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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): 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

UK Supreme Court delivers verdict in landmark Uber case

Overview

The Supreme Court has unanimously concluded that the Uber drivers who brought claims against Uber in 2015 are workers within employment legislation, giving them the range of rights attached to that status, such as the national minimum wage, the right to paid leave and whistleblowing protection.

Facts and Employment Tribunal decision in 2016

As many of you will be aware, Uber is a ride-hailing service which operates through an app downloaded to a user’s smartphone. The app enables a user to request a ride and be picked up from a pre-selected location. 25 Uber drivers brought a case against the company, which reached the Employment Tribunal (ET) in 2016. The drivers sought to be categorised as workers as opposed to self-employed contractors. Uber’s position was that it simply provided a technology platform which facilitated the provision of private hire vehicles to customers. Uber argued that it served as an agent, with the driver and passenger entering into a direct contract for each journey.

The ET concluded that the drivers were workers. In reaching this decision, the ET considered the following factors:

  • Uber mandated drivers to accept bookings and drivers who repeatedly cancelled would face sanctions
  • Uber imposed conditions

Long Hot Summer? How should UK employers deal with the question of holiday during year 2 of COVID?

Lydia Octon-Burke considers the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on annual leave entitlement and carry-over moving into 2021 and practical tips for employers.

At the beginning of another year impacted by COVID-19, many employers have found themselves with employees having large amounts of outstanding annual leave carried over from 2020. Stuck in lockdown once again, employees are increasingly less willing to want to take annual leave, given that COVID-19 is likely to be with us for many months to come. Even if the vaccine programme is successful, it is likely that limits on travel abroad and social interaction will continue for some time.

All workers/employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ annual leave in each leave year, which equates to 28 days for someone who works 5 days a week. This is made up of:

  1. Four weeks’ statutory leave
  2. 6 weeks’ additional leave

Additional leave is more flexible and able to be carried over through direct agreement between employer and employee. As a general rule, however, four weeks’  statutory leave was more restricted and could only be taken in the leave year to which it related (i.e. the “use it or lose it” rule). This was amended last year

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

Categories

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): 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 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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