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21
Oct 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

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

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

6. Cleaning & Hygiene

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

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

7. Ventilation

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

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

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

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

9. Commuting

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

10. Other issues

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

Related Articles:

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

Annual Leave Post Covid

Posted in Coronavirus, Health & Safety, News

7
Oct 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

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

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

1. Social Distancing

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

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

2. Vaccination

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

3. Testing

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

4. Office Equipment

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

5. Face coverings

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

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

Posted in Coronavirus, Health & Safety, News

27
Sep 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) & Isolation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Articles:

Annual Leave Post Covid

Redundancy in the UK: A Guide to Avoiding Unfair Selection

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

Posted in Coronavirus, Employment Update, Health & Safety

6
Aug 21

Posted by
Jennifer Patton

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

On the 22nd of February 2021, the UK Government published its original "Roadmap out of Lockdown" for England, which was initially due to see a "cautious but irreversible" lifting of all legal limits on social contact by the 21st of June 2021. England's Roadmap out of lockdown was divided into four key steps, each step triggered various restrictions being eased subject to the prevailing data on COVID-19 available at the time.

As of the 19th of July 2021, the UK Government has updated its guidance on workplace safety as England moved to step 4 of its roadmap which resulted in the lifting of most covid-19 restrictions. The previous 14 guides to working safely previously distributed have now been replaced by six new sector specific guidelines. Guidance on social distancing, working from home and reduced occupancy has now been dropped and replaced with six priority actions:

  1. Risk Assessment: There is still a requirement to complete a COVID-19 health and safety risk assessment and to keep this updated. Given that a significant amount of time has elapsed since many businesses and employers first implemented a COVID-19 specific risk assessment, existing risk assessments may need a substantial update.
  2. Adequate Ventilation: It is still being emphasised that providing adequate ventilation is key to limiting the spread of the virus. This can either be natural ventilation or mechanical, such as fans and ducts or a combination of both.
  3. Cleaning: Cleaning more frequently still remains a priority, therefore employers should continue to ask members of staff and members of the public to use hand sanitiser to clean their hands regularly.
  4. Face Coverings: While legal requirements around face coverings have been removed, it is still expected that face coverings will be worn in crowded and enclosed spaces and that businesses should consider the use of face coverings, particularly in indoor areas where they may not come into contact with people they do not normally meet. 
  5. Self-Isolation: Employers and businesses should still turn away people with COVID-19 symptoms and respect requirements to self-isolate. 
  6. Communication: Communicating requirements and training also remain important as does making sure that risk mitigation measures relating to workers who are particularly vulnerable are maintained. 

Statements relating to employees working from home is notably absent from the above six priority actions. The government sate employers should continue to support employees working from home where possible however the government expects and recommends a gradual return to the workplace over the coming months.

Equally, references to 2 metres of social distancing have been removed from the previous guidance however it is emphasised that COVID-19 can still be spread through social contact and that reviewing layouts, using screens or barriers or encouraging back-to-back or side-to-side working will remain helpful from a risk mitigation perspective.

Overall, there is a marked change in emphasis compared to the previous guidance. References to making the workplace covid-19-secure have been removed. The reference to "stop the spread" has changed to "reduce the risk", "minimising risk" has changed to "reducing risk", "make your business safe" has changed to "make your business safer", and "you must consider the recommendations" has changed to "you should consider the recommendations".

So what should businesses and employers do next?
Given the high prevalence of the COVID-19 Delta variant in the UK currently many offices are seeing a reduced number of employees wishing to return to the workplace. This has meant that many office based employers have chosen not to significantly alter their current working from home practices in the short-term. With the possibility of additional restrictions being reimposed later this summer or in the autumn, businesses and employers should prepare for the possibility of needing to reimpose some of the restrictions they may have had in place previously.

For now, businesses and employers should start to update their COVID-19 risk assessment to help them gain a better understanding as to what they need to do as part of Step 4 of the Roadmap and continue to keep informed of updated guidance from the Government and review their Covid Secure policy to ensure it reflects the new guidance. - View a sample of the Covid-19 Secure Policy here.

Related Articles:

- Everyone's Talking About Flexible Working

- Care Home Workers & Mandatory Vaccinations: The New Regulations

 

Posted in Coronavirus, Customer Update, Health & Safety

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.

Related Articles:

- Everyone's Talking About Flexible Working

Let's Get Topical - The Vaccine Policy

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

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

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