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
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
2022 is another year of changes in the world of Employment Law and HR. In this blog, we are talking about some of the changes that we know are already going to happen.
Vaccination Status For Frontline NHS Staff
As we know, it was made compulsory for Care Home Staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19; this was implemented on 11th November 2021.
Following this, the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, has said that it will also become compulsory for frontline NHS Staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, subject to medical exemptions. This will be set into action from April 2022.
Workplace Sexual Harassment
In July 2021, the Government responded to consultations regarding workplace sexual harassment. Their proposal outlines plans to instil a duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and to introduce new protections against harassment by third parties. This would require employers to take all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment from transpiring amongst all employees.
This new legislation could also see employers held liable for harassment caused by third parties in the workplace.
Tips And Gratuities
This has been a long time coming as the original consultation on tipping, gratuities and service charge was made in 2016.
In September 2021, the Government published its response, ensuring workers in the hospitality sector keep tips on a fair and transparent basis. Employers will also be required to have a written policy on tips and record how tips are dealt with.
Right To Request Flexible Working
Recent consultation has extended the existing right to request flexible working from day one of employment instead of the former 26 weeks. It is important to note that this is a right to request, and it is still up to the employer whether or not to grant the request.
Bank Holiday Entitlement During the Platinum Jubilee
Employers should be aware that the late May Bank Holiday will be moved to Thursday 2nd June 2022, and an additional Bank Holiday has been granted on Friday 3rd June 2022 to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Now the confusing part ensues; employees are entitled to the extra Bank Holiday if the wording in their Employment Contract states so.
Let us explain.
If the Employment Contract states that an employee’s holiday entitlement includes Bank Holidays and then details the standard Bank Holidays that are recognised as part of the holiday entitlement, then it is down to the employer’s discretion whether or not to permit the holiday.
If the Employment Contract states that the holiday entitlement is plus Bank Holidays, the employee would be entitled to the extra day.
New Right To Carer’s Leave
In September 2021, the Government published its response to the 2020 consultation on Carer’s Leave. It has confirmed that it plans to legislate an entitlement to Carer’s Leave for employees as a right from day one.
The leave will consist of one week (5 working days) of unpaid leave per year for those employees with long-term caring responsibilities. This can be taken as full days or half days.
Leave can be taken to provide care, or arrange care, for a person with a long-term care need, e.g. illness, injury or issues relating to old age.
Employees will be required to give notice that is at least twice the length of the time being requested, plus one day.
Neonatal Leave And Pay For Employees
In March 2020, the Government announced its intention to introduce Statutory Neonatal Leave for parents whose babies require neonatal care.
It is expected that the amount of leave will be one week for every week that the baby is in neonatal care, up to a maximum of 12 weeks. This will be paid leave, with parents being entitled to a statutory rate of pay set by the Government each year.
Redundancy Protection for Women and New Parents
The Government has also confirmed its intent to extend the redundancy protection period which is currently available to mothers on Maternity Leave.
Protection will apply to pregnant women from the point they notify their employer of their pregnancy until 6 months after a mother has returned to work.
It will also apply to those taking Adoption Leave and Shared Parental Leave.
This was originally announced in December 2019 and postponed due to a change in the Parliamentary Work Schedule brought about by the pandemic.
While the date of its implementation is unannounced, it is speculated to conclude sometime in 2022.
We will keep you updated on what’s to be included within the bill.
National Minimum Wage Amounts
National Living and Minimum Wage amounts will increase again in April 2022, as follows: –
Current Rate New Rate
National Living Wage £8.91 £9.50
21 to 22 Year Olds £8.36 £9.18
18 to 20 Year Olds £6.56 £6.83
16 to 17 Year Olds £4.62 £4.81
Apprentices £4.30 £4.81
That’s all for now. We will, of course, keep you updated on any other changes that come to light.
In the famous words of fictional character Forest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get”.
2021 has certainly been a box of chocolates for us and our friends, we started the year working from home and in Lockdown and we got excited about eating outdoors (in the cold) when restrictions started to ease in April.
2020 taught us that we needed robust systems but a flexible attitude and this has been a benefit to us this year.
Employment Law is one of the fastest-changing laws in the UK so it is no surprise that there were changes. Some of the changes included:
The implementation of settled and pre-settled status of EU nationals
The end of the furlough scheme
Increases in minimum wage and sick pay
Compulsory vaccination for workers in the Care sector.
As well as some HR trends such as The Great Resignation and a more common approach to Hybrid and Working From Home.
This year we have seen some highs within Orchard Employment Law. Our wonderful clients have continued to trust in us to support them through the ups and downs of employing people. Of course, we have to mention our delight in successfully winning employment tribunal cases for our clients.
Our team has grown yet again, you may have noticed that our online presence has stepped up since George, our in-house marketeer joined the team.
We saw the return of in-person events and although we remained cautious it was great to see people at The Women In Business Big Show and The Education People Show.
Jemma has been super busy being featured in the media on television and radio shows such as Times Radio, BBC South East, ITV, BBC Radio Kent, KMTV, and Daily Mail. She was also a speaker at many virtual and in-person business events including, Chartered Institute of Management Accounts (CIMA), Omni Pro’s CPD Store, Bristol Live with In-house Recruitment, and Tourism South East’s AGM.
We got behind the bid to make Medway a City of Culture, unfortunately, Medway didn’t win the bid but it was a great opportunity to pour back into our local towns.
We are super pleased to confirm that we remain certified with ISO9001, meaning that we have good quality management systems and standards. The external auditor was impressed with all of the measures we put in place to ensure our clients have the very best and he found that we go over and above what is expected.
Looking back, we can say that we have had a good year despite challenges. We look forward to next year’s box of chocolates and wish you a wonderful Christmas and a happy new year.
Diversity in the workplace has definitely been a hot topic this year. It’s becoming more common for people to expect a business to have more than an Equality and Diversity policy but to show how they are taking steps to create a more diverse workforce.
Last week, Jemma attended an In-house Recruitment event and the speakers confirmed many of the things that we have been saying for years. She heard firsthand how employing people from marginalised groups is good for business, people from these groups bring fresh ideas to the workplace, problem-solving is improved as new perspectives are brought to the group and clients love to see people that they can identify themselves with.
At the conference, Jemma sat in on a talk by Neil Armstrong of Tripad. A good measure of how well an organisation is doing in terms of hiring talent from a diverse ethnic background is to look at the demographics of the location.
Neil discussed working with a City Council whose location was made of 40% people from Black, Asian and others from an Ethnic Minority background however, the workers from this background only made up 18% of the workforce.
The council wanted some practical solutions to see whether or not this percentage could be improved. One measure was to introduce blind applications, this is where CV’s and applications are stripped of personal information which can identify a person such as a name, suffix, date of birth, and address. The result of this meant that the workers from Black, Asian, and Ethnic Minority backgrounds increased from 18% to 39%.
Automating The Interview Process
Another business at the exhibition found that hiring managers would ask candidates the same question but in a different way, this was not done deliberately but it did mean that some candidates had an unfair advantage.
The business decided to automate the way in which questions were asked and they too found an increase in diversity of the candidates that were hired.
Use A Diverse Panel
A well-known psychology theory is that people like people like themselves. There is something comforting about familiarity and this is often the case in interviews. The thing we like might not be that it is a man or a woman or that they are black or white, it could be that we have a similar mannerism or taste in music of fashion sense.
So, it makes sense to interview people as a panel and to ensure that the panel is not made up of the same types of people. Some businesses will argue that they are too small and that they don’t have enough people from diverse backgrounds who can form a panel. There is a solution to this. You can borrow people from other businesses, ask for a non-executive director or even put someone on a panel who is not yet management.
What Else Can You Do?
Of course, these three steps are not the only way to improve diversity at work and there is no guarantee that the diverse talent hired will be retained. There are other factors that need to be addressed such as inclusivity and company culture, ensuring that leadership is diverse even if that includes mentorship and leadership programs, dealing with internal bias and so much more.
That being said, if you are looking for 3 practical steps to hiring a diverse talent pool you could try the above.
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?
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.
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 email@example.com or book using the following link:
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