Stress Awareness Month

A blog for employers on managing stress in the workplace

April is Stress Awareness Month and each year we discuss reducing stress as well as coping techniques. Over the last year there has been an increase in people feeling stressed in the UK.

Many of the reasons for the increased stress is due to the pandemic but it is important to realise that this has affected people in different ways and for different reasons. Some people have experienced loneliness, homeschooling, zoom fatigue, burnout, reduction or loss in income, shielding, loss of loved ones, illness, long covid, increase in caring responsibilities and more.

Both employers and employees have had to adjust, whether it be to a lack of or abundance of work and many businesses have undergone a change to remote working. 

We have put together some suggestions of how to manage or reduce stress:

  • Stress Risk Assessment

Employers have a legal duty to protect staff from stress in the workplace. The Health and Safety Executive provides a free downloadable stress risk assessment which you can use. You can download it here: https://www.hse.gov.uk/stress/risk-assessment.htm

  • Ask

It sounds simple doesn’t it? However it is easy to get caught up in the day to day things or to think that staff are no longer stressed because the lockdown is easing. Make a point of asking yourself and staff if they are ok. Not just ok in the workplace but ok overall. 

This can be done in formal reviews but can also be done in everyday conversations. 

  • Keep in touch

If you are still remote working as a temporary measure or as permanent measure make an effort to keep in touch. Not working in the same place sometimes means that you don’t see when someone is feeling a bit down. Emails, slack and other forms of business communication can easily just be about business so be intentional about keeping in touch. 

You may choose to have regular video meetings, team catch ups or quizzes, or physically meet up once a month or so.

This can help in fostering a culture where staff feel able to talk if they need to.

  • Monitor the workload

Some businesses have experienced a boom over the last year, others may have made staffing cuts and shared the work amongst the remaining staff. Try not to overload staff with too much work, too much over time can cause burnout which will result in more mistakes, lower quality work and sick days. By looking after your staff you will be looking after your business.

  • Have a shut down time

Being able to work from anywhere at any time sounds amazing but it can lead to us having less time to relax. It can be tempting to send an email at 11pm or on a Sunday morning because we can. The problem with this is that it can mean we don’t get dedicated time where we are not thinking about work. It may also mean that the recipient of that email feels the need to think about work during those unsociable hours. Try to have boundaries which includes a clear shut down time each day.

  • Remind people to take annual leave

This applies to both employers and employees. The ban on non-essential travel and the ability to work from home may mean that staff are less likely to take a break. Encourage staff to use their annual leave. Annual leave is a health and safety measure, it is there to help people to rest and recoup.

  • Training

Managers do not always know how to manage or identify stress in the workplace. You may want to consider stress in the workplace training for managers and their team members.

  • Contact professionals

Even though employers have a duty to protect staff from stress they are not always qualified or equipped to help. 

There are many mental health charities and professionals who can help with workplace wellbeing. You can reach out to them as a manager or colleague or you may choose to signpost staff to them.

Examples include:

Mind https://www.mind.org.uk/

Anxiety UK https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/

We hope you have found this blog useful. We have a number of other blogs on Employment Law and HR topics, you can find these on our website at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

Employer Responsibilities After Brexit

Now that the UK has officially left the EU, employers may be wondering what if anything they need to do about current and future staff who are  EU nationals. This blog is a whistle stop tour on where we are and what we need to do next.

Audit

The first step is to access whether any of your staff are directly impacted by Brexit. This means doing an audit of your staff to see how many EU nationals you currently have working for you. 

Remind and Encourage

All EU nationals who were in the UK up until 31st December 2020 are able to apply for an imingration status which will allow them to continue to have the right to work and live in the UK. 

There are two types of status which EU nationals can apply for and they are known as Settled and Pre-Settled.

Settled status is available to people who have been in the UK for 5 years or more.  Settled status allows EU nationals to work and live in the UK indefinitely providing they do not leave the UK for a period longer than 5 years.

Pre- Settled status is available to staff who have been in the UK for  less than 5 years. This status gives them the right to work and live in the UK for a temporary period and those with Pre-Settled status can apply to convert their status into Settled status once they have been in the UK for 5 years.

EU nationals have a deadline of 30th June 2021 to apply, employers should inform and gently encourage staff to apply. However, employers should be careful not to harass staff members.

After 30th June employers will need to check that all staff have the right to work.

Check qualifications

If your staff work in a regulated industry you will need to check to see whether their EU qualifications are still valid. In most cases they will be valid but it is still important to check via the .gov.uk website.

Sponsorship

EU nationals who arrived in the uk after 31st December 2020 will need to be sponsored by  a UK employer if they wish to work in the UK.

Employers must have a sponsorship licence in order to sponsor an employee. There is a cost for the licence and it can take up to 8 weeks for the licence to be approved.

If you currently have staff who require sponsorship or you have a business model which employs foreign nationals it is a good idea to apply for this licence early. You should note that sponsorship is not transferable so you cannot rely on sponsorship provided by a previous employer.

Staff who require sponsorship will be subject to a minimum earnings threshold of £25,600 per year and must be doing a job which has a minimum qualification entry of A levels or equivalent.

The minimum earnings threshold is reduced to £20,480 if the job is listed on the shortage occupation list.

There are also a number of other criteria which the employee or worker must meet in order to be eligible for sponsorship.

Need further information?

We hope that you have found this blog useful, if you require specific information about anything in the blog or any other Employment Law or HR matter please feel free to contact us at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

Reflecting On 2020

Here we are again in the final month of the year but  we can honestly say that this year has been like no other.

At Orchard Employment Law we have been a socially distanced shoulder to cry on, a virtual ear, a supporter of those businesses who have experienced growth and have had to keep up Employment Law changes which seemed to change almost monthly. We deciphered phrases like furlough, job support scheme and job retention scheme and tried to be there whenever we were needed.

We have seen some of our colleagues and clients struggle both personally and in business. Missing their loved ones, working from home whilst homeschooling, feeling the challenge of limited or no work or an increased demand for which they had not planned for. It is not all doom and gloom, we have also witnessed some amazing business pivots and even business mergers. Best of all community spirit has been wonderful and we have all learned to appreciate some of the simpler things in life.

Our team has grown to include Natalie one of our HR advisors. Lucy celebrated her 3rd year at Orchard. We also moved into a bigger office but ironically have spent much of the year working from home and it is fair to say that Jemma’s speaking skills have been in demand.

Jemma started the year by speaking at Olympia, a well known venue in London. By March it seemed as though business events would be a thing of the past but event planners and delegates across the UK moved to host some of the biggest digital events we had ever seen. It has been amazing to see how resilient and creative people can be. This resulted in Jemma speaking at over 20 events this year.

At this time of year we would usually be talking to readers about planning for the new calendar year however, we know that for many there is too much uncertainty for grand plans. 

So with that in mind we just want to wish you a Merry Christmas and hope for a happy New year.

The importance of managing misconduct (even if it is a small issue)

It is important to deal with employee matters as soon as possible, even if they are minor issues.

One reason for this is to avoid what we call ‘The Straw Effect’. The straw effect is where managers ignore small issues (usually because they want to be nice or do not wish to make a fuss) and then act what seems like unreasonably for a minor issue when in reality is is ‘the last straw’ or ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back.’

Employees need to be aware of what is and what is not acceptable in the workplace and if they are not informed of these then they will behave and carry out their work in the way(s) that they feel are correct.

It may be the case that minor issues are dealt with by having an informal chat with the employee. If the employee then carries as before then formal disciplinary actions may be required. If an employer does not deal with conduct issues at the time that they occur, there is very little that can be done about these in the future. They can be used as historical evidence in any future matters but, unless a disciplinary or conduct hearing is held and warnings are given to the employee at the time of the incident(s), an employer cannot give warnings for these incidents in the future, without reasonable reasoning. Misconduct issues should be dealt with and investigated as soon as they become known to management.

Failure to investigate misconduct not only sends the wrong message to employees but also runs the risk of scrutiny by third parties. Fair disciplinary procedures should apply to all alleged incidents of misconduct. These include investigation and disciplinary meetings (where necessary), the right for the employee to appeal the decision, and different individuals carrying out the different aspects of the process, i.e. one person carrying out the investigation, a second person carrying out the disciplinary and a third person dealing with any appeal.

If a business does not have enough members of management to carry out the different stages of the process, it may be that an outside party, such as a business owner from another business or an HR consultancy firm, carries out some of the process.

When disciplinary proceedings involve accusations of alleged historical misconduct that have only now come to light, additional issues must be taken into consideration, including: –

● Why have the allegations only come to light now?

This could simply be down to evidence only emerging now. The investigator should consider the time of the alleged incident(s) and whether the employee’s behaviour might not have merited disciplinary action at the time of the incident(s).

● Was the employee’s line manager aware of the alleged misconduct at the time it occurred?​

If the answer is yes then it is crucial that the investigation considers why disciplinary action was not undertaken earlier. If the misconduct was ignored or accepted by the line manager, there is the possibility that this could undermine any subsequent decision to dismiss or impose any other disciplinary action on the employee. If you have concerns that line managers are not performing to the correct duties, you should consider providing training on how to deal with misconduct in the workplace, including the importance of dealing with misconduct when it arises.

● How can we investigate something that happened in the past?

You must believe that the alleged misconduct actually took place, and be serious enough, for a dismissal to be considered fair. A proper investigation and disciplinary hearing must be carried out and evidence provided to support this belief. The circumstances of the alleged misconduct will determine what is reasonable. If witnesses are no longer available, you could base your decision on evidence if this evidence can be corroborated, sounds feasible and there appears to be no ulterior motive. If documents or other evidence are unavailable, then it may not be reasonable to rely on personal recollections of the contents of that evidence.

A recent case held at the Employment Tribunal has awarded the Claimant £25,000 compensation for unfair dismissal. Mr. Trice had worked for Southeastern Railway for eight years and, at the time of the incident which led to his dismissal, was working light duties at Paddock Wood Railway Station after suffering a broken ankle.

Mr Trice had found himself alone in the ticket office after his colleague had left the window open to go to the shop. A customer approached the window to buy a ticket and, although Mr Trice was not authorised to issue tickets, he went ahead and assisted the customer. Southeastern Railway started an investigation and during this period, Mr Trice admitted that he had acted incorrectly and was very apologetic.

Despite his contrition, Southeastern Railway dismissed him without notice. The colleague who had left the ticket window unattended to go to the shop was only giving a warning, despite also breaking the rules. The Employment Tribunal held that Mr Trice had been wrongly dismissed, saying: -​

“We agree that the Claimant’s actions constituted misconduct and warranted at least a warning but we do find it outside the reasonable range to dismiss. “The Claimant’s motive was to assist a customer, albeit misguided, and there was clear contrition and acceptance he should do differently in future.”

The tribunal went on to say that, instead of dismissing Mr Trice, Southeastern Railway should have provided further training.

This case highlights the fact that employers should consider both motive and whether or not a staff member is remorseful about any alleged misconduct.

We do not know the history of Mr Trice’s employment with Southeastern Railway and, therefore, cannot say if there had been any previous incidents which should have been investigated by Southeastern Railway but in which nothing was done.

It could be that Mr Trice’s conduct and disciplinary record with Southeastern Railway was, on paper, very good but if there were incidents that were not investigated and/or dealt with following correct procedures, then this could have influenced the decision to dismiss Mr Trice.

If you would like any further guidance on carrying out or assistance with conducting a proper disciplinary hearing, or for more information on management training, please feel free to contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

“We agree that the Claimant’s actions constituted misconduct and warranted at least a warning but we do find it outside the reasonable range to dismiss. “The Claimant’s motive was to assist a customer, albeit misguided, and there was clear contrition and acceptance he should do differently in future.” The tribunal went on to say that, instead of dismissing Mr Trice, Southeastern Railway should have provided further training. We do not know the history of Mr Trice’s employment with Southeastern Railway and, therefore, cannot say if there had been any previous incidents which should have been investigated by Southeastern Railway but in which nothing was done. It could very well be that Mr Trice’s conduct and disciplinary record with Southeastern Railway was, on paper, very good but if there were incidents that were not investigated and/or dealt with following correct procedures, then this could have influenced the decision to dismiss Mr Trice. If you would like any further guidance on carrying out or assistance with conducting a proper disciplinary hearing, or for more information on management training, please feel free to contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

If the answer is yes then it is crucial that the investigation considers why disciplinary action was not undertaken earlier. If the misconduct was ignored or accepted by the line manager, there is the possibility that this could undermine any subsequent decision to dismiss or impose any other disciplinary action on the employee. If you have concerns that line managers are not performing to the correct duties, you should consider providing training on how to deal with misconduct in the workplace, including the importance of dealing with misconduct when it arises. ● How can we investigate something that happened in the past? You must believe that the alleged misconduct actually took place, and be serious enough, for a dismissal to be considered fair. A proper investigation and disciplinary hearing must be carried out and evidence provided to support this belief. The circumstances of the alleged misconduct will determine what is reasonable. If witnesses are no longer available, you could base your decision on hearsay evidence if this evidence can be corroborated, sounds feasible and there appears to be no ulterior motive. If documents or other evidence are unavailable, then it may not be reasonable to rely on personal recollections of the contents of that evidence. A recent case held at the Employment Tribunal has awarded the Claimant £25,000 compensation for unfair dismissal. Tony Trice had worked for Southeastern Railway for eight years and, at the time of the incident which led to his dismissal, was working light duties at Paddock Wood Railway Station after suffering a broken ankle. Mr Trice had found himself alone in the ticket office after his colleague had left the window open to go to the shop. A customer approached the window to buy a ticket and, although Mr Trice was not authorised to issue tickets, he went ahead and assisted the customer. Southeastern Railway started an investigation and during this period, Mr Trice admitted that he had acted incorrectly and was very apologetic. Despite his contrition, Southeastern Railway dismissed him without notice. The colleague who had left the ticket window unattended to go to the shop was only giving a warning, despite also breaking the rules. The Employment Tribunal held that Mr Trice had been wrongly dismissed, saying: -​

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

If you have found this blog useful please share it with someone else.

Jemma’s experience and tips for managing teams remotely during the pandemic

This month’s blog is all about managing a team remotely. Probably for the first time in history more businesses than I care to imagine are managing whole teams remotely and whilst that can be good it certainly comes with some challenges.

At Orchard Employment Law we have always had an element of working home but it was nothing like this. We still tried to have an office day together at least once a week, however, since the outbreak of Covid-19 and the introduction of the term self-isolating, we have been working from home since 17th March 2020.

The biggest challenge was not doing the work. We try to be eco friendly where possible, our clients have always been able to contact us via telephone, email, and video conferencing. We have a CRM, a cloud storage system, electronic invoicing, and the ability to sign things electronically so we can technically work from anywhere. My preference would be a beach in the Caribbean but a few sunny days in the UK will have to suffice.

The challenge was and is keeping the team happy and motivated. Not one to do things by half, I onboarded a new member of staff at a time when we are compelled to work remotely. So I want to share some of the tips that might help other managers during this time.

 

  • Health and safety

 

For many working from home was not planned, this means your staff could be working around the kitchen table, on an ironing board or some other makeshift office space. Employers are still responsible for the health and safety of employees and whilst you cannot pop round to their home at the moment 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 online and it is free to fill in.

 

  • Let clients know that team members are working remotely

 

This will help to manage the client’s expectations and ultimately relieve some of the pressure from you and your team. Your clients will probably understand your position and may well be working from home too.

 

  • Have daily video meetings.

 

Zoom, Skype, BlueJeans, Whatsapp, Google hangouts and all of the other video conferencing apps 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. 

 

  • Have a plan

 

I am not usually one to plan each day but in times of uncertainty, it is even more important for staff to have a sense of leadership and direction. I have found it useful to have a written plan for the next day. This plan is then used in the daily morning video meetings.

 

  • Understand the plan won’t always go to plan

 

Sometimes stuff happens, sometimes the best plan in the world can’t be followed through. This could be for a number of reasons. A piece of technology could fail, the internet might be slow, a client may do something different, your staff might have a personal concern or there could be a power cut.

It is ok if the plan doesn’t go to plan. 

 

  • Acknowledge that your people are people

 

This is not like being at work in the office and it is probably not like the usual working from home. The house might be full of people they live with, your staff may be trying to homeschool, the neighbors might be noisy, the dog might be barking or they could just be feeling stressed due to the pandemic.

Take all of these things into consideration and let your staff know that you are available to talk.

 

  • Be clear about your expectations of work

 

You may have acknowledged that your people are dealing with a lot of unusual external factors but the work still has to be done right?

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 consider moving their hours temporarily, you may get more output early in the morning or late in the evening.

Sometimes you may still need to look at capability or disciplinary procedures.

 

  • Open your eyes to flaws in your systems and processes

 

This may be an opportunity to see weaknesses in a system that you believed was functional. Now is the perfect time to take feedback from staff on processes that could be improved to aid remote working. The chances are that it will strengthen the business in the long run.

 

  • Keep giving feedback

 

Don’t forget to provide reassurance and positive feedback when you can, it will help to boost morale. At the same time let staff know what can be improved, provide training and examples remotely if possible.

 

  • Have a switch-off time

 

Try not to contact staff on non-working days and outside of working hours. Encourage your team to switch the emails off and to divert phone calls so that they can switch their brain off from work. This will help with their mental health and stress levels.

Ask for help

We are here to help you with your queries about Employment Law, HR or general managing people. Contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog,

Jemma

Furlough Explained

Many businesses across the UK have been experiencing a downturn in revenue as a result of the worldwide covid19 outbreak and had to make some difficult decisions about staffing levels.

On Friday 20th March 2020 the government announced that they would support businesses and staff by introducing a Coronavirus Retention Scheme. The scheme means that the government will pay up to 80% of an employees salary up to the value of £2,500 if they have been furloughed during the pandemic.

The big question is what is Furlough and how do you do it?

The general rule is that employers have an obligation to provide work for employees (not zero-hours workers) as stated in the employment contract. This means that you are still required to pay your staff for their contractual hours if you send an employee home due to a shortage of work.

However, you will not have to pay employees to stay at home if you have the right to lay-off (also known as furlough) their staff. 

Lay off or furlough is not redundnacy or dismissal and they continue to accrue annual leave and other employment rights during this period. Lay off us usually or reduced pay with a minimum payment of £29 per day for 5 days within a 30 day period. In this instance, the staff will be paid a reduced salary.

Do I have the right to furlough staff?

Employers can furlough staff if they have a contractual right to do so. This is often termed as a lay-off clause in the contract.

If you have a lay-clause you must still follow some rules including:

  • Explain to staff what lay-off means
  • Tell staff of their rights during lay-off
  • Tell staff how long you expect the lay-off to last
  • Tell staff how much pay they will receive.

What if I don’t have a  lay-off clause in the contract?

The Coronavirus Retention Scheme is still subject to current UK Employment Law. This means that if you do not have a lay-off clause contract you will need to negotiate with staff to add an additional lay-off term.

At the moment, many staff are agreeing to the term but you cannot force them to do so.

It is important to note that any amendment to the terms of employment should be done in writing.

Choosing who to furlough

If all staff are not subject to lay-off it is important that you have a clear and transparent selection criteria for who will be laid-off.

Employers should be careful not to discriminate on the against staff on the grounds of 

  • Race
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Marital Status
  • Pregnancy or Maternity
  • Religion or belief
  • Disability

We hope that you have found this information useful, Contact us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk  if you would like advice or help with documentation for furlough or any other HR matter. 

Questions & Answers on Managing Staff Who Isolate Due To Coronavirus

We are all aware of COVID-19, the Coronavirus which is spreading throughout the world. We are, also, all aware of the preventative measures which we all need to be thinking about and doing in order to help stop this disease from spreading further.

Therefore, we did not want to give you another generic blog post preaching about and reminding you of all the things that you’ve already heard and read.

Instead, we thought it would be much more useful for you all to have some practical steps about what to do in your business in relation to COVID-19.

Question

What should I do if a member of my staff cannot attend work because their child’s school is closed and they do not have childcare?

Answer

Just because your business is staying open and your staff are well and have not been told to self-isolate, their children’s schools or childminders may decide to close, perhaps for a deep-clean, which means that some of your staff have no childcare and, therefore, might be unable to work.

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.

Perhaps think about allowing staff to arrive later at work, work from home or make up their hours on another occasion, and perhaps even allow them to bring their children into work. Of course, you need to ensure that the child in question is well and also not showing any signs of illness. They also need to be aged over 8 years old for insurance purposes. Allowing children into the workplace is a great way to give some educational, interactive and inspiring experiences to school-aged children, and also takes the pressure off their parents a bit as well.

Get the children involved in simple tasks and keep their minds occupied. But make sure that your insurance covers you when children are in the workplace.

Parent’s are also entitled to take parental leave which is unpaid leave to look after children.

Question

What should I do if a member of my staff has not been informed to do so by NHS 111 or their GP but still chooses to self-isolate?

Answer

If a member of staff is showing no signs of illness and has not been advised to self-isolate by a medic, but they still CHOOSE to self-isolate, you are under no obligation to pay that staff member.

However, it is good practice to allow the member of staff to take annual leave or unpaid leave or have alternative working arrangements.

Question

If I choose to close my business down for a period of time, do I still have to pay my staff?

Answer

You are under a legal obligation to provide work for permanent staff (unless you have a lay-off clause in your contract).

If you feel it necessary to close your business premises then, if possible, you could ask your staff to work from home or another location in order for you to not have to close down completely.

If you do not have a lay-off clause and you are unable to offer home-working or provide any work then you will still be required to pay your staff their normal wage or salary.

You can also force your staff to take annual leave. However, we strongly recommend against this unless it is absolutely necessary and you must give them 2 days notice for every day you want them to take off. Of course, you could ask your staff if they would prefer to take annual leave but we would recommend that they be the one to make that decision.

Question

What is the current legislation in relation to Statutory Sick Pay and Coronavuris?

Answer

Last week, the Prime Minister announced that the Government will be initiating emergency legislation in relation to Sick Pay.

It is proposed that the new Law will allow staff who self isolate to reduce the spread of Coronavirus to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day 1 of isolation.

Although this is emergency legislation, it could still take up to 3 months to come into effect.

Currently, staff who are unwell and earn on average at least £118 per week are only entitled to Statutory Sick Pay from day 4 of illness.

Employers are encouraged to pay Statutory Sick Pay to staff who self-isolate even though the law only applies to staff who are unable to work due to illness (or medical recommendation) and not those who self-isolate by choice.

Do you have more questions?

For further advice and guidance in relation to staff and Coronavirus or any other Employment Law query, contact us on 01634 564 136 or email us at info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk

Planning for changes in Employment Law for 2020

2020 is another year of changes to 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, and, of course, that much discussed and debated subject that is Brexit.

Written Statement of Terms and Conditions (Contracts)

First up, we have the Written Statement of Terms and Conditions, also known as a Contract.

Currently, an employer has up to eight weeks to supply Terms and Conditions of Employment to all employees who have been continuously employed for more than one month.

From 6th April 2020, all new employees and workers will have the right to a Statement of Written Particulars from their first day of employment. Additional information will also need to be included as part of this new extended right.

Employers will need to prepare for this change during their recruitment process and have the Employment Contract sent to their chosen candidate before ‘day one’ of employment.

Employers will also need to consider who will qualify as a worker, and issue Employment Contracts to employees whilst using a separate template when issuing particulars for workers.

 

Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay

There is currently no law regarding bereavement leave and pay for parents.

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 is due to come into force in April 2020. However, this has not yet been confirmed.

If it does come into force, parents who suffer the loss of a child under the age of 18 years or a stillbirth after 24 weeks’ of pregnancy, will have the right to two weeks’ bereavement leave and, in some cases, pay.

We have not yet received any details of the new entitlement or those who will qualify and these will be set out in separate regulations.

However, we do know that bereaved parents will be entitled to take this leave in one two-week block or in two separate blocks of one week and that the leave must be taken before the end of a period of at least 56 days beginning with the date of the child’s death.

Bereaved parents who have been continuously employed for a minimum of 26 weeks will also be entitled to receive Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay. Parents with less than 26 weeks’ continuous service will be entitled to take two weeks’ of unpaid leave.

 

Agency Worker Rights

There are three important changes to Agency Worker Rights which will come into effect on 6th April 2020: –

  • Currently, the Agency Worker Regulations 2010 entitles agency workers to receive the same pay and basic working conditions as direct employees once they have completed 12 weeks’ continuous service working in the same role.

Under the Swedish Derogation (sometimes referred to as ‘pay between assignments’ contracts), agency workers are able to agree to a contract which removes this right.

From 6th April 2020, the Swedish Derogation will be abolished and these contracts will no longer be permissible. All agency workers, after 12 weeks’ continuous service, will be entitled to the same rate of pay as their permanent coworkers;

  • From 6th April 2020, all agency workers will be entitled to receive a Key Information Statement which sets out more clearly what their employment relationship is and the terms and conditions with their agency;
  • From 6th April 2020, all agency workers who are considered as employees will be protected from unfair dismissal and/or suffering a detriment if the reasons are in relation to asserting rights linked to The Agency Worker Regulations 2010.

 

Holiday Pay Calculations

The current way to calculate holiday pay can be complicated, especially for those employees with variable hours and variable rates of pay. The current holiday pay reference period is 12 weeks.

From 6th April 2020, this holiday pay reference period will increase to 52 weeks, meaning that employers will need to look at the previous 52 weeks where a worker has worked and received pay (disregarding any weeks when the worker did not work or where no payment was received) in order to calculate the average weekly pay.

 

National Minimum Wage Amounts

National Minimum and Living Wage amounts always change in April of each year and 2020 is no different.

The current rates are as follows: –

Age Rate

25 years and over £8.21

21 to 24 years £7.70

18 to 20 years £6.15

Under 18 years £4.35

Apprentice £3.90

From 6th April 2020, these rates will change, as follows: –

Age Rate

25 years and over £8.72

21 to 24 years £8.20

18 to 20 years £6.45

Under 18 years £4.55

Apprentice £4.15

 

Brexit

First of all, we all know that the UK is due to leave the European Union at midnight on Friday 31st January and when this happens, it is likely to bring about changes to the way the employment law world works, although any changes are unlikely to happen straight away. However, businesses will still need to be prepared.

At the moment, existing legislation and case law still applies and will continue to do so until new legislation is brought in.

Whether or not the UK is able to withdraw from current EU legislation and requirements will, ultimately, depend on the UK’s relationship with the EU and other countries. It is possible that trade agreements with other countries will be based upon some if not all, current EU employment legislation.

Any changes that do come into force will not necessarily be immediate or even significant, for the following reasons: –

  • A lot of EU employment law is based on UK legislation, meaning these will remain in place until amended;
  • Many UK employment rights, such as National Minimum Wage Amounts and unfair dismissal rights, do not arise from EU legislation.
  • In many other cases, UK legislation provides protection which far exceeds the EU minimum, for example, maternity leave and the right to 5.6 weeks’ holiday (EU law states a four-week minimum).
  • Changes to primary legislation need the approval of Parliament, and so the Government at the time of any changes will need to consider whether any amendments are politically favourable.

If you have any questions or queries about anything in this blog, or if there is anything employment law or HR related that you need help with, please get in touch with us by emailing info@orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk 

Hiring a self-employed Freelancer

When thinking of getting some additional help from a freelancer to help with a big
project, a little planning will help to avoid any problems that may crop up.
The first thing to think about is that hiring a self-employed freelancer means that some
employment legislation that normally applies to UK workers (National Minimum
Wage, Working Time Regulations etc) don’t apply to genuine freelancers and quite often a freelancer will set their own rate of pay.

It is very important to find out exactly what the freelancer’s employment status is before you start signing them up – you don’t want to be neglecting their worker rights.
Be clear with them from the very start – explain exactly what it is that you need
them for. How long will the work take? Will there be an ongoing requirement for the
job, or is it a one-off? Will they need to work in your office or can they work
remotely?

Be specific, honest and clear about your needs.
Also, make sure that you listen to the freelancer’s needs as well. They may have
their own ideas that you, your business and the project in question could really
benefit from.
Put it in writing
Once you’ve found the right person, it’s important that you get the right paperwork
in place. Having a contract drawn up and signed means that both you and the
freelancer are legally protected should things go wrong at any point.
What would happen if you paid the freelancer half of the cost of the project upfront,
but then the freelancer disappears?  If you have a contract then they can still be held
legally accountable. It can be very risky for small businesses and freelancers to work
without a contract in place, so it is very important to have a signed agreement in
place before any work begins or money changes hands.
Finally, make sure you communicate with the freelancer during the project. Schedule
regular meetings, ask how they’re finding the work and discuss any ideas the two of
you may have about improving the project. It’s important not to come across as
overbearing and to show the freelancer that you trust them to work independently,
but communication is important.
Practicalities of Working with a Freelancer
Once you have chosen the person that you wish to work with, you need to ensure
that you do not treat them as anything other than a self-employed contractor. If you
do otherwise, you could be liable for worker rights etc.
To ensure that the contract is one of the services provided, make sure that the following
is undertaken: –
1. The Agreement between you and the Freelancer should specify that they are
self-employed;2. In an ideal world the Freelancer will have their own limited company;
3. The Agreement should state how much the Freelancer will be paid;
4. The Freelancer should invoice you after the completion of the services
provided;
5. The Freelancer should be able to subcontract work to other people with the
relevant skills, qualifications and insurance. However, they should not do this
without your prior written consent, which should not be unreasonably
withheld;
6. The Freelancer should provide evidence of indemnity and insurance for the
services which they will provide;7. Try not to fall into the trap of treating the freelancer as an employee, e.g. do
not pay holiday pay, sick pay or give a bonus;
8. The Freelancer should be able to do work for other businesses.

For more help and advice with self-employed Freelancers contact us at http://www.orchardemploymentlaw.co.uk