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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.
Related Articles:

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

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

- Vaccinations & The Workplace

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:

- Let's Get Back to the Office

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

16
Apr 18

Posted by
Jennie Hussey

Tribunal claims up 90% since abolition of fees

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) has published figures showing a massive 90% increase in single claims lodged at employment tribunals in the last quarter of 2017 compared to the last quarter of 2016 - the Supreme Court ruled tribunal fees to be ‘unlawful’ during last summer and abolished them going forward.

The MOJ has cited the reversal of fees as the cause of this rise in cases, as employees are no longer put off making claims and using the tribunal process.

The most recent quarter has also shown a 467% increase in multiple claims, filed by more than one complainant. Some of the major supermarkets, Tesco, Morrisons and Asda have all faced multiple pay claims in the last few months, with Tesco facing up to £4bn in fines from a single group claim.

With the abolition of the tribunal fees came a refund scheme which saw 3,337 claims processed for refunds of fee payments to the value of nearly £2.8m between October and December 2017. There is four years worth of fee payments that could be claimed for refund, adding to the growing headache that is the whole tribunal fee’s debacle.

All of this is putting significant pressure on the tribunals who had, after the fee’s were originally introduced, reduced staff numbers and had their funding cut, is now having to deal with huge backlogs and delays. The increase in employment tribunal claims since the removal of the tribunal fees indicates just how important it is for employer’s to have in place proper policies and fair procedures in relation to their employee / employer relationship.

To book a free online demo of Bright Contracts click here.
To download your free trial of Bright Contracts click here.

 

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Bright Contracts - Employment Contracts and Handbooks

Posted in Company handbook, Contract of employment, Customer Update, Dismissals, Employment Tribunals

5
Jan 18

Posted by
Laura Murphy

What lies ahead for employers in 2018?

2018 looks set to be another busy year. We take a look at some of what’s coming down the pipeline.

April 2018 - Gender Pay Reporting

Private and voluntary sector employers in England, Wales and Scotland with at least 250 employees will be required to publish information about the differences in pay between men and women in their workforce, based on a pay bill ‘snapshot’ date of 5 April 2017, under the Equality Act 2010 (Gender Pay Gap Information) Regulations 2017. The first reports must be published by 4 April 2018.

Legislation in Northern Ireland mirror the above, except they also include fines of up to £5,000 for non-compliance, and a requirement to report on ethnicity and disability pay gaps, as well as gender.

April 2018: Termination Payments

The government plans to make changes to the taxation of termination payments from April 2018. The proposals include:

• removing the distinction between contractual and non-contractual PILONs (payments in lieu of notice) so that all PILONs are taxable and subject to Class 1 NICs]
• ensuring that the first £30,000 of a termination payment remains exempt from income tax and that any payment paid to any employee that relates solely to the termination of the employment continues to have an unlimited employee NICs exemption
• aligning the rules for income tax and employer NICs so that employer NICs will be payable on payments above £30,000 (which are currently only subject to income tax)

A government consultation on the issue closed in October 2016.

April 2018 – Restricting Employment Allowance for Illegal Workers

The government plans to introduce a further deterrent to the employment of illegal workers. From April 2018, employers will not be able to claim the Employment Allowance for one year if they have:

• hired an illegal worker
• been penalised by the Home Office
• exhausted all appeal rights against that penalty.

A consultation containing draft regulations closed in January 2017.

25 May 2018 – General Data Protection Regulations

The much anticipated General Data Protection Regulation will come into force from 25th May 2018. For those who haven’t already started preparing, now is the time. The GDPR will apply to ALL companies and sole traders that process personal data, the definition of personal data is broad and can include anything from a name, an email address or an IP address.

With possible fines of €20 million or 4% of annual turnover – which ever is higher, businesses need to sit up and take heed.

For further information of GDPR sign up to our employers webinar here or read our blog here.

To book a free online demo of Bright Contracts click here
To download your free trial of Bright Contracts click here
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Posted in Customer Update, Dismissals, Employment Update, GDPR, General Data Protection Regulation

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