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UK Covid 19: Government announces delay to final step on roadmap, emphasising the need for employers to be ready for change

The government has announced that stage 4 of the lockdown roadmap will be delayed. This article looks at how employers need to be able to anticipate future change in their return to work policies.

On Monday 14 June 2021, the government announced that stage 4 of the lockdown roadmap will be delayed for a period of up to 4 weeks. As part of this, the government guidance that workers should work from home if possible will continue beyond 21 June.

This comes at a time when employers, particularly those with an office-based workforce, have been considering the approach they will take in return to work policies. That will continue, but with the inevitable pushing back of implementation. Employers, quite understandably, want to be ready for an influx of people coming back to the office and, more often than not, have been steering towards a policy that allows the workforce to continue working from home to some degree.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in the UK in March 2020, one thing we have known for certain is unpredictability. It was only in September last year that the government launched a short-lived advertising campaign to encourage workers to return to their

UK HR Two Minute Monthly: COVID-19 automatic unfair dismissal, re-engagement orders, direct sex discrimination and hybrid working

Our May 2021 update considers key employment law developments from April. It includes recent cases on automatic unfair dismissal in the context of serious and imminent danger arising out of COVID-19; when it is appropriate for a Tribunal to order re-engagement of dismissed employees; the correct comparator of a male employee on shared parental leave and hybrid working. We also outline other points of note, including the extension of the furlough scheme and the Employment Tribunal road map.

Employees can claim automatic unfair dismissal where refuse to return to work in belief that workplace puts them or others in danger due to COVID-19

Mr Rodgers was employed by Leeds Laser Cutting Limited and was dismissed with less than two years’ continuous service.  Prior to his dismissal, Mr Rodgers had worked with a colleague who had been sent home because he was displaying COVID-19 symptoms.  Mr Rodgers then developed a cough and shortly thereafter texted his employer to confirm he had no alternative but to stay off work until the lockdown had eased to avoid infecting his children.  Mr Rodgers lived with his two young children, one of whom had sickle-cell anaemia.  Mr Rodgers did not mention that he was staying

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

Chicago Employers Must Permit Time Off For COVID-19 Vaccination, Including Paid Time Off For Mandatory Vaccinations

Pursuant to the Chicago Vaccine Anti-Retaliation Ordinance that took effect on April 21, 2021, Chicago workers – including both employees and independent contractors – now have certain protections designed to safeguard access to a COVID-19 vaccination. Under the Ordinance, an employer, defined as any person or entity that engages the services of one or more individual for payment:

  • May not take adverse action against any worker for taking time during scheduled work time to obtain a COVID-19 vaccination;
  • May not require a worker to get vaccinated only during non-working (non-shift) hours; and
  • Must permit workers to use accrued or available paid time off, including but not limited to paid sick leave, for the purpose of getting vaccinated (as discussed here, the Illinois Department of Labor has more broadly encouraged all Illinois employers to permit employees to use available paid time off for this purpose).

In addition, if an employer has made vaccination mandatory for workers, then the employer:

  • Must compensate the worker for time, up to 4 hours per vaccine dose (one or two doses, as required based on the type of COVID-19 vaccine received), that the worker takes to get the vaccine, if the

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

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

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

Categories

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: COVID-Related Leave – When Does The FMLA Apply?

COVID-19 has led to significant employee absences from the workplace.  While the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may well apply to certain such absences, employers must avoid the temptation to count all COVID-related leave against employees’ FMLA entitlement without considering the specific circumstances.  Over-designating absences as FMLA leave when the FMLA does not actually apply can create just as many legal issues as failing to designate covered absences under the FMLA.

For example, an FMLA interference claim may result if an employee is denied additional FMLA leave after the employee’s FMLA entitlement is exhausted due to absences that did not truly count as FMLA leave.  Conversely, by offering FMLA protections when the FMLA does not apply, employers may be establishing a right to reinstatement or other benefits when no such right should exist.  At a minimum, improperly designating absences as FMLA leave can create confusion and administrative nightmares.

Accordingly, COVID-related absences must be evaluated carefully and designated as FMLA leave only in appropriate circumstances.  As a general overview – but with the caveat that this post is not intended to provide legal advice concerning specific situations – below are examples of COVID-related situations in which the FMLA typically

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