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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

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): 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

Coronavirus: UK Job Support Scheme – key details for employers

As we reported previously, on 12 May 2020 the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) would be extended until 31 October 2020.  With just over 5 weeks until the CJRS ends, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has, today, made an announcement setting out the government’s package of measures designed to protect UK jobs through the winter.

Job Support Scheme

With effect from 1 November 2020, the new Job Support Scheme (“JSS”) will come into force.  The key details of the JSS are as follows:

  • It is designed to support the wages of employees who are in viable jobs, but on shorter working hours.
  • Employees must work at least 1/3 of their normal working hours and be paid by their employer for those hours.
  • For the hours not worked, the government and the employer will each pay one third of an employee’s salary.
  • The level of grant will be calculated based on an employee’s usual salary, capped at £697.92 per month.
  • All small and medium enterprises are eligible to participate in the JSS.
  • Larger businesses, whose turnover has fallen as a result of coronavirus, are also eligible to participate in the JSS, subject

Coronavirus: new UK restrictions – implications for employers

Amidst rising numbers of infections, the UK government has, today, made an announcement in relation to new Coronavirus restrictions.

Key highlights of the new restrictions

  • employees who can work from home should do so;
  • restaurants, bars and pubs must operate a table service only and must close at 10pm each day from 24 September 2020;
  • retail and hospitality staff will be required to wear face coverings;
  • retail, leisure and hospitality businesses are now legally required to ensure that their premises are COVID secure;
  • conferences and sporting events will not re-open from the beginning of October, as previously planned; and
  • tighter penalties will be applied, including fines of up to £10,000 for businesses which break COVID rules.

The above restrictions are anticipated to continue in place for the next 6 months.

Implications for employers

  • Plans to bring employees back to the office will need to be reconsidered in light of this announcement.
  • Employers operating in the leisure and hospitality sector will need to be mindful of the need to make changes to working hours and shift patterns.
  • These restrictions, combined with the cessation of the furlough scheme at the end of October 2020, may mean that employers will

UK HR Solutions: How to deal with sickness absence

Welcome to the next post in our weekly series of hands-on guidance for UK HR professionals. In this series we look at common HR issues that you’ll encounter in the workplace and give you practical guidance on how to deal with them. Over the course of the series we’re covering a variety of topics, such as how to handle grievances, disciplinaries, suspension, performance management and much more besides.

This week we look at how to deal with sickness absence.

Click here to read our sickness absence guidance note.

UK HR Solutions: Grievances and how to handle them

Welcome to the first in our new weekly series of hands-on guidance for UK HR professionals. In this series we look at common HR issues that you’ll encounter in the workplace and give you practical guidance on how to deal with them. In the forthcoming weeks we will cover a variety of topics, such as how to manage disciplinaries, suspensions, poor performance, sickness absence and much more besides.

In our first edition, we are looking at grievances. The way in which an employer handles a grievance has long term employee relations implications, in addition to potential legal liabilities.

Click here to read our step by step guide to grievances and how to handle them.

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