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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


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

Coronavirus: changes to UK Job Support Scheme – key details for employers

We previously reported on the establishment of the Job Support Scheme (“JSS”).  The Chancellor of the Exchequer has, today, made a further announcement setting out significant changes to the JSS .  These changes are primarily aimed at providing support to businesses in Tier 2 which are not legally required to shut their premises as part of further lockdown measures, but which are suffering a significant decline in revenue.  However, the changes go even further than this.

Key details of the changes

The key details of the changes to scheme, which will apply to all of the UK, are as follows:

  • The JSS will apply to all businesses in every alert level (i.e. Tiers 1, 2 and 3).
  • Employees only need to work at least 20% of their normally working hours and be paid by their employer for those hours (not at least 33% of their normal working hours as originally required when the JSS was first announced).
  • Under the initial JSS announcement, for the hours not worked, the government and the employer were each required to pay one third of an employee’s salary. Following today’s announcement, the employer contribution will be reduced to just 5%.
  • The government will

UK HR Solutions: Changing terms and conditions

Welcome to the tenth and final post in our current series of hands-on guidance for UK HR professionals. In this series we’ve looked at common HR issues that you’ll encounter in the workplace and given you practical guidance on how to deal with them. Over the course of the series we’ve covered a variety of topics, such as how to handle grievances, disciplinaries, sickness absence, performance management and much more besides.

This week we look at changing terms and conditions.

Click here to read our guidance note on changing terms and conditions.

Coronavirus: UK targeted furlough scheme for the hospitality sector – key details for employers

Less than two weeks after the announcement of the Job Support Scheme (“JSS”) and with just over 3 weeks until the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) ends, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has, today, made an announcement setting out the details of a targeted furlough scheme designed to support businesses that are legally required to shut their premises as part of further lockdown measures.

Although it has been labelled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as an expansion of the JSS, it looks very much like an extension of the CJRS, albeit in a more limited and targeted form.

Key details of the local furlough scheme

The key details of the scheme, which will apply to all of the UK, are as follows:

  • It will apply to employees who are unable to work as a result of their employer being forced to shut its premises as part of local or national lockdown measures over the winter months. These are likely to be businesses in the  hospitality sector – particularly, bars; restaurants; pubs and clubs.
  • The government will pay two thirds of the salary of those employees who are furloughed under this expanded JSS, up to a maximum of £2,100
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