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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

U.S. Biometric Laws & Pending Legislation Tracker

BCLP has been tracking enacted biometric privacy statutes and proposed legislation across the United States. This Alert provides a map highlighting the current status of biometric privacy-related laws and pending legislation. Existing laws have led to a boon of class action litigation for claimed violations of biometric privacy rights. It is therefore imperative that businesses remain informed of their obligations, which are increasingly expanding and arising in new jurisdictions. BCLP continues to monitor as newly proposed legislation proliferates. Please check back here periodically for updates.

Click here to read the Alert in full.

Illinois Amends Employee Sick Leave Act, Expanding Coverage to Include “Personal Care” for Covered Family Members

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker recently signed into law an amendment to the Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act (ESLA), permitting employees to take leave for a covered family member’s “personal care.”

Enacted in 2017, the ESLA requires Illinois employers to permit employees to use half of their annual accrued sick leave under an existing sick leave policy for absences related to the illness, injury, or medical appointment of certain family members. For example, an employee who accrues 40 hours of sick leave each year is entitled to use 20 hours of such time for family leave purposes. Notably, the ESLA does not require employers to provide paid sick leave—it only applies to those employers who already provide leave to their employees. So, once an employer offers sick leave, it must allow employees to use available leave for family-care purposes listed in the ESLA.  For more information on the ESLA, please refer to this earlier article.

Under the recent amendment to the ESLA, employees must now be permitted to take sick leave for the “personal care” of a “covered family member.”

  • “Covered family member” includes an employee’s child, stepchild, spouse, domestic partner, sibling, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, grandchild, grandparent, or stepparent.

Employers Required to Pay Premiums for COBRA Continuation Coverage Until At Least September 30, 2021

May 3, 2021

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Employers in the U.S. should remember that they may be required to pay for employees’ COBRA coverage this year.  The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 provides that, for periods of COBRA coverage between April 1 and September 30, 2021, that were triggered by an involuntary termination of employment or a reduction of hours, 100% of the COBRA premium will be paid by the employer, health plan, or insurer, and the premium expense will be reimbursed by the federal government through a refundable FICA tax credit.

For more information, see the helpful blog post by our colleagues in the Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation group, which can be found here: DOL Flies Alone: Guidance on the 100% COBRA Subsidy under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

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

Illinois Employers Must Report Gender, Race, Ethnicity and Compensation Data and Practices

Under amendments to the Illinois Business Corporation Act and the Illinois Equal Pay Act, certain corporations will be required, beginning in 2023 and continuing thereafter, to report data concerning the gender, race, and ethnicity makeup of their workforces, along with information about their compensation practices and efforts to comply with equal pay laws.  Much of this information will become public, and failure to report the necessary information can lead to significant penalties.

EEO Data Reporting

Illinois domestic corporations and foreign corporations authorized to do business in Illinois are already required by the Illinois Business Corporation Act to file certain annual reports with the Secretary of State.  Beginning with the corporation’s annual report filed on and after January 1, 2023, any such corporations which are also required to file an Employer Information Report EEO-1 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) must include with their annual report “information that is substantially similar to the employment data reported under Section D of the corporation’s EEO-1” report.

Employers should be aware that data on the gender, race and ethnicity of each reporting corporation’s employees will be published by the Secretary of State on its website within 90 days of receipt.

Equal Pay Registration

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

Illinois Tightens Restrictions on Use Of Criminal Conviction Information

Restrictions on inquiring into, or using, criminal history information are not new to Illinois employers.  For years, Illinois employers been precluded from using an applicant’s arrest history when making hiring or other employment decisions.  And, in 2015, Illinois joined the list of “ban the box” states by precluding employers with 15+ employees from inquiring into or considering the criminal record or criminal history of an applicant until after the applicant was selected for an interview or had received a conditional offer of employment.

Effective March 23, 2021, the restrictions have tightened again, through amendments to the Illinois Human Rights Act (“IHRA”), which borrow concepts from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”).

Restricted Use of Conviction Records

The new IHRA provisions make it a civil rights violation for an employer to use a “conviction record” as the basis for any employment decision, including hiring, promotion, discipline and discharge, unless:

  1. There is a “substantial relationship” between one or more of the previous criminal offenses and the employment sought or held; OR
  2. The granting or continuation of employment would involve an unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals

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

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