September 29, 2020

offices during lockdown
  1. New Jobs Support Scheme Update.
  2. Redundancy Update.
  3. Alcoholism in the workplace.
  4. Employment law developments to look out for
  5. Recent Employment Tribunal cases.
  6. Manage the risks of working alone
  7. Working from home

HR & Employment Law Updates

New Jobs Support Scheme Update.

To support viable UK employers who face lower demand due to COVID-19, and to keep their employees attached to the workforce, the government will be introducing a new Job Support Scheme from 1 November 2020.

Employees will need to work a minimum of 33% of their usual hours. For every hour not worked the employer and the government will each pay one third of the employee’s usual pay, and the government contribution will be capped at £697.92 per month. Employees using the scheme will receive at least 77% of their pay, where the government contribution has not been capped. The employer will be reimbursed in arrears for the government contribution.

The employee must not be on a redundancy notice. The scheme will run for six months from 1 November 2020 and is open to all employers with a UK bank account and a UK PAYE scheme. All Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) will be eligible; large businesses will be required to demonstrate that their business has been adversely affected by COVID-19, and the government expects that large employers will not be making capital distributions (such as dividends), while using the scheme.”

Here are some key points: – 

  • to be eligible, employees must have been on the employer’s Real Time Information submission on or before 23 September 2020.
  • the minimum 33% threshold hours for which an employee must work may be increased in months 4-6 of the scheme
  • working patterns can vary, but each short time working arrangement must cover a minimum period of seven days
  • the government’s grant will not cover Class 1 employer NIC or pension contributions, although they remain payable by the employer
  • ‘usual wages’ will follow a “similar” methodology to the CJRS

Redundancy Update.

Covid-19 is having a devastating impact on many businesses and workers. Challenges to working practices, disrupted supply chains and weakening demand, are leading many employers to consider redundancy as the only survival option.

Faced with making quick decisions in a fragile economic environment, it can feel as if there are no good answers. No one wants to deliver bad news; and losing people or being made redundant is traumatic, especially for workers and their families.

We know that times are tough, and that as a last resort, employers may make redundancies. But our message is that employers should exhaust all possible alternatives before making redundancies. These often emerge from effective consultation with workers and trade unions.

All employers should work closely with their staff, employee representatives and unions to do all they can to look after their people as well as their business.

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.

  • Do it thoroughly: to understand what’s happening people need information and guidance. Have you trained your staff representatives in how it all works?
  • 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 feed-back.
  • Do it fairly: all aspects of your redundancy procedure should be conducted fairly and without any form of discrimination.
  • 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 its face-to-face or remote. And remember, you may want to rehire the same person in the future.

We can help you if you are considering making redundancies to help save your business, call 07375 097443 to arrange an appointment or use the contact button on the website. 

Alcoholism in the workplace.

In the U.K. there is an increasing problem of alcoholism in the workplace. It can be a challenge for employers to realise that there is a problem and then recognise the specific signs which may indicate that the problem is alcohol related. There are many issues that result from alcoholism in the workplace.

An employee may have problems with health and safety, produce poor quality work, have more absenteeism and poor timekeeping. Long term this can affect productivity, revenue and company reputation.

Five Tips for Dealing with Alcoholism in the Workplace

1. There should always be a written policy to deal with alcoholism and abuse of alcohol in the workplace. The HR Department should advise on the legalities so that the policy offers support to affected employees as well as considering the business needs. All employees should have access to the policy and all managers should have regular training on dealing with alcoholism in the workplace. The policy should include ways to direct employees to appropriate support and treatment.

2. The employer should have written records documenting incidents and issues that have triggered the concerns about alcoholism. Discussions should be sympathetic and understanding to create a positive environment. The focus should be on the issues and not judgemental. This will create an opportunity for the employee to be open and should help to avoid false accusations.

3. The employer should remain compassionate and sympathetic to the causes of alcoholism. The employee will be vulnerable and will require support to allow them to be open about their situation. This will enable the employee to engage with suggestions regarding rehab to help them on the pathway to recovery.

4. The employer must have an excellent knowledge of alcohol rehabilitation programmes. The employer can help the employee to engage in the right rehab treatment by advising where to get professional help.

5. A positive approach and sympathetic environment can make all the difference to how engaged the employee will be with the steps for recovery and increase the chances of a positive outcome.

Treatment Options

Having followed the steps above, the employer should create an action plan to help the employee who is having problems with alcohol in the workplace. It is recommended at this stage that the employer should seek professional support for the employee.

First, the employer should consider, in discussion with the employee, the different support options which the employee can access. Their personal circumstances will dictate whether they should consider inpatient or outpatient treatment. 

Inpatient treatment will require a prolonged absence for the employee which will need to be authorised. Outpatient treatment can include support groups and therapies which can fit outside of working hours.   

This may benefit employees who need less intensive alcohol rehab treatment and who would like to keep some of their usual routines.   

We recommend that employers contact Rehab Clinics Group for more advice on the inpatient and outpatient treatment programmes that we offer. They are experts in dealing with alcohol issues. By working out a plan together it is possible to support employees who have problems with alcohol to fully recover and have the very best outcome.

Employment law developments to look out for

Family-friendly rights

TopicDetailsLatest position
Plans to extend shared parental leave (SPL) and pay to working grandparents (announced by the Chancellor on 5 October 2015)Originally intended to be implemented by 2018, but put on hold owing to the Brexit referendumTo date there has been no consultation document, and no further announcements have been made. The Government undertook an evaluation of the shared parental leave and pay scheme and was expected to report on this in late 2019 (see the ‘Good Work Plan: Proposals to support families’ consultation, discussed below). However, the report is still awaited
Consultation on extending redundancy protection for pregnant women and new parents returning from maternity leave, adoption leave and SPL (run by BEIS between 25 January and 5 April 2019)Proposes expanding the protection from redundancy currently available to women on maternity leave, who are entitled under Reg 10 of the Maternity and Parental Leave etc Regulations 1999 SI 1999/3312 to be offered suitable alternative employment where a vacancy exists. The period during which the right is available would be extended to run from the point at which an employee notifies her employer of her pregnancy until six months after the end of her maternity leave. The consultation considers whether equivalent protection should be available in respect of adoption leave and SPLThe response was published on 22 July 2019 and the Government intends to bring forward legislation when Parliamentary time allows. According to the Queen’s Speech on 19 December 2019, this
would be covered by the forthcoming Employment Bill. However, a Private Member’s Bill has been presented in the House of Commons by Conservative MP Maria Miller to fast track the redundancy protection. The Pregnancy and Maternity (Redundancy Protection) Bill had its first reading on 8 July 2020 and its second reading is scheduled for 16 October 2020

Discrimination and equality

Joint Law Commission and Scottish Law Commission consultation on ‘Building families through surrogacy: a new law’ (ran between 6 June and 27 September 2019)Seeks views on whether there needs to be
a change to the law on statutory paternity leave and pay for a surrogate’s partner, and whether the intended parents should qualify for maternity allowance or should be entitled to time off work before the birth of the child
The Law Commission expects to produce a final report with recommendations for reform, and a draft Bill, in early 2022
Consultation on transparency of flexible working and family-related leave and pay policies – contained in ‘Good Work Plan: Proposals to support families’ (run by BEIS between 19 July and 11 October 2019)Among other things, seeks views on
whether large employers (those with more than 250 employees) should publish their family-related leave and/or flexible working policies on their websites, and what level of information would need to be put in a job advert if the Government were to introduce a requirement on employers to specify whether flexible working would be considered
Awaiting Government response
Consultation on a new right to neonatal leave and pay – contained in ‘Good Work Plan: Proposals to support families’ (run by BEIS between 19 July and 11 October 2019)Up to 12 weeks’ paid leave for parents of babies requiring neonatal care    In its response, published on 16 March 2020, the Government has committed to implementing this in the forthcoming Employment Bill
Consultation on reform of parental leave and pay – contained in ‘Good Work Plan: Proposals to support families’ (run by BEIS between 19 July and 29 November 2019)Seeks views on reforming the system of family-friendly leave and pay to meet various policy objectives, which include increasing paternal involvement in childcare; giving families more flexibility; and supporting mothers to return to work and stay in workAwaiting Government response
Proposal for flexible working to be made the default position unless an employer has a good reason (announced in Queen’s Speech on 19 December 2019)This stems from a Conservative manifesto pledgeWill form part of the forthcoming Employment Bill (subject to consultation). Consultation document awaited
Consultation on new right to carers’ leave (run by BEIS between 16 March and 3 August 2020)One week’s unpaid leave per year for the purposes of caring for a spouse or civil partner, child, parent, someone living in the same household or anyone else who reasonably relies on the employee for careAwaiting Government response. However, in the Queen’s Speech given on 19 December 2019, the Government committed to introducing an entitlement to care leave in the forthcoming Employment Bill

Recent Employment Tribunal cases.

‘Multi-treatment’ foster carers were employees

Glasgow City Council v Johnstone and anor, EATS

The Scottish EAT holds that foster carers who had entered into a ‘multi-dimensional treatment foster care’ agreement with a local authority, pursuant to statutory regulations, were employees of the authority.

While many of the terms of the agreement were non-contractual, reflecting matters that were required by statute and designed merely to provide information, terms regarding financial arrangements and control exercised by the local authority were not prescribed by statute, and formed the basis of a contract. The payment of a yearly professional fee (over and above expenses), together with the degree of control exercised by the local authority, pointed towards an employment relationship.

Health & Safety Updates.

Manage the risks of working alone

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, you must manage the risk to lone workers.  Think about who will be involved and which hazards could harm those working alone.

You must:

  • train, supervise and monitor lone workers
  • keep in touch with them and respond to any incident

When a lone worker will be at someone else’s workplace you must ask that employer about any risks and control measures to make sure they are protected.

Risks to consider

Risks that particularly affect lone workers include:

  • violence in the workplace
  • stress and mental health or wellbeing
  • a person’s medical suitability to work alone
  • the workplace itself, for example if it’s in a rural or isolated area

Working from home

You have the same health and safety responsibilities for homeworkers and the same liability for accident or injury as for any other workers.

This means you must provide supervision, education and training, as well as implementing enough control measures to protect the homeworker.

As an employer, you have the same health and safety responsibilities for home workers as for any other workers.

When someone is working from home, permanently or temporarily, as an employer you should consider:

  • How will you keep in touch with them?
  • What work activity will they be doing (and for how long)?
  • Can it be done safely?
  • Do you need to put control measures in place to protect them?

Do you have a Home Working Policy in place?  If not, we can help you.

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