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Illinois Tightens Restrictions on Use Of Criminal Conviction Information

Restrictions on inquiring into, or using, criminal history information are not new to Illinois employers.  For years, Illinois employers been precluded from using an applicant’s arrest history when making hiring or other employment decisions.  And, in 2015, Illinois joined the list of “ban the box” states by precluding employers with 15+ employees from inquiring into or considering the criminal record or criminal history of an applicant until after the applicant was selected for an interview or had received a conditional offer of employment.

Effective March 23, 2021, the restrictions have tightened again, through amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”), which borrow concepts from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”).

Restricted Use of Conviction Records

The new IHRA provisions make it a civil rights violation for an employer to use a “conviction record” as the basis for any employment decision, including hiring, promotion, discipline and discharge, unless:

  1. There is a “substantial relationship” between one or more of the previous criminal offenses and the employment sought or held; OR
  2. The granting or continuation of employment would involve an unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals

Back to Life: Issues for UK employers as employees return to the workplace

At the time of writing, the Government has published its provisional roadmap out of lockdown and employers are beginning to consider when and how employees may return to the workplace. This article considers some potential options and possible risks relating to a return to work.

Can employers force employees to return to work after lockdown?

It is a general principle of English employment law that employees must comply with reasonable management instructions from their employer. This would include an instruction to attend work.

Whilst health and safety considerations have obviously called this into question during the pandemic, a requirement to return to work may still amount to a reasonable management instruction, depending on the type of workplace, the employee concerned and how easily the employee’s work can be carried out from home. To avoid potential disputes it would be sensible for employers to consult with staff as early as possible to discuss matters and try to seek agreement. This is particularly important if a return to work requires a change to any terms and conditions of employment, as that will require consultation. Employers should take care to consider each individual circumstance on its own merits and be as flexible as

Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation – Q1 2021 Newsletter

April 1, 2021

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Our colleagues in the Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation group have been busy tracking the many changes to laws affecting comp and benefits. In their Q1 2021 newsletter, they provide an overview of the guidance that emerged during this busy period, including ARPA and CAA as they impact pension and welfare plans, fringe benefits and student loan assistance. They briefly address the guidance and implementation freeze, and provide an overview of other important developments — all with the aim of helping plan sponsors digest and comply with new and often imminent compliance obligations.

To read the newsletter, please click here.

Coronavirus (UK): Managing the rise of DSARs and redundancies during the Coronavirus pandemic

Introduction

During the Coronavirus pandemic, there has been a rise in the number of both redundancies and data subject access requests (“DSARs”). This rise has placed increased pressure on HR teams and Data Protection Officers (“DPOs’”), who are having to grapple with this burden alongside the other day to day challenges posed by the pandemic. This article provides a snapshot of the recent trends and some practical tips from our employment team for dealing with them effectively and/or minimising legal risk.

Redundancies

The Office for National Statistics (“ONS”) recently reported that there were 726,000 fewer people in payrolled employment in January 2021 compared to February 2020. More broadly, it has noted that the UK unemployment rate in the last quarter of 2020 was 1.3% higher than in the same period of 2019. In light of such figures, the ONS has commented that “the increase in UK redundancy rates during the Coronavirus pandemic is faster than during the 2008-2009 economic downturn”.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak stated in his March 2021 Budget that, whilst Government interventions to support jobs have worked, and the Office for Budget Responsibility’s expected peak unemployment rate has lowered from 11.9% to 6.5%, job loss is very much

Key Amendments To FFCRA & California’s New COVID-19 Sick Leave Requirements

March 2021 brought a variety of legislative changes impacting California employers.  On March 11, 2021 President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (the Act).  Among other things, including the widely publicized $1,400 stimulus payments, the Act extends the $300.00 federal unemployment benefit and the availability of the payroll tax credits to employers through September 30, 2021.  Additionally, for those employers who opt to continue to provide Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)-type leave, the Act makes several significant changes to how the FFCRA is to be implemented with regard to both Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family and Medical Leave (EFML).

Then, on March 19, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 95 (SB 95), providing a new form of COVID-19 related paid sick leave for many California workers.  The new law, among other things, extends protections to employees who are teleworking and expands the qualifying reasons for COVID-19 sick leave.

We provide below a summary of the key amendments to FFCRA and highlight the requirements under the newly promulgated California COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave.

Key Amendments Under The American Rescue Plan Act Of 2021

By way of review, employer obligations to provide paid

UK HR Two Minute Monthly: employment status, harassment and reasonable steps, workplace surveillance and unfair dismissal

The Supreme Court Delivers Verdict in Landmark Uber case

As we reported in our dedicated update, the Supreme Court gave judgment in the final appeal in relation to the Uber litigation at the end of February, unanimously concluding that the Uber drivers who brought claims against Uber in 2015 were workers within employment legislation.

Why this matters?

The outcome of this case has been long awaited given its importance to gig economy businesses. The Supreme Court found that the rights asserted by the drivers were not contractual rights but rather rights granted under statute. As such, while the contract between the parties is something that the courts can consider, the correct approach is to consider all the relevant circumstances, which will also include the relationship between the parties in practice and the general purpose of the legislation in question.

It is worth noting that this assessment must be carried out on a case-by-case basis and, as such, this decision does not determine the status of all gig employee workers. The issue of employment status therefore remains an area of debate.

Uber BV and others v Aslam and others

Employer unable to rely on “reasonable steps” defence in respect

US COVID-19: Under the American Rescue Plan, Providing FFCRA Leave Remains Voluntary

The American Rescue Plan (“ARP”), signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021, does not place any new paid leave requirements on private employers who were previously covered by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”).  However, as they have been able to do through the first quarter of 2021, such employers may voluntarily continue to provide Paid Sick Leave (“PSL”) and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (“EFMLA”) leave as set forth in the FFCRA and receive certain payroll tax credits for such wages.

In addition, the ARP expands various aspects of the FFCRA:

Expansion of PSL:

  • Employees can be given a new 10-day allotment of PSL for use from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021, even if they exhausted their PSL days during 2020 or used PSL with the employer’s permission during the period January 1 – March 31, 2021.
  • PSL can be used for additional reasons (subject to the FFCRA requirement that the employee be unable to work due to the qualifying reason), specifically:
    • for leave needed when the employee is seeking or awaiting the results of a diagnostic test for, or a medical diagnosis of, COVID 19, where such employee has

US COVID-19: Employees Are Getting Vaccinated… Is It Time To Update COVID-19 Workplace Prevention Protocols?

March 12, 2021

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As more employees across the country have received the COVID-19 vaccination, employers are naturally asking questions.  Should we continue to maintain preventive measures (masking, distancing, gathering restrictions)?  Can we relax the COVID-protocols, at least with respect to vaccinated employees?  Recent guidance from government authorities would suggest that employers continue most preventive measures.

On January 29, 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued guidance to employers.  In Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace, [https://www.osha.gov/coronavirus/safework] OSHA specifically noted that, for now, employers should not distinguish between workers who are vaccinated and those who are not.  OSHA stated:

Workers who are vaccinated must continue to follow protective measures, such as wearing a face covering and remaining physically distant, because at this time, there is not evidence that COVID-19 vaccines prevent transmission of the virus from person-to-person. The CDC explains that experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide before deciding to change recommendations on steps everyone should take to slow the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

On March 8, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued guidance for the non-healthcare setting regarding individuals who have

US COVID-19: Illinois DOL Issues COVID-19 Vaccine Compensation/Leave Guidance

March 11, 2021

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With an express purpose of encouraging employees (and their family members) to get the COVID-19 vaccine, the Illinois Department of Labor (“IDOL”) recently issued guidance for employers regarding compensation and paid leave in connection with absences for vaccine appointments.

According to the IDOL: 

Mandatory Vaccination:  The time an employee spends to get the vaccine, when required to do so by the employer, is “likely compensable,” even if it is non-working time.  Accordingly, employers should:

  • provide paid leave; or
  • otherwise compensate employees for such time.

Voluntary Vaccination: Employers are not required to provide compensation/paid leave for employees to obtain the vaccine when vaccination is not required by the employer; however, employers are encouraged to do so.  Accordingly, employers should:

  • allow employees to use sick leave, vacation time, or other paid leave;
  • consider offering employees “flex” time so that they do not have to take unpaid leave; or
  • allow employees to “flexibility” to take time off unpaid.

Family Vaccination: Under the Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act (effective Jan. 1, 2017), depending on how an employer handles employee use of paid sick leave benefits, the employer may be required to allow employees to use paid sick

Coronavirus (UK): Impact of the Budget announcement on the furlough scheme – key points for employers

The extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) had been expected to continue until the end of April 2021.  However, in light of the UK government’s recent announcement in relation to the gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions, the CJRS has been further extended until 30 September 2021.

Key details of the government’s Budget announcement on the CJRS

The Budget includes the following changes to the CJRS:

  • The CJRS will be extended until 30 September 2021.
  • Until 30 June 2021, the government furlough grant will continue to pay 80% of wages for hours not worked, capped at £2,500 per month. Employers will be liable for employer National Insurance contributions and employer pension contributions only.
  • Progressively, with effect from 1 July 2021 until the cessation of the CJRS on 30 September 2021 the following changes will be made:
    • From 1 July 2021: employers must contribute 10% towards the pay of furloughed employees, with the government grant reduced to 70%. The 80% furlough pay will continue to be capped at £2,500 per month.
    • From 1 August 2021: employers must contribute 20% towards the pay of furloughed employees, with the government grant reduced to 60%. The 80% furlough pay will continue to be
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