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Post covid many employers are asking where they stand in the wake Of the self-isolation period ending and how this affects their current contracts and policies.

On 24th February 2022 England started “living with and managing” the risk of Covid-19, following the Government’s announcement in February.  One of the biggest changes was that the period of self-isolation that was previously required was removed.

This was not the only change. On 1st April 2022 free Covid-19 testing, such as PCR and Lateral Flow tests, stopped being offered by the Government, apart from to people in an at-risk group. The Government also stopped refunding statutory sick pay (SSP) for Covid-19 related absences, as well as ending “day 1” SSP on 24th March 2022.

What does this mean to you?

Whilst England has removed its measures, you still have a duty of care to your staff as an employer post covid. This applies throughout the UK. As such you do need to take steps to reasonably manage the risk of Covid-19 to your staff and have particular care for any vulnerable staff you have. We would therefore recommend carrying out an up-to-date risk assessment and reviewing your policies and procedures. As a business, you may:

As Boris Johnson said, individuals will need to take “personal responsibility.” Managing absence will continue under your existing absence management policy, but the important thing is that you assess the risk to your own staff, clients and businesses and set this out clearly in your policies. Taking legal advice on those policies and procedures to ensure compliance with employment law, particularly in relation to discrimination and health and safety issues, is strongly advised.

Updating Staff Contracts and Polices

Given the evolution of how the workplace operates in the wake of Covid-19, it is important to make sure that all contracts and policies are up-to-date.

What does this mean to you?

Contracts are the tool employers use and rely on to set out how the employment relationship will work. For example. they set out working times and places of work, which may be something that has changed since pre-pandemic times. You may also offer different benefits or staff incentives. Furthermore, s. 1 Employment Rights Act 1996 changed the minimum requirement for a contract of employment on 6th April 2020 and contracts for new starters should comply with this. As such, now is a good time to review your contracts.

As outlined in “managing sickness above”, new policies may need to be implemented, or existing policies may need to be reviewed. It is good practice to review your polices on an annual basis. Policies, assuming they’re not contractual, do not require employee approval and should therefore be easy to update.

If you would like advice or guidance post covid in regard to your company’s policies and procedures…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558. Our experience Employment and HR law team is on hand to assist you with all you need to know. We’re here for you.

Can employees insist on working from home and how should employers handle these types of requests…

During the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, working from home had risen by around 37%. But, with coronavirus restrictions being lifted on 24th February 2022, there are now questions being raised by both employers and employees as to whether individuals have a legal right to work from home and how requests to work from home should be handled.

What are the current rules on working from home?

On 21st February 2022, the government introduced a new strategy to help England to begin ‘living with covid’ which lifted the guidance on working from home moving forwards.

Is there a legal right to work from home?

There is no legal right to work from home unless it has been outlined within an employee’s contract of employment, or if an employer has made a separate agreement to introduce home working permanently.

Making a request to work from home

Despite there being no legal right to work from home employees do have the legal right to make a flexible working request if they meet certain eligibility criteria, including having the requisite length of service. An employer can choose to either accept or reject this request but this is subject to the circumstances of the case.

How should employers deal with a flexible working request?

An employer is expected to comply with legislation and the ACAS Code of Practice when handling a flexible working request. If they fail to do so, it could give an employee a claim in the Employment Tribunal for up to 8 weeks’ pay and the Tribunal could order that the application is reconsidered.

As part of the process when considering a request, an employer should arrange a meeting to discuss the request and issue a decision within 3 months of receiving it. Any rejection must be compliant with the reasons prescribed under legislation, and an employer can’t simply reject a request because they aren’t willing to accommodate home working. An example of a valid reason could be the burden of additional costs.

What is likely to happen in the future?

As a result of the working arrangements during the pandemic, around 72% of the public stated that they would leave their job if they are dissatisfied with their employer’s policy on home working. This suggests that there is likely to be a rise in flexible working applications in the absence of employees having a legal right to work from home.

It also indicates that employers may need to shift their attitudes to home working in order to keep up with employees’ demands on their work flexibility expectations.

This has led to the trial of introducing the four day work week in order to mitigate this issue.

Introduction of the four day work week:

As detailed in our recent article: Four day working week trial to take place in the UK,  the UK has recently introduced a four day work week through a six-month trial period, with 30 participating companies. This is a way to gain some understanding of whether working four days a week for the same wage would increase or maintain productivity when working for 80% of the time.  By moving to a productivity focused approach, it may enable companies to reduce work hours and keep up with the changing work model demands as a result of the pandemic.

Should the trial in the UK be successful, then the public could be entitled to a four-day work week. This would meet the demand during the era of ‘the great resignation’ and lead to the retention of staff and also the attraction of new staff.

If you have a question or would like further information regarding the four day work week and how this may impact your business… Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558. Our Employment team is on hand to assist you with all you need to know. We’re here for you.

More information on the four-day work week pilot can be found here

 

 

 

As you will have seen in the news last week, the Government has announced that in all likelihood all Covid restrictions will be lifted later this month. Self-isolation is also set to end on or around 24 March 2022.

A lot of employers will be worried about what this means for them. Employees will have pre-Covid contracts of employment that require them to work in a specific location, usually the employer’s premises. However, since the pandemic, the majority of staff will have been working from home and may prefer to stay that way.

What should employers look out for?
  1. Health and Safety

As an employer, you are legally responsible for protecting your employees from health and safety risks. It is important that you carry out health and safety risk assessments and review the handling of Covid symptoms and positive cases. If an employee feels that their health and safety is at risk of serious and imminent danger, they have the legal right to refuse to attend work. If an employee is subjected to a detriment for this reason, it could give rise to a tribunal claim.

  1. Discrimination

By creating a blanket requirement that all staff will need to return to the office full-time, or even part-time, it may put certain people at a disadvantage. Remember that one size may not fit all. Dismissing staff who refuse to return to work, may lead to tribunal claims, so there is a need to tread carefully. Any changes to the current working arrangements should account for any impact on those with medical conditions or disabilities. It is important to have a safe space for employees to raise any concerns they have.

  1. Flexible Working

The ‘normal’ way of working has been subject to significant changes since the start of the pandemic, with an increase in home-working/hybrid working. Where employers are asking employees to return to the office or change their current working patterns, they should also expect to see a rise in flexible working requests.

How can we help?

We can draft a policy to reflect any changes to your expected working arrangements and assist you through any flexible working requests. We can also advise on processes to follow, should you have a staff member who is reluctant to return to work.

If you have a question or would like further information regarding the possible Covid restrictions being lifted and how this may impact your business… Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558. Our Employment team is on hand to assist you with all you need to know. We’re here for you.

What the BBC has to say on the possible lifting of restrictions…

In an attempt to relieve the pressure on GPs amidst the ongoing Covid pandemic and the vaccine booster rollout, the Government has announced a temporary change to the requirement to provide a fit note during periods of sickness absence.

What are the changes?

For any periods of sickness absence which were reported on or after 10 December 2021, or up to and including 26 January 2022, employees will be able to self-certify their absence for up to 28 days, up from the previous 7 days. For absences that last for more than 28 days, a fit note would still need to be submitted in the usual way.

How will the change impact employers in practice?

Whilst the change enables an employee to take a longer period of absence without obtaining medical evidence, given that most common illnesses are likely to be short-lived, it is unlikely that an employee will need to self-certify for the full 28 days unless they are suffering from a long-term or serious illness. With that in mind,  you can continue to monitor absences and consider commencing an absence management process if you have concerns.

It is important to note that employees will still be obliged to comply with any reporting requirements under an existing sickness absence policy, including the requirement to report in daily to provide an update on their health and their anticipated return. If an employee fails or refuses to comply then you may have grounds to commence a formal disciplinary process.

What do the changes mean for you?

As the change surrounding fit notes is intended to be temporary, it is unnecessary to update existing sickness absence policies at this stage. That being said businesses should continue to treat absences in the usual way and in accordance with the terms of any absence policy, save for requesting that an employee provides a fit note where they fall under the amended scheme.

If you have a question or would like further information regarding these temporary changes and how they could affect you as an employer… Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558 and speak to our Employment Team who is here for you.

What the Government say…

More about absence management...

As you will have read, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) or Furlough Scheme has been extended beyond 31st October 2020 and will now remain open until “December”. At the present time no end date has been given and we believe that the scheme will remain in force for as long as the new lockdown restrictions remain.  At the moment that is until 2 December 2020.  Here is what else we know:

What does this mean to you?

If you have already agreed with your staff to go onto the JSS, then you will need to speak to them and explain that it has been postponed. They could be furloughed instead, but as always, please don’t hesitate to contact us to talk through doing it properly. We have some wording you can use. Any communication with staff who have already agreed to the JSS, needs to be sent out urgently as this scheme no longer applies at the present time. As before, if you intend to place an employee on furlough, this will need to be communicated in writing.

It is unclear whether staff being placed on the extended CJRS for the first time will affect the Job Retention Bonus, but we’ll update you when the Government provides clarity.

If you have a question regarding the new changes, the continuation of the Furlough Scheme or would like to understand the implications for your business and/or employees…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558.  Our Employment and Commercial teams are on hand to assist you with all you need to know.

https://www.tollers.co.uk/legal-services-for-business/

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced yesterday that the Job Support Scheme (JSS) has been updated and adapted to reflect the “the pressure businesses in some sectors and areas are facing”. The Government has said that the JSS may be subject to adaptation and the new updates are designed to help open businesses who are struggling.

In our previous article, we set out the JSS and answered the questions we were commonly being asked about it. That article can be found here: https://www.tollers.co.uk/new-job-support-scheme-jss-what-you-need-to-know/. Now, the Government have announced a change to the minimum amount of hours worked by an employee and the employer and Government’s contributions under the JSS, so some aspects of our article are now out of date.

What are the changes?

As of 1st November 2020:

  1. employees need to work a minimum of 20% of their normal working hours, rather than 33% to be eligible for the JSS;
  2. for the remaining 80% of hours that are not worked (Unworked Hours), the employer will pay 5% (rather than 33%) of the Unworked Hours. This reduction means that the Government will pay 61.67% of the Unworked Hours, subject to an increased cap of £1541.75 per month.
  3. In cases where an employee works the minimum 20%, the effect of this is that the Government will pay just under half of the salary and overall the employee will receive 73% of their normal salary, if the cap doesn’t apply.

The above are the only changes announced for now and so the rest of the JSS remains unaltered. The Job Retention Bonus will still operate alongside the JSS.

For businesses who are forced to close due to the Tier System, the local Furlough Scheme will still apply. You can find out more about that here: https://www.tollers.co.uk/local-furlough-scheme-announced/.

What does this mean to you?

The employer contribution is a significant reduction from the previous position, meaning that employers need only pay an extra 5% of wages on top of the hours actually being worked by the employee. No doubt this will make the scheme more attractive to struggling businesses. However, as mentioned above, the rest of the JSS, which is not amended, remains unchanged, so it’s still worth looking at our FAQ’s for more information. Employers wishing to take advantage of the JSS, will need to bear in mind that:

At Tollers we can assist you with a JSS Agreement for an affordable cost. To find out more and to discuss the best way forward for you and your employees…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558, our employment team are on hand to guide you through and assist you to make informed decisions.

A new Local Furlough Scheme has been announced by the Chancellor, following on from the Prime Ministers announcement on the 12th October 2020 outlining the details of a new three tier system of restrictions which will be implemented in an effort to try and slow the spread of coronavirus across the country as we head into the winter months.

The Three Tier System

Whilst the majority of the country will initially fall under the “medium” alert level, or “tier 1”, and will therefore remain subject to the restrictions that are currently are in place (including hospitality closing at 10pm, and the Rule of Six), other areas have been categorised as tier 2 (“high”) with the Liverpool City Region designated within the “very high” alert level (“tier 3”) from the outset of the system.  The tighter restrictions under the three tier system came into force on Wednesday.

Under the tier 3 restrictions, pubs and bars must close, and may only remain open if they serve substantial meals. Local leaders in the Liverpool City Region have additionally agreed that indoor gyms, betting shops and leisure centres should also close under the restrictions.

In light of the potentially devastating restrictions this new system could cause on businesses and workers alike, Mr Sunak announced a local furlough scheme designed to support workers in businesses which are forced to close as a result of these new coronavirus restrictions.

How does the local furlough scheme work?

The new local furlough scheme, which is an expansion of the Job Support Scheme (JSS), provides that workers who are unable to work as a result of the closure of their workplace for at least seven consecutive days will be paid two thirds of their wages by the Government, up to a maximum of £2,100 a month.

This will only apply where the closure is as a direct result of the restrictions under the tiered system, and businesses will not be able to claim if they close for economic reasons or have to close due to an outbreak of coronavirus within the workplace.

Will employers need to contribute?

Under the local scheme employers are not required to contribute or top up wages of workers, but will have to cover national insurance and pension contributions. The expanded scheme differs from the original announcement in respect of the JSS under which employees must work at least 33% of their “normal hours” and employers will contribute towards some of the wages.  For more information about that, please see our article, which answers the top questions we have been asked about the JSS. The article can be read here: https://www.tollers.co.uk/new-job-support-scheme-jss-what-you-need-to-know/

How long will the scheme last?

The scheme will begin on 1 November and will be available for six months, with a review in January.

If you have a question or would like to understand the implications for your business and/or employees…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558.  Our Employment and Commercial teams are on hand to assist you with all you need to know.

 

Following the Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s announcement last Thursday regarding the New ‘Job Support Scheme’, the teams at Tollers have been busy dealing with all your queries and helping to clarify the numerous questions that have arisen as a result of the announcement.  We have outlined below the answers to the main questions we are being asked.

When does the JSS start?

The JSS starts on 1st November 2020 and will run for 6 months. It is intended to commence once the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) concludes on 31st October 2020.

Which companies are eligible?

The JSS is open to all employers, with a UK bank account and UK PAYE schemes. This is regardless of whether or not the employer, or the employee have previously taken advantage of the CJRS.

However, large businesses will need to meet a financial assessment test. As such, the scheme is only open to those companies whose turnover is lower now than it was before they started experiencing problems arising from Covid-19. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will not have a financial assessment.

Large employers who qualify for the JSS will be expected not to make capital distributions, such as dividend payments or share buybacks, whilst using the scheme.

Which employees are eligible?

The JSS applies to all employees, even if they have not been previously “furloughed” under the CJRS. However:

  1. They must be in viable employment from 1st November 2020;
  2. No redundancy notice can be served on them whilst they are being paid under the JSS;
  3. They must have been on the employer’s Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC on or before 23 September 2020;
  4. To show that the work is viable, employees must work at least 33% of their “normal hours” (this may be increased after 3 months of the JSS being in place).
What are “normal hours”?

For furloughed staff, this is the actual or usual hours they worked pre-Furlough.

For non- furloughed staff, this the hours that they usually work, either over an average period if they don’t work fixed hours, or on their actual fixed hours if they do.

The average hours are calculated in the same way as they were under the CJRS, but more details should follow.

Can employees work for more than 33% of their normal hours?

They can.  In order to qualify an employee has to work a minimum of 33% of their normal hours.  There is no maximum reported as the scheme is designed to apply to employees whose employers only require them to work lesser hours due to companies facing a lower demand as result of Covid-19. More details will follow.

How long should the working pattern last?

The working patterns can vary and employees can come off and on the scheme. However, each pattern of short term working (of at least 33% of the employee’s normal hours) must be over at least a 7 day period.

Who pays what under the JSS?

The employer will pay for the hours worked by the employee at their normal contractual rate. To qualify the hours worked must be at least 33% of their normal working hours.  The remaining unworked hours are accounted for as follows:

The Government will pay 33% of the value of the employee’s unworked normal hours up to a maximum of £697.92 per month.  The employer will also pay 33% of the value of the employee’s unworked normal hours but with no cap.  The final 33% of the employee’s unworked hours remain unpaid.

This means that in cases where the employee is only required to work 33% of their normal hours, the employee will still receive at least 77% of their normal pay (save for in cases where the cap on Government’s contribution is applied).  That will equate to the employer paying 55% of the value of an employee’s normal hours and the Government paying 22% (although capped at £697.92 per month).

Where the employee’s hours worked are more than 33% but are still less than their normal hours the calculation is the same.  The employer will pay for the hours worked with any unworked hours still being split as 33% Government, 33% Employer and 33% unpaid.

The implementation of this scheme will amount to a reduction in pay and in some cases, a change to an employee’s normal working hours. As such, employees should consent to be paid and employed under the terms of the JSS.

Will NI and pension contributions be paid?

Unlike the first few months of the CJRS, the Government will not pay for Class 1 employer NIC or pension contributions. These remain payable by the employer.

Will notice pay be recoverable under the JSS?

This is a scheme designed to support the jobs of staff who are in employment with viable jobs. Unlike with the CJRS, which was designed to keep people employed when there was no work to do, the JSS is designed for staff not at risk of redundancy. As such the Government will not cover any contractual notice payments.

Can the Job Retention Bonus still be claimed if the employees are being paid under the JSS?

Yes. The two schemes are intended to work alongside each other. The Job Retention Bonus is payable to any previously furloughed employee, who remains employed until 31st January 2021. Both schemes are intended to support existing and viable jobs.

How will the grant under the JSS be paid?

The payments will be made in arrears following a claim for a given pay period, after an RTI submission to the HMRC. Payments will be made monthly and the HMRC will check claims. The grants can be used to reimburse wages already paid.

If you have a question or would like to understand the implications of the scheme for your business and/or employees…Talk to Tollers on 01604 258558.  Our Employment team and Commercial teams are on hand to assist you with all you need to know.

https://www.tollers.co.uk/legal-services-for-business/

Since the Prime Minister announced further measures on 22nd September and with the current Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) “Furlough”, coming to a close at the end of October, we have been waiting to hear the Chancellor’s plans for a new type of job support scheme. Mr Sunak announced on 24th September a new job support scheme. Here is what we understand it to mean

What does this mean to you?

Well, as always with news that is just breaking, we can expect to find out more details over the coming weeks. No doubt we can expect to see further caps on what the Government is prepared to pay and restrictions on who would be eligible for under the JSS. As always, we’ll let you know more when we can.

The JSS is designed to sit alongside the Jobs Retention Bonus, so companies can benefit from both schemes in order to help protect jobs. What is important to note here is that this JSS applies to employees in work and who can work at least a third of their normal working hours, therefore being in viable jobs. Companies will not be able to issue redundancy notices to employees employed under the JSS. For some of you this will therefore not negate the need for redundancies. It is important that any redundancy process is carried out fairly. ACAS, the TUC and CBI have announced a joint statement, setting out 5 key principles for a redundancy process:

  1. Do it openly: there are rules for collective redundancies (those involving 20 or more staff), but whatever the scale, the sooner people understand the situation, the better for everyone.
  2. Do it thoroughly: to understand what’s happening people need information and guidance. Have you trained your staff representatives in how it all works?
  3. Do it genuinely: consultation means hearing people’s views before you make a decision; so be open to alternatives from individuals and/or unions; and always feedback.
  4. Do it fairly: all aspects of your redundancy procedure should be conducted fairly and without any form of discrimination.
  5. Do it with dignity: losing your job has a human as a well as a business cost. The way you let people go says a lot about your organisation’s values. Think about how you will handle the conversation – whether it’s face-to-face or remote. And remember, you may want to rehire the same person in the future.

How Tollers can help:

With so many changes happening during the current climate, the Employment team at Tollers have been working with businesses to provide advice and guidance in regard to the employment issues they find themselves facing.  The team have also seen a rise in the requirement for two of their key off the shelf products.  The useful Redundancy Manager toolkit, which assists businesses to navigate the redundancy process, for a fixed fee, has been in huge demand and the Tollers HR package which helps employers manage the HR side of their business, ensuring that they have access to assistance and relevant legal advice from our specialist employment team regarding the HR issues they find themselves facing  https://www.tollers.co.uk/employment-law-solicitors/tollers-hr/.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the New Jobs Support Scheme, what it means to your business or for further information on how the employment team can assist … talk to Tollers on 01604 248558. We’re here for you.

The Government announced on 30th July 2020 that any furloughed worker, who is then made redundant, will have their statutory redundancy payment (“SRP”) calculated in accordance with their normal contractual wage and not their furloughed wage. This comes into effect from 31st July 2020. Read more here.

What does this mean to you?

The Government have written into law that the SRPs for employees on furlough leave and who are then made redundant, are based on 100% of either the employee’s fixed salary, if they have one, or 100% of the average of their hours worked, pre-furlough.

Whilst you may have expected to calculate the SRP for employees on their fixed salary as if they were working their usual contractual hours, you may have been hoping that the SRPs for those working on flexible hours, could be calculated using their recent average and therefore take furlough pay into account. This will not be the case. Instead for employees whose hours vary, employers will need to look at the average earnings pre-furlough, over a reference period, in this case 12 weeks, and use that weekly wage to calculate the SRP.

Are you considering making redundancies?

At Tollers we have an experienced team of employment lawyers who can guide you through a redundancy process in a cost effective manner to suit your budget. We know that financial considerations are key at the moment.

We have a useful toolkit, called Redundancy Manager, which we can offer, for a fixed price, to help you navigate the redundancy process. It’s tried and tested, to find out more, please contact us.

The Firm also have the Tollers HR product, which in this current climate, we are pleased can give peace of mind, for 12 months, in dealing with staff at a fixed cost, which is insured and can be budgeted for. https://www.tollers.co.uk/employment-law-solicitors/tollers-hr/.

For more information regarding the payments of SSP or the calculation of SRPs, the changes in regard to redundancy payment and for all your employment and legal HR requirements… talk to Tollers on 01604 258558 and the Employment team will be happy to assist and guide you through.

https://www.tollers.co.uk/employment-law-solicitors/redundancy-and-restructuring/

 

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