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UK Covid-19: The importance of being adaptable when implementing hybrid or blended working policies

Now that the government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can, many employers are pressing ahead with the implementation of hybrid or blended working arrangements. This article highlights the importance of being adaptable when implementing such arrangements, especially in respect of discrimination risks.

Many employers are now adopting policies which mandate that employees need to attend the office for a specific duration i.e. 3 days a week at home and 2 in the office. When implementing such policies, it may be tempting (and administratively easier) to apply them across the entire workforce without making exceptions based on individual circumstances. However, employers should be careful about adopting such an approach without considering the risk of discrimination claims. For example, employees with underlying health conditions may allege disability discrimination if they are subject to a detriment due to a failure to obey an instruction to return to the workplace. Employers should also be aware that the Employment Rights Act 1996 provides protection for employees who raise health and safety concerns or refuse to attend work where they have a reasonable belief that there is a serious and imminent danger to health.

Whilst not as common, some employers

Coronavirus (UK): the next stage of the furlough scheme – key points for employers in the Hotels & Hospitality sector

June 17, 2021

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In our recent blog, we highlighted the UK government’s announcement on 14 June 2021 in relation to the likely four week delay in triggering stage 4 of the lockdown roadmap.  This announcement was not, however, accompanied by a further extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”), despite many hotel & hospitality businesses calling on the government to extend it given many are still unable to trade or make profit.  On the assumption that there will not be an extension, the CJRS will cease on 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.  However, things are about to change.

What do employers in the hotels and hospitality sector need to consider?

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

Coronavirus (UK): the next stage of the furlough scheme – key points for employers

In our recent blog, we highlighted the UK government’s announcement on 14 June 2021 in relation to the likely four week delay in triggering stage 4 of the lockdown roadmap.  This announcement was not, however, accompanied by a further extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”).  On the assumption that there will not be an extension, the CJRS will cease on 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.  However, things are about to change.

What do employers need to consider?

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

Returning to the office: Key questions and answers for UK employers

As 21 June 2021 gets nearer, how are you going to manage the return to the office? Adam Lambert, Mark Kaye and Lydia Moore answer the key questions being asked by office-based businesses in the first in a series of regular updates on the topic.

  1. Can an employer force its employees to return to the office? Despite the easing of the lockdown in the UK, the government guidance is to still work from home where possible. However, the potential further easing of restrictions on 21 June 2021 will mean that employers will have the option to consider whether it may be appropriate to ask their employees to come back to the office. Employers will need to act with caution and treat each employee on a case-by-case basis. Although the contract of employment will almost certainly require the employee to work at the company’s offices, the impact of COVID-19 should not be disregarded. If an employee is reluctant to return to the office, they should be consulted first so that steps can be taken to allay their fears and other options can be explored. If an employee has a disability, there will be an additional requirement for the employer to

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

Coronavirus (UK): Is ‘long-covid’ likely to be classed as a disability under the Equality Act?

This post considers whether ‘long-covid’ is likely to be classed as a disability under the Equality Act 2010, and provides practical guidance for employers.

At the time of writing, it is estimated that approximately 100 million people have now contracted Coronavirus. Whilst the majority of those infected go on to make a full recovery, some suffer continuing symptoms once the initial infection has gone. These symptoms are commonly referred to as “long-covid”. According to the NHS, some of the most commonly encountered symptoms of long-covid include; (i) extreme tiredness; (ii) shortness of breath; and (iii) problems with memory and concentration. A recent study estimated that there are currently 60,000 people in the United Kingdom alone suffering from long-covid.

Ultimately, some of those suffering from long-term health conditions may be classed as disabled under the Equality Act 2010 (“EQA”). This article considers the circumstances in which long-covid would classified as a disability under the EQA.

Definition of a disability under the EQA

The EQA prohibits discrimination in respect of numerous protected characteristics, including disability. Section 6 and Schedule 1 of the EQA define a “disability”. It is important to note that the legal definition of disability does not always reflect what

UK HR Two Minute Monthly: post-termination restrictions; discrimination and victimisation claims; right to respect for private life

February 2, 2021

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Our January update considers recent developments in employment law, including cases on post-termination restrictions, interim relief for discrimination and victimisation claims, and the right to respect private life. We also outline other points of note, including the government confirming it will no longer review EU-derived employment laws.

Former employer’s post-termination restrictive covenants were unlawful restraint of trade

The High Court has held that the non-compete, non-solicitation and non-dealing clauses found in a former employee’s contract were invalid because they went further than necessary. The claimant, a financial advisory business, alleged that the employee had breached her post-termination restrictions by working for a competitor. The restrictions included a non-competition restriction which prevented the employee, for a 9 month period, from engaging in any undertaking providing the same kind of financial advisory services she provided (save for geographical areas unrelated to the claimant’s business). The non-solicitation and non-dealing covenants sought to prevent the defendant, for a 12 month period, from supplying relevant financial advisory services to customers or solicit customers who had been a client of the claimant during the 18 months prior to termination of her employment.

Aside from ruling in favour of the claimant in relation to other aspects of

Coronavirus (UK): 10 key vaccination issues for employers

1. Can an employer require an employee to be vaccinated?

No.  The Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984 provides that individuals must not be compelled to undergo any mandatory medical treatment or vaccination.  In addition, employees may have the protection of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which provides that individuals have the right to not be physically or psychologically interfered with.  Furthermore, any forced vaccination is likely to amount to a criminal offence.

ACAS guidance advises that employers should support staff in getting the vaccine, but cannot force them to be vaccinated.

2. What are the discrimination risks associated with vaccination?

Discrimination issues may arise either as a result of compelling employees to take the vaccine or putting in place measures which are detrimental to those employees who have not taken the vaccine.

The two key risks are likely to be disability discrimination (where an employee is unable to get the vaccine because of a health condition) and religious or philosophical belief discrimination (where, for example, there may be concerns for vegan employees due to animal testing on the vaccines).

3. What impact will vaccination have on the COVID-secure workplace?

As well as the fact

Coronavirus (UK): detailed guidance published on the extended furlough scheme – key points for employers

In our blog on 5 November 2020, we flagged that further government guidance on the extended Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) would be provided on 10 November 2020. HMRC has now published that guidance.

Key details of the government guidance

The updated guidance includes the following key details:

  • During the period 1 November 2020 to 31 January 2021, the government furlough grant will pay 80% of wages for hours not worked up, capped at £2,500 per month. Employers will be liable for employer National Insurance contributions and employer pension contributions only. The government will review the terms of the scheme in January 2021 and may then require that employers make a contributions towards wages (as it did under the original scheme).  This is likely to be dependent on the state of the economy and the general prevalence of the virus.
  • The extended CJRS applies to employees who were employed as at 30 October 2020, as well as employees who were made redundant or stopped working on or after 23 September 2020, if they are then re-employed by their employer.
  • Employers can make a claim under the extended furlough scheme in relation to employees who have not previously

Coronavirus (UK): further extension of the furlough scheme – key details for employers

The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer has, today, announced in Parliament, the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) until the end of March 2021.

The scheme will continue to be on the terms as outlined in our previous blog on Monday until at least 31 January 2021, with the government grant at 80% of salary, capped at £2,500 per month. However, there will be a government review in January 2021 and it is possible that the government grant will, again, be reduced.

Full guidance on the CJRS extension will be published on 10 November 2020. The guidance on claims from February 2021 onwards will be published following the government’s review.

 

BCLP has assembled a COVID-19 Employment & Labor taskforce to assist clients with employment law issues across various jurisdictions. You can contact the taskforce at: COVID-19HRLabour&EmploymentIssues@bclplaw.com.

You can view other thought leadership, guidance, and helpful information on our dedicated COVID-19 / Coronavirus resources page

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