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8
Apr 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

April 2022 Employment Law Changes

There are several changes in employment law taking place in April. Read our blog for a summary of the key changes.

Minimum Wage

From 1 April 2022, the national minimum wage increased. The new rates are:

  • National living wage (23+): £9.50 per hour
  • Adult rate (21-22): £9.18 per hour
  • Development rate (18-20): £6.83 per hour
  • Youth rate (16-17): £4.81 per hour
  • Apprentice rate (under 19 or in the first year): £4.81 per hour
  • Accommodation offset: £8.70 per day

Employers will need to ensure they are paying in line with these new rates from April 1st going forward.

Statutory Payments

Statutory payments also rose in April. Statutory sick pay increased to £99.35 per week from April 6th, 2022, and statutory maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental, and parental bereavement pay all went up to £156.66 per week with effect from the 3rd of April 2022.

Covid-19

From the 1st of April 2022, new public health guidance was provided. Anyone with a positive Covid-19 test result is advised to try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people for five days after the day they took the test. Anyone with symptoms is advised to try to stay at home and avoid contact with others until they stop displaying symptoms.

Free tests were withdrawn from April 1st and instead, lateral flow tests can be bought from retailers for around £2 per test.

Most employers will no longer have to consider COVID-19 in their risk assessments from April 1st.

PPE to be provided to workers

From the 6th of April 2022, the Personal Protective Equipment at Work (Amendment) Regulations 2022 came into force and amended the 1992 Regulations. Under the new rules, employers will be required to provide suitable free personal protective equipment to workers as well as employees where there is a health and safety risk. If PPE is required, employers must ensure their workers have sufficient information, instruction, and training on the use of PPE.

April looks like to be a busy month with plenty of changes and things to be aware of for employers.

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Posted in Contract of employment, Coronavirus, Employee Contracts, Employment Law, Health & Safety, Pay/Wage, Wages

6
Apr 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

Wellbeing at Work

Promoting and supporting employee wellbeing is at the heart of our purpose to champion better work and working lives. Investing in employee wellbeing can lead to increased resilience, better employee engagement, reduced sickness absence and higher performance and productivity.

The last 12 months of the pandemic have seen increased reports of mental ill-health yet only 27% report receiving a well-being check-in from their employer monthly or more. This is less than half the number of workers who reported they had a well-being check in at least once a month last year.

Research from the Mental Health Foundation suggests that mental health problems cost the UK economy at least £118 billion a year. This, coupled with the demands of the pandemic and the many changes to our ways of working over this period means that employers need to step up their efforts to better support their staff.

Half of the employees that were surveyed felt most comfortable talking about their mental health face-to-face.

While employers contribute to the good well-being of their staff, employees also have a responsibility for looking after their own health and well-being. They will only benefit from well-being initiatives if they participate in the initiatives on offer and take care of their health and well-being outside of the workplace. Employers can encourage employee involvement by communicating how staff can access the support and benefits available to them. It’s also important that the organisation seeks employee feedback about its current offering so it can learn how to shape existing initiatives and plan new ones.


3 ways of improving well-being in the workplace

1. Raising awareness around the importance of mental health in the workplace
Your company could offer some counselling sessions for employees as part of their health benefits package. This may encourage employees to speak up more about their mental health issues.

2. Organise a walking meeting

Instead of sitting down in the office take the meeting outside whilst going for a walk in the fresh air. This allows employees to integrate some movement into their day while still being productive.

3. Implement flexible working hours

Flexible working hours have significant health and well-being results. This is because it contributes to a healthy work-life balance. Some examples of flexible working hours include hybrid working or condensed working weeks.

Related Articles:

Employment Engagement Part one: How to Attract and Retain Employees.

Employee Engagement Part Two: Seven Dimensions of Good Work

Posted in Contract of employment, Employee Contracts

28
Feb 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

Redundancy Part One: What it is & What to do

Redundancy can come as a surprise to many people, and it is possibly one of the most distressing events an employee can experience. The employer needs to ensure that there is fair treatment of redundant employees as well as the morale of the remaining workforce. Employers must understand their obligations including employees’ rights and the correct procedures to follow.

What is Redundancy?

Redundancy is a form of dismissal when an employer needs to reduce the size of its workforce. In the UK, an employee can be dismissed for redundancy if:

  • The employer has ceased or intends to cease, continuing the business
  • The requirements for employees to perform work of a specific type or to conduct it at the location in which they are employed, has ceased, diminished, or are expected to. 

Employers must follow a correct procedure and make redundancy and notice period payments.

Employers should:

  • Take all reasonable steps to avoid redundancies
  • Plan and develop employment strategies to deal with the requirements of short-term labour fluctuations, minimise the risk of enforced redundancies and maximise alternative resourcing opportunities.
  • Manage redundancies legally and in a way that minimises the impact on both those who lose their jobs and those who don’t.
  • Provide a communication strategy to ensure that everyone in the workplace has the correct information about any redundancies.

Redundancy during Coronavirus

Many people lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic, despite government intervention to try and avoid redundancies. The future situation is still uncertain, especially now the “furlough” scheme has ended. Employers who decide there is no alternative to redundancies still must follow their normal redundancy procedures. Proceeding without the consideration of alternatives may encourage employees with over two years’ service to present unfair dismissal claims.

Redundancy Procedures

As an employer, you should consider having a formal redundancy procedure. Employers should follow these redundancy stages as a minimum:

  • Planning
  • Identifying the pool for selection
  • Seeking volunteers
  • Consulting employees
  • Selection for redundancy
  • Suitable alternative employment
  • Appeals and dismissals

These will be covered individually in our next blog post.

Protecting employee’s health and wellbeing

It’s important to approach the redundancy process with empathy and treat everyone with respect and kindness. How the employer handles the redundancy can determine how an employee copes with the news. Take time to explain the reasons why they are being made redundant and why it’s a hard business decision. You should also discuss the actions that were taken to avoid redundancy and facilitate redeployment. Notifying an employee of redundancy is a difficult task and employers should be trained to handle redundancies with sympathy and clarity.

Being selected for redundancy can have a huge effect on one’s mental health. Immediate and ongoing support should be available to those who have been affected by the redundancy.

Furthermore, redundancy also has an impact on other employees who are witnessing their colleagues being laid off and may feel that their jobs are at risk. It is the job of the senior managers to give all staff a full explanation of what is going on and what redundancy procedure is being used.

Related Articles: 

Redundancy in the UK: A Guide to Avoiding Unfair Selection

 

 

Posted in Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employment Contract

24
Feb 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

The Closure of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme

On the 17th of March 2022, the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate scheme will close. You have until the 24th of March 2022 to submit any new claims for absence periods up until the 17th of March, or you can amend claims you have already submitted.

You will also no longer be able to claim back Statutory Sick Pay for your employees’ Covid-19 related absences or self-isolation that occur after March 17th.

From the 25th of March, the normal Statutory Sick Pay rules will return. This means you can revert to paying Statutory Sick Pay from the fourth qualifying day your employee is off work regardless of the reason for their sickness absence.

For more information on how to make your final claims click here.

 

 

Posted in Contract of employment, Coronavirus, Customer Update, Sick Leave/Absence Management

10
Feb 22

Posted by
Saoirse Moloney

Pilot Testing the Four-day Working Week

For many years campaigners have been promoting the idea of a shorter working week. Nicola Sturgeon, ahead of Scottish Election in 2021, proposed a £10 million fund to allow companies to pilot and explore the benefits of a four- day working week. It was criticised that the standard 9-5 five day working week was outdated. In a recent poll it was reported that 64% of Britons would support the introduction of a four-day working week with no reduction in their pay. There is no doubt that the pandemic has influenced changes to the workplace with a lot of employers adopting the hybrid working method. The six-month pilot programme will start in the UK in June 2022. It will be conducted by a pressure group, 4 Day Week Campaign. There is hope that the four-day working week will replace the traditional 9-5. However, there are a few considerations to this implementation such as the changing of contracts, dealing with holiday entitlement and change in pay and productivity.


Changing Contracts

Once a contract is made the employer cannot make any changes without the consent from the employee. In this case changing the terms of an employment contract will need approval from the employee.


Holiday Entitlement

Legally employees are entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holiday a year (28 days inclusive of band holidays for employees working a five-day week). For someone who works four-days a week would be entitled to 22.4 days a year (inclusive of bank holidays). It is suggested that if the four-day working week was to become permanent the holiday allowances would have to reduce in line with the overall reduction in working hours. Those who worked a five-day week would result in a 20% reduction in holiday allowance.


Change in pay and productivity

The four-day working week comes with fear that employees will have to work longer hours each day to compensate for the missing day. Employees also fear that it will lead to a loss in pay for working four days instead of five. However, the Campaign calls for no reduction in the employees pay.
Furthermore, some employers who were resistant to the pilot had a concern of a decrease in levels of output leading to affects in the organisations profit. Iceland has been leading this campaign since 2015. The trials were a success, and it was found that participants maintained the same level of performance and productivity.
All in all, the campaign is advocating no reduction in the pay of employees who want to reduce their working days. It is up to employers whether they want to permanently adopt a four-day working week, there will be no change to the law to reflect this.

Related Articles:

 Annual Leave Post Covid

Everyone's Talking About Flexible Working

 

Posted in Contract of employment, Employee Contracts, Employment Contract, News, Staff Handbook

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

28
Jul 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Everyone's Talking About Flexible Working

The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis has completely shifted the way we work and live. Companies have had to quickly adopt new initiatives and technologies to ensure employee safety whilst maintaining productivity. Working from home has now become the normality for many of us and adapting to these new ways of working is essential for business continuity.

The UK has been ahead of the curve with the right to request flexible working having been in place since 2014 and after more than a year of enforced home working, UK employers are anticipating an influx of flexible working requests as restrictions lift and staff begin to return to the office.

What is flexible working?

Flexible working can refer to a variety of arrangements includes but is not limited to; part-time work, ‘compressed hours’ over fewer days, remote working, ‘flexitime’ and job sharing arrangements.

Flexible working arrangements can be formal or informal. Some organisations choose to amend the written employment contract when new working arrangements are put in place, and/or include flexible working policies in the employer’s handbook. However some forms of flexible working, such as working from home, are likely to be offered informally, for example in agreement with an employee’s line manager.

Examples of kinds of flexible working that you can request include:

  • reducing your hours to work part-time
  • changing your start and finish times
  • having flexibility with your start and finish time (also known as ‘flexitime’)
  • doing your hours over fewer days (‘compressed hours’)
  • working from home or elsewhere (‘remote working’)
  • sharing the job with someone else (‘job share’)

The right to request flexible working

The legal position is that all employees with at least 26 weeks’ continuous employment are able to make a statutory request for flexible working, in writing, for any reason. A new request can be made once every 12 months. Where a request is made, the employer must deal with that request in a reasonable manner and notify the employee of the outcome, including any appeal, within a three-month period, unless that timeframe is extended by mutual agreement.

Making a request

When making a request for flexible working there is no form however in order to qualify as a statutory request, it must:

  • Be in writing.
  • Be dated.
  • Explain the change they would like to their working pattern.
  • Explain when they would like the change to come into force.
  • Explain what effect the change would have on the business.
  • Explain how such effects might be dealt with.
  • State that it is a statutory request.
  • State if the employee has made a request previously and if so when.

Posted in Bright Contracts News, Contract of employment, Coronavirus, Employee Contracts, Employee Handbook, Employment Law

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

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

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