What Does The Lifting Of Coronavirus Restrictions Mean For Employers?

What are the rules in place?

Covid restrictions are lifting but what does this mean for employers? Let’s start by looking at the law around Covid restrictions across the UK.

In England all restrictions will be lifted from Thursday 24th February 2022, this includes the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid19.

From 21st March 2022, the rules in Scotland will also end, including the legal requirement to self-isolate if you have had a positive test.

Self-isolation rules were never a legal requirement in Northern Ireland but there was strong guidance to do so, the guidance remains in place but all other restrictions have been eased.

Wales still has a self-isolation mandate in place, we are expecting an update from the Welsh Assembly on 4th March.

What about Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?

Employees in England have been entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from day 1 of sickness if the sickness is related to Covid. Employers were able to claim the Statutory Sick Payback from the Government from day 1 to day 3 through the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate scheme. 

This scheme will end on 17th March 2022 which means that employees will be unable to claim SSP for the first 3 days of sickness.

What about Company Sick Pay (CSP)?

Some businesses have a Company Sick Pay scheme, this varies between organisations and may even be different for employees depending on their role and duration of employment. Employers and employees should check and follow the employment contract and any sick pay policies.

If there is no legal requirement to self-isolate, should staff attend work?

Although there may be no legal requirement to self isolate a business can still have its own set of rules. Generally speaking, if employees are unwell it is better for them to stay away from the workplace.

Working whilst unwell can result in: 

  • Staff taking longer to recover
  • Staff feeling undervalued
  • Other staff members and service users becoming unwell
  • Other staff members feeling uncomfortable 
  • Reduced productivity

What do I do if testing is no longer free?

There will still be the option to purchase tests. If this is the case you cannot insist that employees pay for tests but you may be able to purchase tests as an employer and ask employees to take the test.

There is no legal requirement for employees to test or to let their employer know the outcome.

What should I be doing right now?

Now is a great time to think about how your business will operate in this new era of managing Covid. Set out some clear guidelines on what staff can expect and what you expect of staff.

Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Employers still have a duty to protect staff. We have all learned some great things about hand washing, PPE, ventilation, and respecting one another’s personal space. We would encourage you to keep these going to protect all staff from bugs and viruses in general.

I have more questions who can I turn to?

The information in this blog is not intended to be advice as each situation can vary. If you do need additional support with Covid related illness of employees, absence management or any other HR or Employment Law issue get in touch with us at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

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

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