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16
Jun 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Let's Get Topical - The Vaccine Policy

The Vaccine. . . a major topical area and again one that information about is changing by the day. Instead of overloading you with paragraph upon paragraph of text, we thought we’d approach this section as a Q&A which covers all questions you may have about the vaccine policy.

The first question is - Can you insist that an employee be tested?

In the absence of a legal requirement for employees to take a test, no individual can lawfully be forced to take one, as such an action could be considered assault given the physical element of taking a test.

Employees who have no symptoms should only be asked to take a test on a voluntary basis. Employees who have no symptoms and are not a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case may query the legal basis of being required to take a covid test before entering the workplace. In this scenario, the purpose of the test should be explained to the employee and if the employee continues to refuse the test, employers need to tread very carefully to avoid employee relations issues.

Moving onto question 2 - Can you ask an employee if they have been vaccinated?

While employees are not obliged to provide personal medical information, employers may seek vaccination information on the foundation that they are meeting their legal obligations under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work etc. Act 1974. It will be up to the employee if they wish to volunteer this information to their employer. If they choose to volunteer this information, then employers should not disclose this information to other employees. As medical data is considered as a Special Category of Personal data, additional data protection regulation apply and must considered.

Lastly, question 3 - Can you insist that an employee be vaccinated?

Currently vaccinations are recommended by UK authorities, but not compulsory for any citizen. Even with the role out of the Covid vaccination amongst medical workers who are employees of the HSE, for these employees the vaccine was not mandatory. With this in mind, it is likely to be very difficult for an employer to argue and defend a case that vaccination is compulsory in a workplace. There is little an employer can do if their employee refuses to get the vaccine however, understanding their concerns is important and finding solutions that meet the business needs without infringing on their rights is crucial in managing their integration into the workplace. Employers need to think carefully about any action they take and consider the potential legal consequences associated with these actions.

If you are an employer, now you are most likely thinking, 'What can I do about the vaccine and my workplace?'. The answer is simple, employees cannot be forced to avail of the vaccine however it is vitally important that employers promote that their employees take a vaccine. The best way to take a proactive stance here is to roll out a vaccine policy. We would advise doing this now to help prepare employees. In creating a vaccine policy you’ll want to consider :

1. Providing your workforce with a list of resources where they can obtain further information about the vaccination programme, for example, gov.uk, nhs.uk

2. Your policy must recognise that the decision to avail of the vaccine is the individual's choice however the employer encourages their workforce to make an informed decision through:

    • Reading information about COVID-19 vaccinations via official sources;
    • Listening to the information provided when offering a vaccine; and
    • Being cautious of misinformation around COVID-19 vaccinations by unreliable sources.

3. Detail whether your employee's will be paid or un-paid for the leave to attend their appointment.

4. If an employee feels unwell after their vaccination they will be instructed to follow The Company's sick leave policy.

Lastly, we would recommend :

5. That employers include a section in the vaccine policy about employee's respecting others privacy and not having open discussions about the vaccine with colleagues.

Bright Contracts has recently been updated to include a vaccine policy which covers these consideration points for our customers to include in their employee handbooks, which can be found under the terms and conditions tab.
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It's As Easy As 1,2,3: Key Elements of a Safe Employee Return

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Posted in Company News, Coronavirus, Customer Update, Employee Handbook, Health & Safety

11
Jun 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Supporting Female Employees: Implementing a Menopause Policy

2021 has been a year of big change for everyone and has given rise to many different topics of conversation, a vitally important topic is that of menopause among the female workforces. Media outlets across the UK have been discussing menopause and from these discussions it has been said that ‘The menopause is where mental health was 10 years ago’. A statement which could not be more true. These discussions have brought to the surface the realisation that menopause is considered a taboo subject, like mental health was and like mental health we are not educated enough in what menopause is, the symptoms of it and how we can help those going through menopause which is why it is so important for employers to educate their workforce and to recognise the importance of supporting women in the workplace who are transitioning through menopause which is why we believe it is vitally important for organisations to implement a menopause policy as we believe it needs to be acknowledged and recognised as an important occupational issue requiring supports to be made available.

To ensure that companies show a positive attitude towards the menopause, we want to encourage employers to create an atmosphere where women feel there are colleagues with whom they can comfortably discuss menopausal symptoms and that they can ask for support and adjustments in order to work safely and without fear of negative repercussions. For this reason, the menopause is an issue for men as well as women. So let’s touch on the basics of menopause by answering the simple question, ‘What is menopause?’ Menopause is a natural stage of life when a woman’s estrogen levels decline and she stops having periods. As menopausal symptoms are typically experienced for several years, it is best described as a ‘transition’ rather than a one-off event. The menopause typically happens between age 45 and 55. The ‘perimenopause’ is the phase leading up to the menopause, when a woman’s hormone balance starts to change. For some women this can start as early as their twenties or as late as their late forties.

There are various symptoms that can be experienced through menopause and can be both physical and/or psychological. They can include: hot flushes, insomnia, headaches, fatigue, memory lapses, anxiety, depression and heart palpitations and each of these symptoms can affect an employee’s comfort and performance at work which is why we developed our menopause policy to ensure you are assisting your female employees in their daily duties. In order to assist those experiencing these symptoms in their daily duties, it is important that your company menopause policy explores making reasonable accommodations to the individuals role or working environment with the aim of reducing the effect that the menopause is having on the individual which is explored in our new menopause policy available on Bright Contracts today! We are committed to ensuring appropriate support and assistance is provided to female employees and that exclusionary or discriminatory practices will not be tolerated. Our menopause policy is fully compliant with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work etc. Act 1974 as well as the Equality Act 2010.

Check out your Bright Contracts today to view the update, or if you would like to become a Bright Contracts user you can download the software and purchase a licence today.
To access the update, log out of your Bright Contracts company file and log back in, you will then see a yellow bar across the top of the page asking you if you would like to upgrade the content.

Posted in Bright Contracts News, Company handbook, Customer Update, Employee Handbook, Employment Law, Health & Safety, Software Upgrade, Staff Handbook

9
Jun 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

It's As Easy As 1,2,3: Key Elements of a Safe Employee Return

Following on from our previous blog post 'Our Employees Are Back! – How Do I Return My Employees Safely' this blog post will detail the first 3 guidelines of making your workplace COVID-secure during the coronavirus pandemic.:

1.Risk Assessment

2. Social Distancing

3. Cleaning, Hygiene & Handwashing

1.Risk Assessment

As an employer it is vitally important to keep your employees free from harm which includes taking reasonable steps to protect your workers and others from coronavirus through conducting a risk assessment which will help to manage the risk and protect people. 

In order to pinpoint how and where could the virus be transmitted in your workplace you must look at the hazards, evaluate the risks and put control measures in place. This will help you to understand as a business what you should do to work safely and protect your people.

You must complete the following steps:

  • identify what work activity or situations might cause transmission of the virus
  • think about those who could be at risk
  • decide how likely it is that someone could be exposed
  • act to remove the activity or situation, or if this isn't possible, control the risk

COVID risk assessments will need to reflect any changes in legislation or guidance which may impact how employers carry out their work activity, for example if there is a change in local or national restrictions. If there is a change to how work is carried out, you will need to review your Health & Safety policies.

2.Social Distancing

Social distancing means keeping people apart in order to help to reduce the spread of the virus. Where possible, individuals should keep 2 metres apart. If this isn't possible then additional control measures should be considered.

In the UK some rules about social distancing may be different in each of the devolved nations. Therefore you should check the public health guidance for the country you are in.

Social distancing should form part of your business's risk assessment and is one of the steps needed to make your workplace COVID-secure.

Some of the measures you can put in place in order to maintain social distancing includes but is not limited tot eh following:

  • using paint/ floor tape to mark work areas
  • display appropriate signage to remind those to social distance 
  • advise individuals to travel alone in the lift or when driving to work
  • turn high-traffic areas like corridors, turnstiles and walkways into one-way systems where possible

3.Cleaning, Hygiene & Handwashing

The next point is to develop a comprehensive catch-all document that deals with all points of relevance relating to the cleaning & hygiene of your workplace. The virus can be transferred from people to surfaces and those who touch the same surfaces. Therefore keeping your workplace clean and frequent handwashing reduces the potential for coronavirus to spread and is a critical part of making and keeping your business 'COVID-secure'.

For those of you who are using our Bright Contracts package, Bright Contracts has been updated with a template Covid-19 response plan which can be found in the 'Optional Sections' tab of the software. It covers everything referenced just now and more. 

Stay tuned for next weeks blog post to read how to furthermore make your workplace covid secure.

Related Articles:

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Our Employees Are Back! – How Do I Return My Employees Safely?

Posted in Coronavirus, Customer Update

2
Jun 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Our Employees Are Back! – How Do I Return My Employees Safely?

As businesses work towards reopening in part or full, and mindful of government advice and changing restrictions, employers must plan for any return to the workplace in a way that cares for their people and safeguards their health and wellbeing. As the UK progresses through the government roadmap to easing restrictions and getting the country back to 'normality' as much as possible employers will need to plan for their employees gradual return to the workplace. Employers should note that the timetable and rules set out in any ‘roadmap’ for easing lockdown are still subject to review and it is essential to keep up to date with any further changes during the progressive easing of lockdown.

Where a return to the workplace is necessary or possible under the latest easing of restrictions, at the heart of any plans should be a commitment to support flexible and remote working where possible, and the provision of support for physical and mental health for workers. 

The Government's advice to work from home wherever possible (expected to last until June or July 2021), offers two options:

  1. Supporting working from home until lockdown restrictions or social distancing is relaxed
  2. Where working from home is not possible, facilitating a return to the workplace in line with COVID-secure workplace guidance.

Where home working is not possible it is advisable to make your workplace COVID-secure. The HSE website provides guidance to employers based on the industry they operate within however the following guidelines are applicable across all industries.

1. Risk Assessment

2. Social Distancing

3. Cleaning, Hygiene & Handwashing

4. Ventilation & Air Conditioning 

5. Provide Information

6. Working From Home

7. Protection of Vulnerable Workers

Our follow up blog post will delve into these guidelines to help you make the return of your employees to the workplace as safe as possible.

We at Bright Contracts can help you get back to the office in line with government guidelines and give your employees the confidence to return with the aid of our COVID-19 policies - temporary working from home and our vaccine policy which are available along with a number of other policies in our Bright Contracts software. If you wish to avail of a free trial you can do so here or you can book a demo of the software with one of our Bright Contracts consultants. To purchase Bright Contracts & download the software you can do so here.

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Posted in Bright Contracts News, Coronavirus, Customer Update

19
May 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Let's Get Back To The Office

There are businesses who are fortunate to be able to bring their staff back to work, and we have received questions on returning employees to work and the practicalities of bringing staff back. Some staff will have not worked yet in 2021, they are at home perhaps in a very small bubble – so it is probably a fair assumption to say that there will be some anxieties from staff in relation to returning to the workplace therefore it is important for employers to take some time to consider how best to manage the process of returning to work. 

We have been asked a number of questions from employers in relation to bringing their staff back to work, for example:

  • A staff member is refusing to come back to work. What do I do? So the first thing I would ask here is what are the individual’s reasons for not wanting to return to work. 

Do they have health & safety concerns?

People have been safe at home for a long time now and there is an understandable anxiety amongst some people about going back into the workplace. If this is the reason, then you need to show to the employee how you have met the requirements of the Protocol and how you are taking preventative measures in the workplace. 

As an employer you have a duty to ensure employee’s safety, health and welfare so it is important that you are taking the right measures and then able to put your employee’s minds at ease. By implementing return to work protocol’s you are promoting communication and collaboration between employers and employees. Employees need to be able to show employees the preventative measures they have taken. Perhaps details of risk assessments completed. If there is a particular employee with specific health concerns, you will need to take into account their specific risk factors which you may consult with the employee on. 

Are they afraid to travel on public transport?

Be open to suggestions here as much as possible such as staggering work times in order for them to avoid peak transport times which will mean packed public transport so as previously mentioned be open to suggestions as much as possible.

  • Do I need to re-issue contracts of employment for staff when they return from lay-off? ?The simple answer is no, it is not necessary. An employee’s contract of employment is not broken when they are placed on lay-off, their service remains. So assuming that they are returning to work on the same terms and conditions as when they left, then it will not be necessary to reissue a contract. 
  • When returning employees to hybrid working, do I need to re-issue a new contract? Our advice here would be yes, it would be best to re-issue the contract or at least an amendment to the contract. A person’s place of work is considered a basic term of the contract of employment, so if the place of work of work is changing that needs to be addressed. If you are agreeing, for example 2 days at home and 3 days in the office it is best to put that in writing to avoid any confusions or misinterpretations down the line. It is also worth having a flexibility line included in the place of work just to say that it may change.
  • Can I take an employee back on reduced or different hours? Due to social distancing necessities and our new norms, it is likely that this will become common practice. It is permissible, once the employee agrees as effectively it is a change to the terms and conditions of employment so it is certainly advisable to get agreement from the employee in writing. 
  • Can I return some employees from lay-off and not others? This scenario will become more common over the next few months as we reopen fully. Yes some people you can certainly bring back before others however it is important to be aware that when choosing employees to return you are using reasonable selection methods and avoiding discrimination and that you are making decisions based on what is right for the business.
We at Bright Contracts can help you get back to the office in line with government guidelines and give your employees the confidence to return with the aid of our COVID-19 policies - temporary working from home and our vaccine policy which are available along with a number of other policies in our Bright Contracts software. If you wish to avail of a free trial you can do so here or you can book a demo of the software with one of our Bright Contracts consultants. To purchase Bright Contracts & download the software you can do so here.

Posted in Bright Contracts News, Contract of employment, Coronavirus

13
May 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Role Changing During Covid-19 - Can the employer require its employees to take on different roles to cover absence?

An employer can expect its employees to carry out different roles within the business where their contract of employment permits this. The employer should consider the relevant job descriptions to see if they comprise of the proposed changes, or if the contract contains a flexibility clause that allows the employer to vary the employees' roles and/or duties. If the employment contract does not allow for this, employers must be aware of the difficulties of imposing contractual changes which could potentially result in claims for constructive unfair dismissal. Any changes to the contract of employment should therefore should be undertaken with early consultation and with a view to reaching agreement with employees.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, employees may be more prepared to accept changes to their contract of employment where there is an imperative need for the work to be carried out, or where the viability of the business may be at risk. Employees may be willing to take on different roles if they are aware that it is for a brief period. The employer should be as transparent as possible with employees about the duration of any changes to their roles. An employee may be seen as having agreed to contractual changes if they carry out the varied role without any complaint.

Employers should ensure that suitable training is provided to any employees who may be required to carry out unfamiliar tasks and a risk assessment should be carried out to cover the temporary redeployment. For example, young or pregnant workers should not be substituted into inappropriate work.

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Posted in Contract of employment, Coronavirus, Dismissals, Employee Contracts

4
May 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Bright Contracts: The Only HR Software You'll Ever Need

Contracts. . . they are the pain point of every HR professional when recruiting new employees, processing promotions, extending contracts etc. To non HR professionals it may seem like typing up contracts is quick and easy work but this could not be further from the truth. The following are just some of the pain points I’ve had when typing up contracts, read and tick off any that may apply to you too when creating contracts of employment:

  • Formatting Issues
  • Grammatical Errors
  • Mis-matched Fonts
  • Saving Error: Corrupted file error meaning I have lost my entire document
  • Time consuming reading complete contract to check for errors
  • Printing Errors: Prints off centre or like a jigsaw puzzle making it frustrating to read

Well, how many points did you tick off that were applicable to you? If you found yourself even ticking off two of the above then you need Bright Contracts in your life as this software eliminates every single one of them pain points and produces a consistent, formatted, clean and compliant contract and handbook for each of your employees.

Read the below quick fire Q&A to gain an insight into what bright Contracts is, how it works and how it can help you with your contract and handbook creation:

What is Bright Contracts?
Bright Contracts is a software package that has everything you need to create and manage a professional staff handbook and contracts of employment. What was once traditionally an expensive, complicated and time-consuming process is now quick, easy and affordable with Bright Contracts.

Why should I use it?
Without employee contracts in place, an employer is risking large settlements in the case of staff disputes, and fines in the case of regulatory inspections. Having contracts also clearly defines the contractual relationship between you and your employees. Bright Contracts is the easiest way to get sorted.

What is in the handbook & contracts?

The contracts of employment include all core terms which must legally be supplied to new employees. From April 2020, the written statement of particulars must be provided on or before the first day of employment. While the Employment Rights Act 1996 states the items that must be included in the written statement of particulars, employers can refer to their employee handbook for precise details of issues such as: disciplinary and grievance rules and procedures, sickness and pensions etc. which are provisioned for in the Bright Contracts software ensuring your business is fully compliant with employment law.

What legislation is the software based on?
Bright Contracts has been written taking into account employment legislation across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The main piece of legislation governing the content of Bright Contracts is The Employments Rights Act 1996 and The Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996. The legislation specifies that employees must receive written terms and conditions of employment and what these terms and conditions are. In addition Bright Contracts has taken cognizance of current best practices as well as all relevant legislation in the creation of the content of the contract and handbook. Legislation also requires that employers are provided with details of procedures relating to dismissal, disciplinary and grievances, all of which are covered in our documentation.

How do we know this system complies with requirements and what if the law changes?

The system content has been compiled and tested by HR/Employment law experts. The system will be updated with any changes in legislation, changes brought about by case law or changes in best practice. These updates will be flagged to all current users and will be free to download.

How many people can access Bright Contracts?
When a licence is purchased it comes with two activations which means it can be activated on two separate computers. Once these activations have been used they cannot be deactivated and reactivated on another device.

Do I print off the handbooks and contracts?
The simple answer is yes however if you are trying to reduce your paper foot print then you can also have the handbook and contracts of employment as a pdf document which can then be e-mailed or, if you use our Bright Pay Connect product you can upload the documents to the employee’s connect profile.

You can avail of a free trial of the software or purchase a Bright Contracts licence to adapt these policies to your business today. If you are looking to adopt or change your HR Software book a free 15-minute online demo to see how Bright Contracts can change your world of HR.

Posted in Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook

29
Apr 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Probation & Covid-19

Recruiting has never been an easy task to undertake but recruiting in a pandemic has been even more of a challenge for businesses. A once thriving industry with an abundance of applicants may now find it hard to find the talent or the funds to hire an applicant may suddenly not be available.

Running a business is a challenge for every company but with the pandemic financial difficulty has been a common issue across the world and across many industries. Businesses initially had the funds to hire new employees, then the company takes an unforeseen hit and is no longer in the financial position to keep these new hires, so what can they do if this happens?

When considering terminating a contract of employment during the employees probationary period as a cost-saving measure, the company should first explore alternative options, for example, the availability of government assistance. Since the pandemic hit the UK Government has been trying to help businesses retain their employees through government assistance. It may be in the employer’s best interest to retain their employees during the pandemic in order to avoid having to repeat the recruitment process when the economic situation improves, especially if the employee is performing well in their role.

When new employees are hired every employee has a probationary period to allow both the employee and the employer see if they are a ‘good fit’. If an employer decides to proceed with terminating the contract of an employee on probation for economic reasons during the pandemic they must ensure the reasons for the dismissal are explained to the employee and correctly documented. Assuming the employee has less than two years’ service with the company they will be unable to claim unfair dismissal unless the dismissal was for an automatically unfair reason, for example, they could claim they were really dismissed for making a complaint about health and safety in the workplace. The employer will also need to be able to demonstrate that the dismissal was not discriminatory as dismissed employees do not need to have two years’ service to bring a discrimination claim.

The employer must give the employee their contractual notice or the statutory minimum which is set out in the Employment Rights Act 1996, section 86 (1), whichever is greater, or make payment in lieu of notice. If an employer makes payment in lieu of notice when it is not provided for under the contract of employment this will be a breach of contract and therefore they are unable to enforce any post-employment restrictive covenants. If there is a contractual dismissal procedure the employer must follow this in order to avoid a claim for breach of contract.

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- How To Manage Annual Leave Requests After Furlough

Posted in Contract of employment, Coronavirus, Dismissals, Employee Contracts, Employment Contract, Employment Law

15
Apr 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Vaccinations & The Workplace

With vaccinations rolling out we expect to see the vast majority of healthy adults receiving the vaccine over late summer and early autumn. Thus, providing some optimism for employers who can start planning to return their employees to the workplace. This raises questions such as; can employer’s ensure employees’ health and safety when they return to the workplace? Can employers mandate that all their employees be vaccinated before returning?

Under The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, it is the employer's responsibility to provide a safe working environment for their employees, therefore it is not unreasonable for an employer to want to have their workforce vaccinated. In the past year safety protocols have been introduced making it essential for employers to ensure these protocols are fully implemented if they intend on having their employees return to the workplace, subject to the restriction levels in force.

While it has been highly recommended by the governing bodies that everyone receives the Covid-19 vaccine, it is not mandatory in the United Kingdom. This leaves employers in a challenging situation; while they are seeking to ensure they have a safe workplace for their employees, they cannot force their employees to get vaccinated and it is very unlikely that the UK Government will introduce any laws stating employees are obliged to take the vaccine. Therefore, what are the main considerations for employers?

1.Assess the Risk

Under The Health and Safety at Work Act, an employer must carry out a risk assessment of the workplace and any potential risks that have been identified must be addressed. As scientists are still not clear on whether the vaccine prevents the spread of Covid-19 it is vitally important that employers insist that all employees follow the safety protocols in place whether they have been vaccinated or not.

Employees also have responsibilities under The Health and Safety at Work Act to work together with their employer to protect themselves and their colleagues from potential risks; this could reasonably include the risk of Covid-19 infection. Employees must adhere to all guidelines and protocols implemented by their employers.
Communication is crucial; while employers cannot force their employees to get vaccinated, they can emphasise the importance of the vaccine to their employees and that it would help to return business to normal. Employers should also provide as much information from appropriate sources to educate and inform their employees. An employer may also highlight legitimate circumstances where vaccination is not recommended.

2. Avoid Potential Discrimination

Under the Equality Act 2010, employees are protected from discrimination on the nine grounds including religion, age and disability. An employee may decide not to get the vaccine for a number of reasons that would fall under these specific grounds, such as a medical condition or their religious beliefs. Therefore, it is important to note that any mandate by an employer that employees need to take the vaccine could constitute discrimination under this Act.

3.Managing Employees who Refuse Vaccination

There is little an employer can do if their employee refuses to get the vaccine however, understanding their concerns is important and finding solutions that meet the business needs without infringing on their rights is crucial in managing their integration into the workplace. Extending remote working may be a solution however this may not be viable for all sectors of your company. Employers need to think carefully about any action they take and consider the potential legal consequences associated with these actions.

4.Data Protection Concerns

As part of assessing the risks, employers will certainly want to know who has or has not been vaccinated before bringing employees back to the workplace. In order to process this personal data, there must be a legal basis to do so, the grounds for which are set out in the General Data Protection Regulations. Employees are not legally obliged to provide personal medical information.

While employees are not obliged to provide personal medical information, employers may seek vaccination information on the foundation that they are meeting their legal obligations under The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It will be up to the employee if they wish to volunteer this information to their employer. If they choose to volunteer this information, then employers should not disclose this information to other employees. As this type of medical information falls under the sensitive category of Special Category Personal Data, then under GDPR and data protection laws there are additional protections afforded to the processing of this information. If an employee volunteers the fact that they have not nor intend to avail of the vaccine, it should be emphasized that there may be legitimate medical reasons why someone may not receive the vaccine.

In conclusion, given the fact the vast majority of the working population will not be returning to the workplace until later this year, it is hoped that the vast majority will have availed of the vaccine. However, communication and planning are essential in ensuring a smooth transition when the return to the workplace occurs. Employers must ensure health and safety policies and procedures are updated, risk assessments are carried out and adhering to safety protocols, all of which are essential in getting people back into the workplace. Remember to be mindful and respectful of an individual’s right to not avail of the vaccine and plan accordingly by offering alternative working arrangements where appropriate and avoid any situation which may constitute discrimination thus leading to legal issues.

Bright Contracts has recently updated its software to include a COVID-19 vaccine policy applicable to any business/ industry. 
You can avail of a free trial of the software or purchase a Bright Contracts licence to adapt these policies to your business today or book a demo of the software.

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How To Manage Annual Leave Requests After Furlough

Posted in Annual Leave, Bright Contracts News, Coronavirus, Employee Handbook, Employment Law

7
Apr 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

How To Manage Annual Leave Requests After Furlough

With the coronavirus pandemic, some employees will be on furlough meaning they are not working. However, it is important for employers to note that employees who 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.

Dealing with Excess Annual Leave

As the UK draws closer to the end of lockdown and 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 therefore they will need to balance the employee’s request about the timing of leave against the needs of the business.

Line managers 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. If an employer requires an employee to take annual leave while on furlough, the employer should consider whether any restrictions the employee is under, such as the need to socially distance or self-isolate, would prevent the employee from fully utilising their annual leave for the purpose of resting, leisure time etc. 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).

Bank Holidays & Furlough

Where a bank holiday falls within an employee’s period of furlough and the employee would have usually worked the bank holiday, their furlough will be unaffected by the bank holiday. However, if the employee would usually have had the bank holiday as annual leave, the employer should either pay the employee in full for a bank holiday or allow them to take a day's annual leave at a later date.

 

If a worker on furlough takes annual leave, an employer must calculate and pay the correct holiday pay in accordance with current legislation. It is not permitted for an employer to buy out an employee's statutory annual leave entitlement, i.e. give the employee a cash substitute (except on termination of employment). This prohibition on buy-out applies to the entire period of statutory annual leave, i.e. 5.6 weeks. Where an employer grants annual leave in excess of the statutory minimum, the employer is free to make its own rules and arrangements regarding buy-out in respect of the portion of annual leave that exceeds the 5.6 weeks.

To prevent workers losing their holiday and to enable key workers to keep working, the normal rules on carrying over annual leave have been modified. The Government has amended 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. These amendments to the Working Time Regulations 1998 apply to all employees.

Book a demo of BrightContracts today to discover more features that can help you streamline your HR processes.

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Posted in Annual Leave, Bright Contracts News, Coronavirus, Employee Handbook

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Bright Contracts

Create tailored professional employment contracts and staff handbooks. Available for employers in the UK and Ireland.

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