff, your working from home policy should set out who is responsible for bills and expenses.

Avoiding An Us And Them Culture

If some staff are able to work from home whilst others are in the workplace you will need to make an effort to prevent an us and them culture.

You will still want everyone to feel a part of the team and although working from home has many benefits it can mean that staff miss out on general chit chat where friendships are built or they miss out on the social activities which workplaces inspire. It can also lead to resentment from work based staff who would like to work from home. Keep having regular meetings either via video link or in person and team activities to keep the team together.

How do I get a Homeworking Policy

We are able to supply you with and Homeworking and Hybrid working policy for your business. To enquire about our working from home policy contact us at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

What Does The Budget Mean For Employers?

BUDGET 2021 – KEY POINTS

You will all be aware that the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, unveiled his Budget last week.

In this blog, we go through the key points from the Budget and lay out what it means for businesses and employers.

Furlough Extended
The Chancellor announced that the furlough scheme, which was due to end at the end of April 2021, has now been extended until the end of September 2021. Employees placed on furlough will continue to receive 80% of their wages (up to £2,500 per month).

As with previous extensions of the furlough scheme, employers will be expected to contribute towards employees’ wages from July, as follows: –

● 10% in July;
● 20% in August and September.

Employers will also need to continue to meet the cost of National Insurance payments and pension contributions.

Who is Eligible for the Furlough Scheme?
The rules surrounding furlough differ slightly depending on what period the claim is for.

For furlough claims on or before 30th April 2021, to be eligible, the employee must have been on their employer’s PAYE payroll on 30th October 2020. The employer must also have made a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC between 20th March 2020 and 30th October 2020, thus notifying a payment of earnings.

Employees do not need to have been furloughed previously.

For furlough claims from 1st May 2021 onwards, the employee must have been on their employer’s PAYE payroll on 2nd March 2021. Again, the employer must also have made a PAYE RTI submission to HMRC between 20th March 2020 and 2nd March 2021.

Employers are not required to have previously claimed for employees before 2nd March 2021 to claim for periods on or after 1st May 2021.

The employee can be on any type of contract, including zero-hours, fixed-term or temporary.

Can I Re-Employ an Employee Who Has Recently Left or Been Made Redundant?
HMRC has confirmed that some employees can be rehired, and then put on furlough.

For claims on or before 30th April 2021, employers can choose to re-hire any staff made redundant after 23rd September 2020 and put them on furlough, as long as the employer made a PAYE RTI submission to HMRC in relation to that employee between 20th March 2020 and 23rd September 2020.

However, for claim periods starting on or after 1st December 2020, employers cannot claim for any days where a furloughed employee was serving a contractual or statutory notice period.

There is no obligation on employers to re-employ staff.

Apprenticeships
A further announcement made by the Chancellor is that the Apprentice grant has been doubled to £3,000 for any business taking on an apprentice under the Government apprenticeship scheme. This is an increase from £1,500.

If you require support with the matters above or any other Employment Law support please feel free to get in touch at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

FAQ’s From Employers In Another National Lockdown

Here we go again.. although we had all hoped that lockdowns were limited to 2020 the latest announcement of the prime minister on the 4th January saw the nation back in lockdown.

In this blog we will answer some employer frequently asked questions.

My business is not allowed to open, what do I do with my staff?

The furlough scheme will remain open with the government contributing 80% of pay to staff. There is no legal requirement for employers to furlough staff as it is entirely at your discretion. However, in an ideal world  you will want to keep all of your staff as it is better for them, it also will allow you trade as soon as your business is allowed to.

Remember that there is no automatic right to furlough staff and that you may need a written agreement. For more information read our blog Furlough Explained here: https://orchardemploymentlaw.wordpress.com/2020/03/25/furlough-explained

Although furlough is the preferred option for most employers and staff it is not free. The employer may still have to spend time or pay for someone to do the furlough administration.  Employers still have to consider pension contributions, national insurance, tax, accrual of annual leave and possibly employees gaining an extra years service which could have cost implications in the future. 

I cannot afford to furlough staff what can I do?

If you cannot afford to furlough your staff or you choose not too you may need to make redundancies.

Nobody likes to make redundancies but with ongoing costs such as rent, tax and insurances and little to no income you might not have much choice. There are rules and processes  around redundancies including, how much notice you should give, who can be selected and how meetings should be conducted. Always seek advice before making redundancies.

We are holding a webinar on how to conduct redundancies, you can Friday 22nd January you can email us for information on info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk or book using the following link:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/135518029073

We are a business which is allowed to open, do I have to let my staff work from home?

The national lockdown guidance is that all those who can work from home should work from home.

There are obvious positions where staff will not be able to work from home such as construction, engineering, child care, retail, manufacturing and the list goes on. In these instances staff will not be allowed to work from home.

As an employer you have a duty to keep your staff safe, this may extend to protecting them from catching Covid19 in the workplace wherever possible. So, if your staff are able to work from home effectively and productively you should allow them to do so.

That being said, not all job roles can be done effectively from home. They may be required to be physically present to open post, respond immediately to situations or you might not have the infrastructure to allow them to work from home.

The guidance may also vary person to person as well as job role to job role. You are still able to expect a reasonable output from staff and if a staff member is not productive or effective when working from home they might not have this option.

It is important to remember that fear of catching coronavirus can be a genuine concern and should be treated sensitively. You should try to reduce risks in the workplace such as social distancing, heightened hygiene and providing screens.  If staff are still unable to come to work you may consider other options such as using annual leave, unpaid leave or furlough. It is better to seek advice on a case by case basis and each situation will be different.

My staff are unproductive because they are homeschooling as well as working from home, what are my options?

In the first instance try to be understanding, working from home around dependents is no easy task. Maybe you could agree to a more flexible work pattern to allow staff to manage home and children. An example of this might be allowing staff to start earlier or later in the day, compressing their hours or reducing their hours. 

Any agreement is just that and should be done by consent.

Even the most understanding employer can still require work to be done accurately and productively if staff are unable to work productively at home you may want to consider using furlough or asking staff to use either parental leave or annual leave.

Be careful because you do not want to accidentally discriminate against women who are known to be more likely to  have the burden of childcare.

I have some staff members who can work from home but want to attend work, are they allowed to?

This is a matter for employers to decide, there will be some individuals who want to attend work for mental wellbeing reasons or because they do not feel able to work from home. If you are able to reduce risks in the workplace by making the environment Covid secure you are able to allow them to work from the office.

What about staff who are shielding?

Shielding came back into action on 4th January 2020 for the most vulnerable members of society. Staff who are shielding should have received a letter from a medic or the NHS informing them that are to shield which means that she should not leave home.

If staff are told to shield employers should not expect them to work away from their home. If they can work from home you should allow them to do so. If they are unable to work from home you can either put them om furlough or Statutory Sick Pay, staff also have the option of using annual leave.

We hope that you found this blog useful, if you did please share it with someone else who may benefit from reading this.

This blog is general information and is not intended to substitute advice, if you would like specific advice or support with Employment Law you can contact us via our website at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

Seven Tips for Working From Home

Seven Tips for Working Remotely

Some call it Lockdown 2.0 others call it the second lockdown but one thing is for sure and that is that more workplaces will go back to remote working, we have Seven tips for those staff who are working from home, and how to effectively manage your team remotely: –

  1. Don’t Forget About Data And GDPR

Out of sight may be out of mind but it is important to remember your legal obligations around data. It is also just as important to remind staff about data protection. This may include making sure that they they have headphones if they are taking phone calls in the presence of others. Making provisions for the disposal of confidential waste, this could include investing in a shredder and not leaving their computer or laptop open when they step away from their desk.

2. Set Up A Designated Workplace

It is important that staff try as much as possible to keep their workspace separate from their home space.

If they have space, a home office, spare bedroom, or some other dedicated area that offers privacy is the best option.

This way, work can be separated from home life more easily. It will help staff to focus on their work and not be distracted by the little jobs that always need doing around the home. It also means that they will be able to enjoy their down time without thinking about work.

3. Work Safely with Equipment

Employers are still responsible for the health and safety of employees and whilst you cannot pop round to their homes, you can talk to them about protecting their health.

One easy thing you can do is to ask your staff to complete a Display Screen Equipment (DSE) questionnaire. You can find this here https://www.hse.gov.uk/msd/dse/ and it is free to fill in.

Remote working also may mean that your staff are working around the kitchen table, on an ironing board or some other makeshift office space. This is not always good for posture and it is, therefore, important to remind staff to take regular breaks and stretch their muscles

4.Keep Connected

Remote working can get lonely and we all know that of a lot of people have suffered with their mental health over recent months.

It is, therefore,  important for employees to stay connected with each other as well as the boss.

Hold regular video meetings or phone calls to keep in touch with everyone. Ask staff what they are working on and encourage them to share what’s on their minds.

We know that video meetings are not a substitute for human contact but they are still very good. Most people communicate with more than just words – we use eye contact, facial expressions and other forms of body language to convey how we are feeling.

We have found that daily video meetings with the whole team each morning have been helpful in building and maintaining a working and personal relationship

5.Be Clear About Your Expectations

Everyone thrives on structure, including your staff. Employees will have core hours that they are expected to work. It is important to remind staff of this and that they are expected to stick to their core hours as much as possible.

Of course, this may not always be possible but staff should communicate with management if they are experiencing difficulties in this area.

Be clear and realistic about your expectations; this is not a chance for staff to make unreasonable mistakes, be rude to customers or to spend very little time working. If staff are struggling to work in their normal hours then consider moving their hours temporarily; you may get more output early in the morning or late in the evening.

Remember though that you may still need to look at capability or disciplinary procedures.

6.Get dressed

Encourage staff to get up and get dressed as if the day were a normal working day and they were commuting to their workplace.

Changing into work clothes can help staff to mentally prepare for the day and make the switch from home life to work mode, and will also help to distinguish between ‘homeworking’ and ‘home life’.

This will be a personal choice though, we all know someone who will work in smart jacket and pyjama bottoms.

7.Ask for Help and Support

Remember to ask for help and/or support when you need it. These times are tough for us all and we all need to support each other as much as possible

You should also encourage your staff to talk to you and ask for further support and guidance if needed.

Remember that you are all part of a team and should be supporting each other as much as possible, especially remotely.

We hope these tips are of use to you. If you have other tips that you find successful, please do share them with us.

We are hear to help with Employment Law and HR. If you have further questions or you are in need of some support you can contact us at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

Unpicking the Job Support Scheme

Orchard Employment Law provide answers to some frequently asked questions.

Both Employers and employees have been concerned about the future of jobs once the Furlough scheme ends on the 31st October so it is no surprise that people were eagerly awaiting the announcement of the new job support scheme. 

We bring you answers to some frequently asked questions.

What is the Job Support Scheme in a nutshell?

This scheme will allow employers to reduce staff hours and to claim some monies from the government.

All small and medium businesses will be eligible to use the scheme but large businesses will only be able to claim if they can show that their turnover has reduced as a result of the pandemic.

How many hours must an employee work to be eligible for the scheme?

Under the new scheme the employees work at least at least one third of the employees normal hours. The minimum hour requirement might increase after January 2021.

What will I have to pay as an employer?

As an employer you will be required to pay national insurance and pensions. You will also have to pay 100% of the hours which the employee works.

You will also have to contribute towards the hours which the employee does not work. Your total contribution will vary depending on the percentage of time the employee works. The total minimum contribution from an employer (including hours worked) will be 55% but it could be as much as 80%.

Just as with furlough, it is likely that the employee will be on a reduced salary on the job support scheme.

Can I use the scheme on a new employee?

Employees who been employed on of after the 23rd of September 2020 are eligible for the scheme.

What if the employee has not been furloughed in the past?

There is no requirement for the business to have used furlough in the past or for the employee to have been furloughed before.

Can I rotate staff on the scheme?

Yes, you can rotate staff  on and off the job retention scheme but they must be on the scheme for a minimum of 7 days at a time.

Is there an automatic right to put an employee on the scheme?

No, as this will be a reduction in wages you will need to check your contracts to see whether or not you have the right to reduce pay. If you do not have the right to reduce pay you should negotiate with your staff and have a written agreement for them to be on the scheme. We recommend you take advice on this so as not to end up with a claim against you.

You should also have clear and transparent reasons as to who is put on the scheme and who isn’t. You are still required to follow UK employment laws and this means not discriminating against people.

Will I still be able to make redundancies if I use the scheme?

You will still be able to make redundancies but you cannot use the scheme during the notice period. Employees should receive their full redundancy and notice pay (pre furlough and job support scheme.

Do I have to use the scheme instead of using redundancies or lay off?

No, there is no obligation for an employer to use the job support scheme.

Can we contact you for support?

Yes, we provide advice and support to employers  with all HR and Employment Law matters. You can contact us at www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

Stepping into Quarter 4 of 2020

Adverse weather, Furlough, Redundancies and Annual Leave

October is almost upon us and so now is a good time to start preparing for the colder months. We have a few hints and tips for you for coping with the colder weather: –

Adverse Weather

It happens every year. Snow, ice, frost and fallen trees can cause havoc on our roads and also on public transport, so much so that you could have staff who are late to work or even unable to make it in at all because of the winter weather.

You are under no obligation to pay staff who are unable to attend work, but it is always a good idea to put things in place which allow your staff to maintain pay and also for your business to continue to function.

Think about allowing staff to arrive later at work, work from home (if they are not already) or make up their hours on another occasion.

If you do decide to pay staff who cannot attend work, ensure that they are told that it is an act of goodwill and is not intended to be contractual.

School Closures

This year has been a difficult year with the school closures that we have already had because of the pandemic.

Unfortunately, the weather can also be a factor when it comes to school closures and sometimes, even if your staff can travel to work, their children’s schools may decide to close, meaning that your staff have no childcare and, therefore, might be unable to get into work.

As above, you are under no obligation to pay staff who are unable to attend work but it might be a good idea to think about what staff could do if they have no childcare.

Many businesses will have had staff working from home due to the pandemic and know that this can be successful. So letting staff work from home when their children’s school is closed is a good idea. It may well be that your staff are still working from home anyway.

You should also think about allowing staff to arrive later at work or make up their hours on another occasion.

In past years, we have suggested allowing staff to bring their children into work to give the children some educational, interactive and inspiring experiences. However, this year due to the pandemic, we would not suggest this.

Annual Leave Reminders

Some businesses have their annual leave year starting on 1st January and ending on 31st December. If this is the case for your business, now is the perfect time to remind staff about their unused annual leave allowance.

Employees who have been furloughed during the pandemic will continue to have accrued statutory annual leave entitlements, as well as any additional entitlement provided for in their Employment Contract.

You do not usually have to allow staff to roll over their unused annual leave into the next year unless there are exceptional circumstances such as maternity leave or illness.

However, the Government passed new emergency legislation at the start of the pandemic to ensure businesses have the flexibility they need to respond to the pandemic and to protect staff, and all other workers, from losing their statutory annual leave entitlement.

This means that staff are able to carry annual leave forward if the impact of pandemic meant that it has not been reasonably practicable to take annual leave this year.

Where it has not been possible, the untaken annual leave may be carried forward into the following two leave years.

If you are not allowing your staff to carry their holiday forward into 2021 and 2022, now is the time to remind them that they still have unused leave to take.

And believe it or not, you are also able to refuse an annual leave request if it is not a convenient time for your business or if there are too many staff off.

That being said though, it is essential that staff have time off to rest, so you should be reasonable when refusing holiday requests.

Many employers are also unaware that they can impose annual leave on their staff. So if your business has a down period or if your staff have unused annual leave, you can simply give them a day off. Remember to give notice though.

Sickness

It is inevitable that staff will become sick over the winter months with colds, coughs and flu, as well as the continuing risk of contracting COVID-19.

It is important that all businesses have a clear Sickness Policy in place so that staff know who to contact, and by what times and by what means, if they need to call in sick.

Furlough

As you will all be aware, the Government’s Furlough Scheme is ending on 31st October 2020, meaning that businesses will be required to go back to paying their staff their full wages as well as employer contributions to NIC and any pension schemes.

Redundancies

Unfortunately, due to the Furlough Scheme ending, sadly some businesses may need to think about making staff redundancies.

It is important that businesses follow the consultation regulations carefully when making redundancies, including the correct time limits if more than 20 staff will be made redundant.

Remember to also keep in regular contact with your staff if redundancies are inevitable. Staff will already be feeling anxious about their futures and keeping them up-to-date with current progress and consulting with them about how to move forward it important.

Preparations for a Second Wave of COVID-19

We are all expecting there to be a second wave of COVID-19 in the future, whether that be in the next couple of months or after Christmas.

If and when it does happen, it is important to be ready in terms of how your business is going to be able to function. Make sure your systems and processes are all in order and tighten up all those that aren’t, including a Homeworking Policy and keeping in regular communication with your staff.

If you would like any other information on things to deal with in the run-up to winter, drop us an email at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

Back To Work As The Lockdown Is Eased

With many businesses having re-opened or planning to re-open shortly, employers will need to consider how to keep staff and customers and clients safe and put certain measures in place.

Risk Assessments

It is important to remember that businesses have a legal obligation to protect employees and visitors to their workplace. Employers should carry out a Risk Assessment and make sensible adjustments where necessary.

If an employer refuses to carry out a Risk Assessment, the Health and Safety Executive or local council can issue an enforcement notice.

Employers can visit https://bit.ly/31mmi6u to carry out a Risk Assessment.

Social Distancing

Two-metre social distancing will still be required, albeit that the Prime Minister has stated that where it is not possible to stay two-metres apart, guidance will allow people to keep a distance of ‘one-metre plus’, meaning people should stay one-metre apart, and also take other precautions to reduce the risk of transmission.

To help staff and customers to adhere to the social distancing rules, employers should: –

  • Put up signs to remind staff and visitors of social distancing guidance;
  • Avoid sharing workstations;
  • Use floor tape or paint to mark areas to help people keep to a two-metre distance;
  • Arrange a one-way traffic system around the workplace.

If it isn’t possible for staff and visitors to keep two-metres apart, employers need to think about how they can be kept safe. Employers should, therefore, consider the following: –

  • Does an activity need to be carried out in order for your business to be able to operate?
  • Keep the time required for an activity as short as possible;
  • Use screens or barriers to separate people from each other;
  • Stagger arrival and departure times of staff and visitors.

Hygiene Procedures

It is extremely important that staff and visitors carry out good hand-washing, cleaning and hygiene procedures.

The frequency of surface-cleaning and hand-washing should be increased: –

  • Encourage everyone to follow the guidance on hand-washing and hygiene;
  • Provide hand sanitiser around the workplace;
  • Regularly clean and disinfect surfaces which are used and touched regularly.

Home Working

Many businesses have decided that their staff will not return to their workplaces until January 2021, with staff continuing to work from home. If this is the case for your business, it is important that staff continue to be consulted and feel valued.

  • Make sure that staff have access to all remote working systems;
  • Communicate regularly with all staff, both as part of team-meetings (via video conference) as well as individually;
  • Ensure that staff have the right home insurances in place.

Employers are also still responsible for the health and safety of staff who are working from home, so you should ensure that staff complete a DSE risk assessment (https://bit.ly/3eJQ88S). This will need to be completed each time a staff member moves their workstation (from one room to another, for example) and also when they return to their workplace.

Staff morale is likely to be low and people will be missing their colleagues. It is extremely important to ensure that staff are looking after their own physical and mental well-being.

Further Guidance

The Government has produced guidance for different sectors to help employers, as well as employees and the self-employed, to understand how to work safely during the coronavirus pandemic. You can find this here https://bit.ly/3g81GTv

Remember that your staff are likely to be nervous about returning to the workplace. You should talk to your staff and ask them if they have any concerns, and reassure them of the measures that you have put in place to keep them safe.

If you would like any more advice, please email us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk or call us on 01634 564 136.

The Furlough Scheme Is Ending. What Are My Options?

The government’s Coronavirus Job Retentionsion Grant also known as the Furlough Scheme has been a welcome gift to both employees and employers across the UK. It has meant that businesses have been able to keep staff in jobs which will help some businesses to recover to full health.

The option to have staff return to work on a part-time basis will also be a great resource for many but we know that it is coming to an end in October 2020.

Businesses will need to start thinking about how they rebuild the business in an economic landscape which has changed rapidly over the last 4 months. The goal will be to protect the business so that it can be restored and save some jobs. We will take a look at some options that you may want need to consider:

  • Reduced Hours also known as Short Time Working

In an ideal world business would bounce back in an instance and everyone would return to work on full hours and full pay. If a full quota of staff is not an option for the business you may consider reducing the hours of some or all staff members.

In order to reduce staff hours you must have the contractual right to do so. This would be stated in the Employment, Worker contract or in another document. If you do not have a contract you will need to negotiate  with staff and create a new agreement or agree to amend the existing agreement. This must be done in writing and staff should be made aware of their right to claim redundancy if the reduced hours continue for a period of time. Staff will want assurances that if they are made redundant in the future will be based on their original pay and hours.

Do ensure that you are not acting in a discriminatory way if you are reducing the hours of some staff.

Always seek advice before reducing hours.

  • Lay-off with no or limited pay

Some contracts allow an employer to place an employee on standby without pay. A lot of furlough agreements also sneakily added this right into the contract. With this option staff receive no pay other than guarantee payments of £29 per day for 5 days within a 3 month period. Staff also have the right to request redundancy after a period of time and it is important that the correct procedure is followed. Failure to do this correctly can be very costly to a business.

  • Redundancy

Redundancy is where a role has significantly reduced or disappeared. It is about the role and not the person and so employers must think about placing all those who do a particular role at risk. 

Staff should not be discriminated against and the correct monies should be paid. 

It is worth noting that there is no redundancy pay for staff who have less than 2 years service. They will still be entitled to notice pay and other outstanding payments such as unused holiday. 

For businesses who will be making 20 or more redundancies within a 90 day period. There is a strict procedure which must be followed so employers really need to think ahead. One of the things they need to think about is timing as the process will be a minimum of 30 days for business making between 20 and 99 staff members redundant. For business making over 100 redundancies within a 90 day period there must be a consultation period of at least 45 days.

There will be instances where putting a settlement agreement in place is the best way of protecting the business.

  • Restructure

This is similar to a redundancy. This may be where the role still exists but you may decide that it can be done differently or absorbed into another role. In this instance staff should be consulted and just like any other dismissal they will be entitled to notice pay.

If you would like advice or support with any of the options above or for guidance with any Employment Law or HR matter please feel free to contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

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