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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): 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

Categories

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.

UK HR Solutions: Addressing Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace

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, performance management, sickness absence and much more besides.

This is the first of two weeks where we focus on bullying and harassment. This time we give a brief overview of taking steps to prevent bullying and harassment, and how to manage an incident if it arises.

Read our Addressing Bullying and Harassment note >

UK HR Solutions: Suspending for disciplinary matters

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, poor performance, sickness absence and much more besides.

This week we look at suspending employees in relation to potential disciplinary matters. Suspending someone should not be an automatic response to allegations of misconduct, but a carefully considered decision. The consequences of getting this wrong can be considerable.

Read our FAQs on when and how to suspend an employee for disciplinary matters

Coronavirus: HR impact of the economic statement by the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer

Following catastrophic falls in economic output during quarter 2, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer has, today, made a ground-breaking economic statement setting out the UK government’s second phase of its economic response, which includes a significant effort to “protect, support and retain jobs”.Given that largescale unemployment would be a key factor in creating long term scarring for the economy, a key emphasis has been on reducing the number of unemployed as we emerge from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) at the end of October 2020.Set out below are the key points for employers:

  • Job Retention Bonus. To incentivise employers to bring furloughed employees back to work, the government will pay employers a bonus of £1,000 per employee on condition that following the end of the CJRS, they remain employed by their employer until at least January 2021, earning a minimum of £520 per month.
  • Kickstart Scheme. This scheme will provide new jobs to 16-24 year olds who are on Universal Credit.  The government will pay the national minimum wage of young people employed under this scheme for the first 6 months of their employment, subject to the job being a new one; salary being a national minimum wage
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