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16
Nov 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

The Budget 2021: NLW & NMW

The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced new National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW) details in line with those recommended by The Low Pay Commission (LPC) and these new rates will take effect from 1st April 2022.

The National Living Wage is for those aged 23 and over and the National Minimum Wage is for those of at least school leaving age.

The National Living Wage, the statutory minimum for workers aged 23 and over, will increase by 6.6% to £9.50 per hour.

An employee's age and if they are an apprentice will determine the rate they will receive. These rates can be viewed below:

Posted in Customer Update, Employment Update, News

10
Nov 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Don't Be Afraid to Talk About Menopause in the Workplace

As it currently stands, under the Equality Act 2010, menopause discrimination is largely covered under three protected characteristics: age, sex and disability discrimination. If an employee is treated unfairly due to menopause, this may amount to discrimination because, for example, of their sex and/or disability, and/or their age.

Menopause Awareness Month has shone some light on the impact that the menopause can have in the workplace. And shockingly according to a recent survey, fewer than 50% of companies provide any support for perimenopausal or menopausal staff. The menopause affects us all at work. Even if we do not experience menopausal symptoms ourselves, we will inevitably have colleagues who do.

While the menopause usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, the NHS estimates that around one in 100 affected people will experience a premature menopause before the age of 40. Menopause can be also triggered by medical or surgical interventions, such as some cancer treatments or a hysterectomy, and can therefore affect employees of all ages.

It is estimated that three out of four people going through the perimenopause or menopause experience symptoms that can last several years. There are over 30 recognised symptoms of the perimenopause and menopause, with a number of these relating to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, mood swings and problems with memory and confidence. It is unsurprising, therefore, that menopause can have a significant impact on an individual’s performance at work.

The ongoing stigma and lack of education around menopause can lead to bullying and harassment in the workplace. Many employees report that they do not talk about their menopause at work because they feel embarrassed, are concerned they will not be supported, will be treated less favourably or viewed as less capable than before. This can create or exacerbate workplace issues and evidence suggests that a number of those experiencing the menopause or perimenopause leave the workplace altogether.

What is clear is that discrimination and harassment at work can worsen menopausal symptoms of stress and anxiety. Similarly, negative or discriminatory attitudes can make it less likely that individuals from these groups will be open about their status, any difficulties they are experiencing, or seek help.

Given that every person’s experience of the menopause is different, there is no exhaustive list of reasonable adjustments that could be made to the workplace environment, and employers will always need to consult with the individual employee and seek occupational health or other medical evidence where appropriate.

Adjustments could include the following:

- increased ventilation
- better access to toilet/washing facilities
- adjusting working time rules/break times
relaxing uniform policies
adjusting inflexible policies which can penalise those experiencing symptoms (eg absence management or performance-related targets).

So how can employers go about improving the workplace for employees who are undergoing the menopause, particularly when many employees are not willing to disclose details of the condition and the symptoms they are experiencing?

Firstly, employers should consider implementing a workplace policy that covers issues such as flexible working, sickness and performance management, and identifying sources of support.

Training is also important to educate, increase awareness and empower managers to feel confident in talking to and supporting employees who are experiencing symptoms of menopause. Management should consider buddying and mentoring schemes and/or established points of contact - perhaps utilising staff who have been through the menopause - to provide encouragement and support.

All of these steps should encourage employees to feel more comfortable about being open about their symptoms, and to continue to reach their potential by discussing what adjustments they may need.

Bright Contracts has a Menopause Policy available in the 'Terms & Conditions' section of the company handbook. To view a sample of the policy you can download a trial version of the software here.

Related Articles:

Supporting Female Employees: Implementing a Menopause Policy

Let's Talk About Family Leave

Posted in Company Handbook, Employment Law

2
Nov 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Don't Get Caught Out: Discrimination Case Law

We are all aware of how it is against the law to treat someone less favourably due to their gender, race, religion, age etc, but this does not mean that discrimination does not still occur in the workplace. In a recent case, the Employment Tribunal (ET) ruled in favour of an employee who was discriminated against when she was dismissed while on maternity leave for refusing to accept a lesser role with a £20,000 pay cut.

The claimant claimed that when she informed her colleagues of her pregnancy, she was asked how the pregnancy would affect her long-term career goals and the all-male executive team subjected her to "offensive and humiliating" comments, announcing they should "put a wager" on how much weight she would gain during her pregnancy.

During her maternity leave the company went through a restructure which included the dismissal of several executives. The new chief executive excluded the claimant in the restructuring and the claimant discovered from HR that she was no longer on the company email distribution lists or on the new organisational chart and was at risk of redundancy. In response, the company sought to offer her a revised job description for the director of marketing role which was a lower-level role than marketing director and also involved a £20,000 pay reduction. The claimant refused the role and was subsequently made redundant by the company.

The ET upheld her claims of unfair dismissal and maternity discrimination as there was a stark difference in the treatment the claimant received compared to her male colleagues, with the only explanation being due to the fact that she was on maternity leave. The tribunal found that not only was the job description offered to the claimant copied from other websites but also that no such role existed and the retained executives did not have their salaries reduced in order to stay with the company.

Although, a claim of harassment on grounds of pregnancy and maternity cannot be brought under the Equality Act, the ET concluded that the claimant was subjected to a “humiliating and degrading environment” when her colleagues placed a bet on how much weight she would gain during her pregnancy and that this amounted to direct discrimination and the ET awarded her £25,000 plus £5,000 in interest for injury to feelings.

Related Articles:

Let's Talk About Family Leave

The Buzz About Carer's Leave

Posted in Bullying and Harassment, Discrimination, Dismissals, Employment Tribunals

28
Oct 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Let's Talk About Family Leave

With the covid-19 lockdowns having made the adoption process more difficult and limiting the capability of social services to identify vulnerable cases, this has resulted in the number of adoptions in England alone having fallen by one-third over the past few years. This blog post rounds up the key employment law rights and entitlements that apply to adoptive parents:

Adoption, Paternity & Shared Parental Leave

When adopting, the couple must designate one parent as the (primary) adopter for the purposes of leave and pay entitlements. The adopter has an entitlement of to up to 52 weeks' statutory adoption leave which like maternity leave is a day-one right meaning there is no longer any qualifying period of service to avail of this leave. The other adopter is entitled to take statutory paternity leave and both adopters may be eligible to opt in to the shared parental leave scheme if they meet the qualifying conditions. The (primary) adopter must inform their employer of their intention to avail of their adoption leave in order to opt in to the shared parental leave scheme. If someone is adopting without a second parent, they are entitled to statutory adoption leave. During adoption leave, an employee is entitled to all terms and conditions of employment except terms that are related to pay.

Adoption leave can begin on the date a child is placed with the adopter or within 14 days before the date on which the child is expected to be placed. In the case of adopting more than one child as part of the same adoption arrangement, the employee cannot claim multiple adoption pay entitlements. 

Adoption leave and pay is available only to parents who adopt through an adoption agency. Employees who adopt a child on a "private" basis are not eligible for adoption leave or pay, or are step-parents who adopt their step-children.

Surrogacy

Adoption leave and pay rights have also been extended to parents who enter into qualifying surrogacy arrangements. To qualify, parents must be eligible for a parental order in respect of the child. Parental order means that, along with meeting other conditions, one of the parents must have provided the genetic material that was used to create the embryo.

Dependants & Parental Leave

Dependant leave is available for an employee who needs to take time off work in an emergency or unexpected situation, in order to help a dependant, which, includes an adoptive child. An adoptive parent who has served at their company for over one year may also take parental leave to look after their child up to their 18th birthday. This entitlement is to a maximum of 18 weeks unpaid leave per child. The employee may take up to four weeks per year and it must be in blocks of one week at a time.

Related Articles:

The Buzz About Carer's Leave

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Posted in Family Leave

21
Oct 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Returning To The Office: Top 10 Things Employers Need to Know - Part 2

Following on from our previous blog post 'Returning To The Office: Top 10 Things Employers Need to Know - Part 1' the below are the last 5 things and employer needs to know in preparation or the return of employees to the office.

6. Cleaning & Hygiene

Consider how you will keep the office clean which will include surface cleaning and maintaining good hygiene practices. For example, this may include:

    • Implementing a 'clear desk' policy
    • Asking staff to wipe down their desk after use
    • Asking staff to use hand sanitiser regularly 
    • Encouraging good hand and respiratory hygiene

7. Ventilation

Your risk assessment might identify that it is appropriate to open more windows and doors than usual, and it may also be appropriate to consider improvements to mechanical ventilation / air conditioning. The HSE provides further guidance on this.

If you are opening windows and doors ensure you take into consideration  fire safety, and the potential impact on the confidentiality of sensitive conversations.

8. Guidance for those who develop COVID-19 symptoms or are identified as a close contact

You will need to ensure that staff are clear on the process should they develop COVID-19 symptoms in office or otherwise, and also if they are identified as a close contact.

9. Commuting

As part of your risk assessment, you should consider the risks posed by COVID-19 throughout all aspects of your business activity – this will include your employees' commute.

10. Other issues

Ensure you bear in mind other health and safety issues, for example fire safety and manual handling, and how you can manage these within a COVID-19 context. Depending on the measures you take, you will also need to consider whether additional protections are needed for those more vulnerable to COVID-19 due to medical conditions or pregnancy.

Related Articles:

Returning To The Office: Top 10 Things Employers Need to Know - Part 1

Annual Leave Post Covid

Posted in Coronavirus, Health & Safety, News

15
Oct 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

The Buzz About Carer's Leave

This month the Government confirmed that it will introduce a 'day one' right to statutory carer’s leave. The new entitlement to statutory carer’s leave will:

1. be available to the employee irrespective of how long they have worked for their employer (a day one right);

2. rely on the carer’s relationship with the person being cared for  – a spouse, civil partner, child, parent, a person who lives in the same household as the employee or a person who reasonably relies on the employee for care; and

3. depend on the person being cared for having a long-term care need. This would be defined as a long-term illness or injury (physical or mental), a disability as defined under the Equality Act 2010, or issues related to old age. There would be limited exemptions from the requirement for long-term care, for example in the case of terminal illness.

What can the leave be used for?

Personal support, helping with official or financial matters, or accompanying someone to medical and other appointments.

How can the leave be taken?

Either as a single block of one week, or more flexibly in individual days.

How are employee's to notify their employer?

The notice requirement will be in line with that of annual leave, the employee must give notice that is twice the length of time being requested as leave, plus one day in order to enable employers to manage and plan for absences. Employers will be able to postpone, but not deny, the leave request for carer’s leave on grounds that the employer considers that the operation of their business would be unduly disrupted. Employers will be required to give a counter-notice if postponing the request to take Carer’s Leave.

Is there protections for those undertaking carer's leave?

Those taking carer's leave will be protected from suffering a detriment for having done so, and dismissals for reasons connected with exercising the right to carer's leave will be automatically unfair.

When will carer's leave be introduced?

According to gov.uk this right will be introduced into legislation when Parliamentary time allows. In the meantime employers should start to prepare a written policy to introduce this new requirement once introduced.

Related Articles:

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Posted in Annual Leave, Company Handbook, Employee Handbook, Employment Law, Employment Update

7
Oct 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Returning To The Office: Top 10 Things Employers Need to Know - Part 1

With the continued relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions across the UK, employers are finally on course for returning their employees to the office in some shape or form. Although restrictions are easing employers must still ensure they are adhering to the relevant government guidance in terms of re-opening and the attendance of employees in the workplace. Returning employees to the workplace will be based on the completion of COVID-19 risk assessments. Once employers have identified risks they must implement control measures to remove or control those risks. These risks and control measures will determine an employers approach on a range of issues which we've covered examples of below. 

1. Social Distancing

While it is not currently a legal requirement for employers to ensure social distancing on their premises, the government encourages this. Social distancing can be considered an appropriate control measure in light of your COVID-19 risk assessment as employers may want to think about:

  • Implementing a one-way system in the office
  • Limiting numbers in the office 
  • Staggering staff start and finish times
  • Reconfiguring desks, using protective screens and a desk booking system
  • Limiting the number of people in certain areas e.g. canteens, toilets, meeting rooms and lifts

2. Vaccination

Currently vaccinations are only mandatory for registered care home works. Making vaccination compulsory in your business could lead to potential difficulties, including potential discrimination issues. Businesses however may wish to have their employees disclose their vaccination status prior to returning to the office in order to consider additional health and safety measures to protect your workforce. However, it is important to note that this raises data protection issues, and whether it is justified will depend on individual circumstances.

3. Testing

In line with government guidance, employers should encourage their staff to self-test regularly for COVID-19 to ensure their safety.

4. Office Equipment

As part of your control measures, will any restrictions be applied or alternative measures put in place for office equipment such as photocopiers, fridges, microwaves, water coolers or communal cutlery / crockery?

5. Face coverings

Employers must ensure they are aware of where the legal requirement to wear face coverings still exists - In Scotland it isstill  a legal requirement to wear face coverings in the workplace in certain situations whereas in England and Wales, it is not currently a legal requirement to wear face coverings in the workplace. It is important to note that although face coverings are no longer required, the government's guidance encourages mask wearing therefore you may consider it an appropriate control measure in light of your COVID-19 risk assessment.

Check back next week for 'Returning To The Office: Top 10 Things Employers Need to Know - Part 2' which will list the final 5 things employers must know in relation to returning to the office.

Posted in Coronavirus, Health & Safety, News

27
Sep 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) & Isolation

The government has decided to bring the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS) to an end on the 30th of September 2021. This means that, from the 1st of October 2021, small employers who are currently eligible under the Scheme will no longer be able to claim back statutory sick pay (SSP) for employees unable to work due to COVID-19. Alternatively the employer will have to cover the full cost of SSP which is currently £96.35 a week.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, employers covered the full cost of up to 28 weeks’ SSP for their employees who met the relevant SSP criteria. By law, employers must pay SSP to employees and workers when they meet eligibility conditions.

The scheme only allows you to recover up to two weeks' SSP per employee and is payable from the first qualifying day the employee is off work as the usual rules about 'waiting days' don't apply.

Employees could be entitled to receive SSP if they are self-isolating for any of the following reasons:

  • They have tested positive for covid-19
  • They have been notified by the NHS or public health authorities that they are a close contact but of course since the 16th of August fully vaccinated close contacts do not need to isolate.
  • They have been advised by their doctor or healthcare professional to self-isolate before going into hospital for surgery.

It is important to note that employees are not entitled to Statutory Sick Pay if they're in self-isolation or quarantine after traveling abroad and they cannot work from home.

Record Keeping
Employers need to keep records of SSP if they have paid an employee who was off work because of COVID-19 if the employer wants to reclaim it. They'll need to keep the following records for 3 years after the end of the tax year they paid SSP:

  • the dates the employee was off sick
  • which of those dates were qualifying days
  • the reason they said they were off work
  • the employee’s National Insurance number

Employers do not need to keep records of SSP paid to employees who are off sick for another reason. Employers can choose how to keep records of their employees’ sickness absence. The HMRC may need to see these records if there’s a dispute over payment of SSP.

Related Articles:

Annual Leave Post Covid

Redundancy in the UK: A Guide to Avoiding Unfair Selection

New Self-Isolation Rules: What the Employer Needs to Know

Posted in Coronavirus, Employment Update, Health & Safety

21
Sep 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Annual Leave Post Covid

With the pandemic, some employees will have been on furlough meaning they are not working. However, it is important for employers to note that employees who were or are on furlough still accrue annual leave. This is because the contract of employment continues during this period. Employees are permitted to take annual leave while on furlough, without their furlough period coming to an end. If they choose to do so, the organisation will need to top up their pay to 100% of their normal wages if they are receiving reduced pay while on furlough.

Employers may wish to require employees to take annual leave during furlough, for example to avoid a build-up of leave that employees will need to take when they are back at work. Managers should be aware of the company’s approach to annual leave for the period of furlough before making any decisions.

Standard employment law provisions state that employers can require employees to take annual leave as long as they give twice as many days’ notice as the period of leave the employee is required to take. For example, if the employer requires the employee to take two week's annual leave at a certain time, the employer must therefore give the employee at least four weeks' advance notice (or what is outlined in the contract of employment).

As employees return to the workplace from furlough, managers may be in a situation where a number of employees will ask to take annual leave at the same time, particularly when they have leave to take before the end of the leave year. Where possible managers should allow the leave however, they need to ensure business continuity.

Interestingly new research by Acas has found that around 4 in 10 British employees (39%) have taken less paid time off work during the pandemic compared to before it started.

The normal rules on carrying over annual leave have been modified under reg.13 of the Working Time Regulations 1998 to allow workers to carry over up to four weeks' annual leave into the next two holiday years, where it has not been feasible for them to take it as a result of the effects of coronavirus which applies to all employees.

Related Articles:

Redundancy in the UK: A Guide to Avoiding Unfair Selection

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Posted in Annual Leave, Coronavirus

16
Sep 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Redundancy in the UK: A Guide to Avoiding Unfair Selection

As you all know the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has now entered its final month and will draw to a close on the 30th of September 2021. With this scheme coming to an end companies are now unfortunately faced with the possibility of redundancies having to be considered. The number of redundancies in the UK has accelerated at the fastest pace since the financial crisis. According to ACAS, redundancy related calls to their helpline have increased by over 160% compared to 2019.

If redundancies must occur then we see the following steps should be adhered to:

Collective Consultation

If an employer is proposing to make 20 or more employees redundant at one establishment within 90 days, collective consultation will be required with trade union or employee representatives.

For employers who collective redundancy applies to and who wish to make redundant by the end of the furlough scheme, they would have needed to commence their collective redundancy consultation by the 31st of August 2021.

Non-Collective Redundancy

If collective redundancy does not apply and your redundancies are on an individual level this is non-collective redundancy which is less than 20. In this case;

  • You should aim to avoid compulsory redundancies through: voluntary redundancies, agreed short-time working or other flexible staffing arrangements.
  • You should also carry out a consultation with every employee individually. The consultation must be meaningful and your plans must not be finalised at this stage.

Next is selecting staff for redundancy. Employers should use fair and objective criteria. Ideally, all employees at risk of redundancy should be put in a selection pool and assessed upon criteria such as: Standard of work, experience / qualifications and disciplinary record. Selecting those who have been on furlough over other employees may not necessarily be fair – these employees may have been parents with childcare issues or individuals with disabilities, so there could be a risk of a direct or indirect discrimination claim.

Notice of Termination

Once you have selected staff for redundancy, you need to give employees notice of their redundancy. The statutory redundancy notice periods are: 

  • At least one week’s notice if employed between one month and 2 years 
  • One week’s notice for each year if employed between 2 and 12 years 
  • 12 weeks’ notice if employed for 12 years or more. 

It is always advisable to check your contracts of employment as the contractual notice agreed may differ to statutory notice. Where contractual notice is greater than statutory notice, contractual notice will apply. However, where the contractual notice is less than statutory notice, statutory notice will apply. 

Statutory notice pay is protected. If the notice in the contract is the same or less than the applicable statutory notice, 100% of the employee’s normal pay should be paid during the notice period.

However, things are slightly different where contractual notice is greater than the statutory notice period. If contractual notice is greater, by at least 1 week, an employee should receive their normal full pay as long as they are working. If they are not working, they should receive what they would have normally been paid for that absence.

So, if you have an employee who is out of work due to furlough and being paid at 80%, and this employee’s contractual notice is greater than statutory notice, they may be paid at 80% for their notice period. For this reason, it is extremely important to always check the contract of employment.

Redundancy Payments

An individual is entitled to statutory redundancy pay if they are an employee and have been working for the employer for 2 years or more.

  • One week’s pay for each full year they have worked when 22 or older, but under 41 years old.
  • Half a week’s pay for each full year they have worked under 22 years old.
  • One and half week’s pay for each full year they have worked when 41 years old or older.

Redundancy pay is capped with a length of service being 20 years. For employees made redundant on or after 6 April 2021, a weeks’ pay is capped at £544, so the maximum statutory redundancy they can receive being £16,320.

Related Articles:

 - New Self-Isolation Rules: What the Employer Needs to Know

End of UK Lockdown: Employees Rejoice While Employers Wonder, ‘What Does Workplace Safety now look like?’

 

Posted in Contract of employment, Dismissals, Employee Contracts

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