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Archive for the ‘government’ Category

Preparing the Workforce for Impending Strikes

In absence, business principles, Employment law, government, pay, workers on June 20, 2022 at 11:08 am

Significant travel disruption is expected on 21, 23, and 25th June as members of the RMT Union strike over pay, proposed job cuts, and conditions. The action includes drivers, guards, catering staff, signallers, and track maintenance workers, effectively shutting down the national railway network. It is expected that service will be reduced to a fifth of the normal capacity.

Action point:

If your employees are unable to get to work:

  • What alternatives are there? E.g. work from home, hybrid workers could change their work at home days, agree annual leave, enforce annual leave (this can only be done with twice the length of the annual leave to be enforced eg two days’ notice to enforce one day of annual leave, and so employers looking to do this should do so soon), use banked time in lieu, agree period of flexible working
  • If the employees are to work their contracted hours or use authorised leave they are entitled to be paid as normal

If your employees will be/are late:

  • check what your contracts say about pay/absence
  • Be wary of rounding up’ pay, e.g. when an employee arrives 10 minutes late for an 8.00am shift they will not be paid until 8.30am. Employees may feel this unfair when lateness is due to strikes and it could also be deemed an unlawful deduction of wages. It could also cause pay to dip below National Minimum Wage for lower-paid workers.
  • Employees could be given the option of working the time back.
  • Employers could treat these instances differently to other types of lateness as they are not the employees’ fault and they may not have any other option. Make sure that this approach is applied consistently across the workforce, and be aware that this could set a precedence for future instances.

If care arrangements are affected:

  • Care, child-care settings, and schools may have to close or limit their provision if their staff are adversely affected by the situation. Employees have a statutory right to unpaid time off to care for dependants.
  • If this is likely to be an issue we recommend having a conversation with your employees as soon as possible to see what arrangements can be made.

If you would like to know more about this topic contact Rob Bryan Associates – 01462 732444 / rob@robertbryan.co.uk

Government to extend the scope of exclusivity ban

In contracts, Employment law, Equality, government, pay, workers on June 20, 2022 at 10:58 am

An exclusivity clause within a contract prevents a worker from being free to take other work or work for another employer whilst being on standby awaiting work.

Back in 2015, the government looked at restrictive practices used by some employers using zero-hour contracts. For a zero-hours contract “exclusivity clauses” are already banned and unenforceable.

The government has now announced that any exclusivity restrictions placed upon workers whose earnings are below or equivalent to the lower earnings limit (currently £123 per week) will also be banned. Clearly, there is scope for this band to be widened in the future. No date has yet been set for implementation however the legislation will also give workers protection from unfair dismissal and the right not to be subjected to detriment for failing to comply with an exclusivity clause. There is also a right to claim compensation.

Action point:

There isn’t yet a date for when the change will come into force but it is due in Parliament later in 2022. Employers can prepare by:

  • reviewing employment contracts and amending any exclusivity clauses to apply only to those earning above the LEL
  • Work out the weekly earnings for employees so that you are aware who the rules apply to
  • Update policies and procedures e.g. employers can still require staff to tell them that they have additional employment even if exclusivity cannot be enforced
  • Check total working hours – to comply with Working Time Regulations, those working more than 48 hours per week across all employment need to sign an opt-out agreement
  • Consider if a restrictive covenant is necessary e.g. employees who want to work for a competitor or if there is confidential/sensitive information at risk.

If you would like to know more about this topic contact Rob Bryan Associates – 01462 732444 / rob@robertbryan.co.uk

Managing Covid guidance in the workplace

In absence, business principles, covid-19, Employment law, government, health and safety on March 21, 2022 at 11:46 am

The government has removed the legally mandatory requirement for people in England with Covid to self-isolate. The legislation was removed with guidance taking its place from 24 February.

Following this announcement rates of infection across the whole of the UK have dramatically risen. For employers, working with guidance is potentially more difficult. Many questions arise in relation to how a business can protect itself, how to manage sickness absence and related pay, what testing should take place and how risks should be managed.

Not all workplaces are the same. Employers are advised to consider their own risk assessments, and this will mean assessing the spread of a contagious disease, the dangers arising and the potential consequence for anyone exposed to the risk, such as employees, customers or contractors. Although the word advised is used, all employers have legal obligations to carry out risk assessment in relation to all of their business activities. Specific separate guidance applies to employers in health care settings.

Guidance (see link to Gov.uk)

Guidance in relation to self-isolation for the first 5 days states that employees should remain away from work. The guidance also advocates testing and managing the risk of returning to the workplace from days 5 to 10.

Sick Pay

On 24 March, entitlement to statutory sick pay will revert to the pre-pandemic rules. This means statutory sick pay is payable on day 4 of absence and will require an employee to actually be sick or incapacitated from work, rather than “affected by Covid”. So SSP will no longer cover for isolation in the home for looking after someone who is isolating.

Testing

Without a regime of free testing, identifying sources of potential infection will rely on self-reported symptoms. For some there are no symptoms. For any business identifying a critical need for preventing workplace contagion, testing will need to continue. From 1 April free tests are expected to be withdrawn.

The combination of removing an incentive to remain away from the workplace and the means of identifying potential spread makes managing this situation harder. For businesses impact assessments highlighting critical delivery of services, general workplace safety or the protection of vulnerable people, management of this issue will be of vital importance.

Where a business can justify testing and the enforcement of isolation, nothing in the government’s announcement changes or interferes with the employer’s ability to manage its workplace and workforce. Mandatory testing for employees may be justified and indeed essential. Some employers are contemplating amendments to their sickness and absence policies to pay sick pay in support of effectively monitoring and managing the business risks.

Special situations

Some employees will have concerns for their personal welfare. This may be an underlying medical condition, a fear of working in close proximity to others, travelling in crowded spaces and perhaps concerns of passing Covid to other vulnerable members of their family or household. The government’s announcement, together with “living with Covid” and returning to normal, will have an adverse impact on some employees. The ongoing advice for employers remains discussing specific arrangements with individuals and identifying, where possible, practical alternatives to office space working or rush-hour travelling.

In summary we suggest:

1. Making an updated and current assessment of COVID infection risk within your workplace activities and those people impacted by your work

2. Communicate the measures you have and are going to put in place along with any options for alternative working arrangements, potentially with a review date

3. Consider how COVID-related sickness absence will be treated together with any company sick pay support and options for alternative working and communicate

*the changes from 24 March do not affect Wales or Scotland, you may have to consider separate approaches across your business in these areas.

Repeal of vaccination as a condition of employment

In business principles, contracts, covid-19, Employment law, government, health and safety, Uncategorized on March 7, 2022 at 1:29 pm

The Government is proceeding with revoking vaccination as a condition of deployment (VCOD) in all health and social care settings.

The regulations revoking VCOD in all health and social care settings will come into force on 15 March 2022.

The Government is still strongly encouraging social care staff to take the vaccine.

The operational guidance, Covid-19 Vaccination of People Working or Deployed in Care Homes applies to regulated activity in a care home, i.e., the provision of accommodation together with nursing or personal care, and all professionals and tradespeople who enter these settings, now reflects this decision.

The Government’s response stated: “In light of this latest scientific evidence and having considered the views received as part of the consultation, as well as an analysis of equalities impacts the Government will bring forward regulations to revoke vaccination as a condition of deployment.

“The regulations will revoke the requirements that CQC registered persons only permit those who are vaccinated against Covid-19, unless otherwise exempt, to be deployed for the provision of a CQC-regulated activity in health and/or social care, and to enter CQC registered care home premises.”

Spring Newsletter 2022

In business principles, contracts, Employment law, government, health and safety, holiday, pay, Uncategorized, workers on February 28, 2022 at 11:04 am

Our latest newsletter brings you news and views from our HR experts on:

  • The Employment Bill
  • Setting Business Goals
  • Employment Status
  • Right to Work Checks
  • The Jubilee Bank Holiday
  • Updates to national insurance and statutory rates
  • Recent cases of interest

Join our mailing list

The Employment Bill

In business principles, contracts, Employment law, Equality, government, pay, workers on February 16, 2022 at 1:05 pm
gavel with keyboard in background. Text read 2022

The Government first proposed an Employment Bill in 2019.  However, it has not yet progressed; this may occur in 2022. The following changes are expected to be included in the Bill: 

  • A new single enforcement body to enforce breaches in relation to national minimum wage, modern slavery, employment agencies, statutory sick pay and holiday pay for vulnerable workers. It will have new powers to tackle non-compliance, including civil penalties of up to 20,000 GBP per worker for the breaches under the Gangmasters Licensing and Employment Agency Standards regimes.   
  • Workers to receive their tips in full.  The government announced in September 2021 that the new legislation, which will be supported by a code of practice on fair and transparent distribution of gratuities, will require all employers to pass on tips without any deductions.  
  • A new right for workers (including those on zero hours contracts and agency workers) to request a more predictable contract after 26 weeks’ continuous service.  This is intended to provide more certainty about the number of hours or days they will be required to work. 
  • Extending redundancy protections for pregnant workers and those on maternity leave and other forms of family leave by extending the period of protection to apply from the point the employee informs the employer that the employee is pregnant to six months after the end of the family leave period.
  • A new right to additional neonatal leave which would grant parents of babies who are born prematurely or who are admitted to hospital in their first four weeks to up to 12 weeks’ paid time off (one week of leave for each week spent in neonatal care).
  • A new right to one week’s unpaid leave for unpaid carers.  According to the government’s consultation published in September 2021, this will be a day one right for all workers which can be taken as a block of one week or as individual days, taken for caring purposes such as personal and practical support, financial matters, personal or medical care. 
  • Making the right to request flexible working arrangements a day one right by removing the requirement to have 26 weeks’ service before a request can be made. 

The government has previously announced it will place a duty on employers to prevent discrimination in the workplace and will reintroduce protections for employees who suffer discrimination or are harassed by customers and clients.  

Whilst the above is not an exhaustive list, it should help you to remain aware of the key HR topics that will impact employment this year. We will be providing more details on these topics together with the changes that will be required for contracts and handbooks.  

New Brexit Freedoms Bill

In Employment law, government on February 16, 2022 at 1:04 pm
GB and EU flags

It has been two years since the government ‘Got Brexit Done’ and you may have heard about the announcement of a new ‘Brexit Freedoms Bill’ to review all retained EU law. 

From an HR and employment law perspective, we are yet to see what specifically is under scrutiny for change. Much of employment law in the UK is derived from EU rights, such as TUPE and the rules around working time. Many important European Court of Justice (ECJ) cases have also impacted the way decisions have been made in our own courts and continue to have an effect post Brexit. 

The following areas fall within ‘retained law’ that the government will be reviewing with a view to reform: 

  • Minimum annual leave entitlement; 
  • Minimum breaks and rest periods; 
  • Maternity leave/paternity leave/parental leave; 
  • Discrimination; 
  • Equal treatment of agency workers; 
  • Rights for part-time/fixed-term staff; 
  • Rights for employees to be informed and consulted with over major changes at work. 

It should be noted that laws on unfair dismissal and National Minimum/Living Wage do not stem from the EU and will therefore not be subject to this review. 

We might see changes to the maximum 48 hour working week, introduced by the Working Time Directive. Case law allowing carry-over of annual leave during sickness and governing the definition of a week’s pay for the purposes of holiday pay, all stem from ECJ rulings and interpretation of EU law and therefore are within the scope of this review. That the Working Time Regulations 1998 were never updated to incorporate these changes suggested an unwillingness to entrench these via legislation, which in turn suggests significant reform is on the cards in this area. 

Practically, this review is a significant undertaking and we cannot expect to see any changes soon. It is most likely they will be gradual and supported by new codes of practice for employers that will enable them to prepare for what is to come. There is certainly no cause for alarm, as there will be plenty of notice for any changes that are made. 

Right to Work Checks

In business principles, contracts, Employment law, government, Uncategorized on February 16, 2022 at 1:03 pm
passport and visa with a tick below

Employers in the UK have a responsibility to prevent illegal working. This means conducting a simple “right to work check” before offering work to make sure the individual is not disqualified from working by reason of their immigration status. 

Carrying out these checks and keeping a record will give a defence against liability for a civil penalty in the event you are found to have employed someone who is prevented from working by reason of their immigration status. 

If an individual’s right to work is time-limited, you should conduct a follow-up check shortly before it is due to come to an end.  

There are two types of right to work checks: a manual document-based check and an online check. Conducting either the manual document-based check or the online check will provide evidence to support your defence.  

You can also use the Employer Checking Service where an individual has an outstanding application, administrative review, or appeal; or if their immigration status requires verification by the Home Office, for example in the case of Crown Dependencies.  

Further details about the requirements and procedures to follow are available in the Home Office guidance document: An employer’s guide to right to work checks (publishing.service.gov.uk) 

Work from home guidance ends in England

In business principles, covid-19, government, health and safety, Uncategorized on January 20, 2022 at 11:09 am
workers at desks with face masks

Yesterday  (Wednesday 19th January), the Prime Minister announced an immediate end to the advice for people to work from home. England will revert to ‘Plan A’ measures from next Thursday 27th January which means a relaxation on the rules regarding face masks and Covid passports.

Steps for employers with staff working from home:

  • Employers should update their employees on whether a return to the office is now required and how this will be managed.
  • Complete a risk assessment to ensure all necessary Covid-secure measures are in place. This could include increased cleaning,  one-way systems, hand sanitizers, screens/barriers, social distancing, mask wearing, ventilation. See our recent blog post for more information on workplace safety measures. If you have been through the process of return to work previously review and assess what worked well and what could be changed.
  • Have supportive conversations with any employees who are hesitant about returning to the office.

The latest rules for self isolation and testing

In absence, covid-19, government, health and safety, Uncategorized on January 11, 2022 at 10:38 am
lateral flow test

Update 13/01/2021: From Monday 17th January those who have tested positive for Covid-19 will be able to end isolation after 5 full days following 2 negative tests, 24 hours apart.
 
The day symptoms begin or you test positive is day zero. A lateral flow test can be taken on day 5, if it is negative a further test can be taken on day six and if this is also negative and you are not experiencing a high temperature isolation can be ended.
 
Click here for a table explaining the self isolation process 

For business-critical teams, each organisation would do well to consider the requirement for negative testing before a return to the workplace. 

There has also been a change in the requirement for PCR tests. From 11 January in England, people who receive positive lateral flow test results will be required to self-isolate immediately and won’t be required to take a confirmatory PCR test. The positive LFT should be reported via the gov.uk service. This is a temporary measure while cases are high.