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3
Aug 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Care Home Workers & Mandatory Vaccinations: The New Regulations

On the 13th of July 2021, Greece and France made COVID vaccination mandatory for healthcare workers, following the precedent set by Italy. Now, the UK is the next to make the COVID vaccine mandatory for workers in Care Quality Commission-registered homes.

Until recently the UK authorities have not made the Covid-19 vaccination compulsory for any citizens, however on the 22nd of July 2021, regulations were approved in relation to the Health and Social Care Act 2008 . The Act makes it compulsory for a person working or providing professional services in Care Quality Commission-registered care homes to be fully Covid-19 vaccinated, unless they have a medical exemption. The purpose of this regulation, which will only apply to England and come into force on the 11th of November 2021, is to better protect care home residents from death and serious illness.

This regulation will apply to all workers employed directly by the care home or care home provider (on a full-time or part-time basis), those employed by an agency and deployed by the care home, and volunteers deployed in the care home. Those coming into care homes to do other work, for example healthcare workers, tradespeople, hairdressers and beauticians, and CQC inspectors will also have to follow the new regulations, unless they have a medical exemption. The clinical exemption will be clarified in the Code of Practice that will be issued to accompany the Regulations at the end of July 2021. The regulations do not apply to visitors of care homes.

There will be a 16 week grace period from the 22nd of July for all care home workers to be vaccinated, with the 16th of September being the last date for care workers to get their first vaccine so they are fully vaccinated before regulations come into force. The government estimates that by the time the vaccine becomes compulsory, approximately 87% of the workforce will have received both doses.

Employers that fall under these new regulations are highly advised to start putting measures in place so as the regulations can be implementded by 11 November. The steps should include introducing a Covid-19 Vaccination Policy, which includes the medical exemptions that will be acceptable and evidential requirements. The policy should be introduced after discussion with staff. If employees/workers are still reluctant to have the Covid-19 vaccine then you will need to take steps to look at whether they can be redeployed to other areas of the business or even dismissal. Employers forced to dismiss an employee in this circumstance should do so before 11 November 2021, being mindful of any notice periods.

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. If you wish to download a trial of the software to have a look at a sample of this content, you can download the software here.

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- Everyone's Talking About Flexible Working

Let's Get Topical - The Vaccine Policy

Posted in Bright Contracts News, Coronavirus, Employment Law, Health & Safety

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

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

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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Vaccinations & The Workplace

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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

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