Diary Dates

1st November 2020

The new Job Support Scheme will run for six months, beginning on 1st November. The Job Support Scheme is designed to protect viable jobs in businesses who are facing lower demand over the winter months due to Covid-19, to help keep their employees attached to the workforce. More information can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/job-support-scheme

13th November 2020

World Kindness Day: kindness is encouraged worldwide by being generous, considerate, ethical, and friendly. Now more than ever, we need a bit more kindness in the world, why not find a way to implement Random Acts of Kindness in your workplace. Ideas can be found here: https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/

Case in Focus

Packman v Fauchon UKEAT/0017/12/LA

What happened?

Mrs Fauchon worked as a bookkeeper for Packman. The business experienced a decline, in response the employer purchased a software package which reduced the hours needed to be worked by the bookkeeper. Due to this, the respondent tried to persuade the claimant to significantly reduce her working hours, however the claimant refused to do so. Because her contract entitled her to work the hours she was doing, and the employer no longer needed her to work those hours, the employer gave her notice of dismissal.

The Hearings

The employment tribunal found that it was common ground that Mrs Fauchon was dismissed. The employer demonstrated that the reason was redundancy caused by a decline in the business, meaning that there was a diminished need for bookkeeping. Mrs Fauchon was offered a reduction in hours however she chose not to accept these terms.  Therefore, a redundancy payment was payable to her.

Take away points

  • Redundancy is defined by three situations: The company has ceased trading, the company has ceased training in a particular location or the volume of work has ceased or diminished. If in doubt, take professional advice from us.
  • Employers may reduce hours where possible, in order to avoid redundancies.
  • It can be helpful to consider introducing lay-off or short-time working clauses into your employment contracts.
  • You might want to consider your own version of the furlough scheme once the current one expires – we can help you design and implement this.

Ask the Experts

What happens if an employee’s holiday is cancelled due to circumstances out of their control and they want to cancel their annual leave and take it at a later date?

This decision should be made at your discretion as the employer. There is no obligation for you to accept the change in annual leave, you may feel that  the alternative time off they have requested will negatively affect your business and may wish to insist it is not changed. Alternatively, you may empathise and feel that, due to the unforeseen circumstances, you will allow the employee to cancel their planned annual leave.

It has been intimated that pregnant women are in the high-risk category. Due to this, can we as employers insist that their maternity leave begins early?

No, you cannot insist that they begin their maternity leave early. If they are able to work from home, then this would be the best option for them. If the employee becomes ill and therefore begins their maternity leave earlier than planned, in line with maternity legislation, this is fine.  There is a possibility that you may have to suspend a pregnant woman who is unable to work due to being high-risk, and for this reason, you should really take professional advice to avoid discrimination claims.

Latest Coronavirus Update

Following the latest announcement from Boris Johnson, we have summarised below the main points:

The number of Covid-19 cases has increased since some lockdown restrictions were lifted. Consequently, the government have put in place new measures in order to decrease the number of cases and work towards going back to how we were pre-Covid-19. These are the recent updates:

Hospitality/Retail industries: Customers are now required to wear face coverings in all shops and in restaurants unless seated at a table. Furthermore, all hospitality and retail staff are required to wear face coverings while working.

Fines: First offence fines for not wearing a face covering will be doubled to £200, individuals will also be fined the same amount for breaking the rule of six. Those who fail to self-isolate could face a fine of £10000.

Restaurants, bars and pubs: All restaurants, bars and pubs must now close by 10pm and only table service can be available. This rule will be in place from 24 September. Failure to adhere to the rules will incur fines for businesses.

Working from home: The advice has reverted back to: work from home if you are able. If your job cannot be done from home, you can still go to work.

These new restrictions are likely to be in place for the next six months. The legal obligations for individuals and business will be outlined further in the near future.

Don’t drop the Brexit Ball

The Home Office has shown a 700% increase in one month in people being refused settled or pre-settled status (source: the Independent). This consisted of a jump from 200 refusals in May, to 1,400 in June. Should you be worried about this?

COVID Impact

We know that COVID is causing delays in many things, and this is no exception, the application process will be delayed and nobody knows how long this will go on for. Therefore, employees should be encouraged to apply as soon as possible.

The Process

Relevant employees can apply using any device such as a smartphone, or a laptop. They will also need a proof of their identity and residence in the UK, unless they have a valid permanent residence document. The documents can either be scanned in using the app, or posted in. If the employee is likely to need their documents quickly then this can cause delays with the COVID situation. To be eligible for settled status, employees usually need to have lived in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for at least 6 months in any 12-month period, or 5 years in a row, and be able to provide proof. Employees will need to apply a second time when changing their pre-settled status to settled status.

Other Considerations

The scheme application deadline is the 31st of June 2021. Although this date seems far away, it will soon come around and if you continue to apply employees who require the approval and don’t have it, then this is a breach of immigration law. Worst case scenario, you’ll need to dismiss them for illegality, but do take advice before embarking on this route.

The link for applications can be accessed here: https://www.gov.uk/settled-status-eu-citizens-families/applying-for-settled-status

Mental-Health Post Lockdown

Mental health is concerned with the way we think and feel, and how resilient we are to the stresses that life can bring. For many of us, coming out of lockdown has been a relief – we are able to see friends, play sports and return to work. But for some of us, these changes can be difficult for our mental health. Good mental health gives us an identify, a sense of purpose and the energy to live our lives in the way we want. It is estimated that over 6,000 people a year commit suicide; often no-one sees it coming.

What does this mean for employers?

According to ACAS; “a new poll reveals nearly 2 out of 5 employees say they feel stressed working from home.” Further, their research indicates that mental illness is the largest single cause of disability in the UK. Taking a sensible but supportive approach is key as often an issue can build up over time, or it can be sudden one-off event. Having managers that are able to spot changes – whether this be subtle or blatant is important in seeking the right advice at the right time. Employers have a legal “duty of care” which means they must all they reasonably can to support their employee’s health, safety and wellbeing.

How can employers support their employees?

Taking a proactive approach such as regular risk assessments, encouraging people to speak up if they need help (even if you can’t provide that help – you can signpost them somewhere that can) and to take responsibility for their own wellbeing can really help to reduce absence and improve the overall health of your employees. Teach your managers how to have conversations with employees through mental health training and awareness workshops.

Diary Dates

1st October 2020

Changes to the furlough scheme – the government will pay 60% of wages up to a cap of £1,875 for the hours an employee is on furlough and employers will pay employer National Insurance Contributions and pension contributions for the hours the employee is on furlough. In addition to this, employers will need to contribute 20% to furlough pay for employees. Employees cannot be asked to accept 60% on the furlough scheme.

10th October 2020

World Mental Health Day; supporting good mental health in the workplace.

12th October – 16th October 2020

National Work Life Week; celebrating wellbeing and work life balance for all.