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Employment Law and Covid-19 - an update for employers

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Over the past year and a half employers have had to make many adjustments and comply with ever evolving rules regarding subjects such as lockdown, furlough, and working from home. Our Employment Law team provide an update on these areas of employment law that continue to be impacted by Covid-19 and look ahead at some potential future changes.

Furlough leave update for employers

Changes to the amount you can claim from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) came into effect on the 1st July 2021. For periods ending on or before 30 June 2021, you were able to claim 80% of an employee's usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. Claims for furlough during this period must be made by 14 July 2021.

From the 1st July:

  • You are able to claim 70% of an employee's usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,187.50 per month.
  • You will need to top this up and pay 10% towards the employee’s salary.

From 1st August:

  • You will only be able to claim 60% of an employee's usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £1,875 per month.
  • You will need to top this up and pay 20% towards the employee’s salary.

The CJRS is then scheduled to end on the 30th September 2021.

It has also been confirmed that the CJRS can be used for employees who are on sick leave or who are self-isolating due to coronavirus. The relevant passages in the Government guidance states that while the CJRS “is not intended for short-term absences from work due to sickness,” if employers “want to furlough employees for business reasons and they are currently off sick, they are eligible to do so, as with other employees,” and they may also “furlough employees who are clinically extremely vulnerable or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus.”

Digital right to work checks

As an employer, you have a responsibility to check that your workers are legally entitled to work in the UK. During the pandemic, new rules were introduced which, for a limited time, allows employers to conduct right to work checks virtually. Under the adjusted checks scheme, individuals can send an electronic copy of their passport or other relevant document to you. You must then arrange a video call with the individual concerned who must hold up their original documents to the camera so that you can check them against the electronic copies you have received.

You may continue conducting checks in this way until the 31st August, after which you must have the original documents physically present to be able to carry out the check. When planning for the recruitment and onboarding of new workers, you will need to consider the additional time it will take to carry out these physical checks, and should also consider the data protection implications of receiving, holding, and returning the physical documents.

You will not be required to carry out retrospective physical right to work checks for workers who had an adjusted check between the 30th March 2020 and 31st August 2021.

On 31st August 2021, it was announced that digital right to work checks would be permitted until April 2022.

Right to work from home

Currently employees do not have a statutory right to work from home, although employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment can ask to work remotely as part of a flexible working request. You would only be entitled to refuse such a request if the reason fell within one of the eight business reasons given in the Employment Rights Act 1996.

Last month the Government confirmed it is considering making flexible working a “default” option by giving employees the right to request it from day one of their employment. This would mean that employees would have a day one right to request homeworking, which you could only refuse by referencing a good reason why homeworking was not suitable. This is not the same as a legal right to work from home, which the Government has emphasised is not something they are considering.

Vaccines in care homes

New regulations are expected to come into force in October 2021 making it mandatory for all workers in care homes to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, unless they have a medical exemption. Workers will have 16 weeks to get both jabs or face possible dismissal or redeployment to roles away from the front lines. Former Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Handcock said the decision was “a vitally important step to continue protecting care homes now and in the future.” However, there are some concerns that making the vaccine mandatory may push some staff to leave employment and cause a shortage of care workers.

The Government has also indicated it intends to launch a further consultation on whether to extend mandatory vaccination to the NHS and other healthcare settings.  

It can be hard for employers to keep up with constantly evolving employment rules and legislation. If you have any questions about the current state of employment law or on how your business would be effected by any scheduled changes, contact our Employment Law Team today on 023 8071 7717 or email employment@warnergoodman.co.uk.

To receive regular Employment Law updates from the team regarding recent tribunal cases and legislation updates, you can subscribe to our weekly Employment Law Newsletter by completing our subscription form or emailing us at events@warnergoodman.co.uk

ENDS

This is for information purposes only and is no substitute for, and should not be interpreted as, legal advice.  All content was correct at the time of publishing and we cannot be held responsible for any changes that may invalidate this article.