Welcome to our first bulletin of the year.
From the Government’s recent announcement and the news generally, 2021 is certainly off to a turbulent start. There has been an immediate impact on working parents due to the closure of schools on very short notice, which requires a flexible approach to be taken. Employers will also need to be mindful of the adverse effects of a third period of lock down on the mental health of their workforce.
We have been thinking through the practical and legal ramifications of a third period of lock down; how this will impact your work and business; the forthcoming vaccinations; and Brexit.
The following list is to place all of this into an employment law perspective, with practical guidance and pointers. We trust that you find it useful.
The information contained in this bulletin is accurate on 11 January 2021.
2021 immediate action points and thoughts
- Now is the time to use your March 2020 lockdown strategy with the benefit of hindsight and learning points gained in 2020;
- For those working from home (still or sent back there again); consider updating and re-circulating your health and safety survey (with physical and mental conditions being surveyed). Show how you acted upon the last survey and any adjustments made from that;
- If you have not done so already, we recommend that companies create a Working From Home policy, so staff are clear what is required of them and the standards that they need to maintain whilst working from home;
- Reissue your health and safety in the workplace policy, as a reminder to all staff of what they need to do in 2021, to minimise risk and potential liability;
- For those travelling to work because they have to; remind them to look after their health and safety when in transit;
- Employers/managers should make a special effort to connect with their teams and pay particular attention to anyone who is displaying signs that his or her mental health is suffering due to the lockdown. We have previously released a bulletin providing guidance on the steps that companies can take in this regard and please let us know if you do not have a copy and wish to receive it;
- Ensure that you are using the furlough scheme correctly, that your (contractual) furlough letters are up to date and you are using the flexibility offered by this scheme to the maximum to 30 April 2021, but with no end date, just in case;
- Any employees with caring responsibilities resulting from COVID 19 can be furloughed. This means that parents who stay at home, or cannot work or need to work reduced hours, because they have to look after school-age children, are eligible for furlough. This also covers caring for a vulnerable individual in their household;
- Think through holiday plans for furloughed employees to ensure no costly back log of holiday accrues;
- Is your organisation planning on making it mandatory for all staff to get vaccinated against the virus? The legalities of doing so together with the proposed business case should be very carefully scrutinised prior to any plans being rolled out;
- For those who are shielding (clinically extremely vulnerable); they are back to where they were in March/April 2020, namely remaining at home. Go back to what was said in March/April 2020 and make sure you update their status for 2021. For those that can work from home, confirm this. For those that cannot work from home or work reduced hours, they are eligible for furlough;
- For those who have been tracked and traced and need to self- isolate, use the current up to two weeks that can be paid as sick pay (if not already used up by each employee) and keep checking any government change to this two week period;
- Audit contracts and policies so they continue to be fit for purpose at this time both from the perspective of the business and the employee, as widespread changes are often in effect in practice; and
- At present employment references in the Brexit deal reached just before Christmas is limited directly to the issue of immigration, namely 90 days work in any 6 month period in a EU country without a visa but there are restrictions on what that work can be; so no direct selling is allowed.
Opportunity for positive change
As with 2020, 2021 presents an opportunity to make widespread and beneficial changes within your organisation.
This year HR will once again form a critical role in each business as the success of your business was driven in 2020 to a significant extent by HR/people management competency, the capacity to react to change and communicate with employees to reassure them and finally making tough decisions when needed. It is no different now in 2021 with this latest lockdown.
We are here to help you through this difficult period, so please do get in touch with us if you need any assistance. We would be happy to talk through any issues that you may have and also help you to take proactive and positive steps for the better.
We trust that this year will be a success for you and your business.
Jones Chase is a specialist employment law firm based in the centre of London with an excellent track record of looking after those that we assist.
We fundamentally believe in helping both businesses and people with all their employment law needs.
Feel free to contact us should you require further information or need any assistance. We are always happy to speak to people and point them in the right direction.
Tel: +44 (0) 203 837 9914