Round-Up of 2021

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.

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