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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

(E)ESG – Why It Matters to Employment Experts

In our hyper-transparent and increasingly joined up world, the concepts of corporate social responsibility and socially responsible investing are gaining greater currency. Over the last decade, and catalysed by COVID-19 over the last year, Boards and General Counsel have focused on the role of ESG in driving responsible and sustainable business conduct approaches which acknowledge that the purpose of a company should be amplified beyond just shareholders to also explicitly include their employees, clients and the communities in which they operate.  In fact, the Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court, the Honourable Judge Leo Strine in a piece he wrote for the Financial Times, has already suggested the next generation acronym – EESG: Employees, Environment, Social and Governance.

So, what does this mean and why is it important for employment professionals? Hopefully the first E is a clear hint (it’s not a typo)!

What is ESG?

ESG is the umbrella term for broad range of Environmental, Social and Governance factors against which a company’s stakeholders can holistically assess the performance, value (risk/opportunity), investment in respect of the company.  Many ESG factors contribute to a company’s “social licence to operate” and responsibility to its stakeholders and the creation of long-term holistic value for a

UK HR Two Minute Monthly: TUPE transfers to multiple transferees, public interest test in whistleblowing cases and unfair dismissal

April 12, 2021

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Our April 2021 update includes a case which signals a potentially significant change in approach to TUPE transfers involving multiple transferees. We also consider a recent whistleblowing case in which it was considered that a disclosure of information affecting only one person could nevertheless be in the ‘public interest’, and provide an update on other recent points of note.

An employee can TUPE transfer to multiple transferees

In an important decision, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has held that where a TUPE service provision change involves multiple transferees, the contract of employment of a transferring employee can be split between them, with the individual’s duties divided between the transferee employers. This has the effect of splitting the employee’s employment between employers with the employee working for (in this case) two employers. This is a departure from the more established “assignment” approach of dividing employees between transferees so that each employee works for only one transferee employer.

The case involved a transfer of a service from a single contractor to two new contractors, operating in different geographical territories. The EAT said there was no reason in principle why, following a service provision change, the employee could not hold two or more

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

UK HR Two Minute Monthly: employment status, harassment and reasonable steps, workplace surveillance and unfair dismissal

The Supreme Court Delivers Verdict in Landmark Uber case

As we reported in our dedicated update, the Supreme Court gave judgment in the final appeal in relation to the Uber litigation at the end of February, unanimously concluding that the Uber drivers who brought claims against Uber in 2015 were workers within employment legislation.

Why this matters?

The outcome of this case has been long awaited given its importance to gig economy businesses. The Supreme Court found that the rights asserted by the drivers were not contractual rights but rather rights granted under statute. As such, while the contract between the parties is something that the courts can consider, the correct approach is to consider all the relevant circumstances, which will also include the relationship between the parties in practice and the general purpose of the legislation in question.

It is worth noting that this assessment must be carried out on a case-by-case basis and, as such, this decision does not determine the status of all gig employee workers. The issue of employment status therefore remains an area of debate.

Uber BV and others v Aslam and others

Employer unable to rely on “reasonable steps” defence in respect

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

Key details for employers: second national coronavirus lockdown for England and extension of the furlough scheme

November 2, 2020

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On Saturday 31 October in the evening, the UK Prime Minister announced a second national lockdown in England and an extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”).  The lockdown comes into force on Thursday 4 November 2020 and lasts until at least 2 December 2020.  Under the government’s current plans the CJRS will be extended until December 2020.

Key details of the changes

The key details of the changes to the extended CJRS that have so far been announced are as follows:

  • It is currently due to be extended until December 2020, presumably to coincide with the period of the national lockdown.
  • Employees will receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500. Employers will only have to bear the cost of National Insurance and employer pension contributions. This reflects the government’s more generous contribution when the scheme originally began to taper off.
  • To be eligible to participate in the CJRS, employees must have been on the payroll by 30 October 2020. This means a Real Time Information (RTI) submission notifying payment for that employee to HMRC must have been made on or before 30 October 2020.
  • Employees who participate in

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.

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