Welcome all to the June edition of the AdviserPlus newsletter.
In this month’s newsletter, we will explore some of the considerations employers need to be focusing on from a HR perspective as we enter into Summer and gradually emerge from lockdown. We will also take a look at some key up-coming changes with regard to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and right to work checks and provide a reminder regarding the EU Settlement Scheme deadline.
Changes to furlough contributions
From 1 July, employers are required to contribute 10% of furloughed employees’ wages (along with NICs and pension contributions).
From 1 July the Government will contribute 70% of wages up to £2,187.50 and you will need to contribute the remaining 10% up to £313.50 when employees are furloughed (along with NICs and pension contributions).
From 1 August to 30 September the Government will contribute 60% of wages up to £1,875 and you will need to contribute the remaining 20% up to £625 when employees are furloughed (along with NICs and pension contributions).
It would be your choice whether you decide to top up employees’ wages beyond the 80% total whilst furloughed.
Reminder: The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is due to end on 30 September 2021. Employees that have been on, or remain on, furlough may also have questions about how and when they can take their annual leave, which continues to accrue during furlough.
EU Settlement Scheme Deadline Fast Approaching
30 June 2021 EU citizens need to apply under the EU Settlement Scheme to ensure that they can continue to live and work in the UK beyond that date.
If your employee’s application is turned down for any reason the employee needs to immediately lodge an application to secure a review of the decision or an appeal. Ensure you take further advice on whether you can continue to employ this person pending a final decision on their application.
If you have a sponsor licence and the role they’re doing qualifies under the new immigration rules the employee can apply for a visa. However, you will still need to ensure they have the right to continue working in the meantime.
If an employee does lose the right to work in the UK, you will need to terminate their contract. Whilst it may be possible to end their employment without notice and without following a ‘fair process’ please ensure you seek advice before taking this course of action.
Right to Work Checks
Temporary Covid-19 Right to Work check concessions were extended to 20 June 2021 to coincide with the date when restrictions may be fully lifted. These concessions include a review of ID documents via video call and an online checking service for those documents that an employee or prospect cannot provide. From 21 June onwards, employers will need to check the original documents in person or use the Online Right to Work checking service via a share code provided by the employee.
You will not be required to carry out retrospective checks on those who had Covid-19 adjusted checks between 30 March 2020 and 20 June 2021 (inclusive). This has been confirmed by the Home Office and is a departure from previous guidance where employers were advised that the Covid-19 adjusted right to work checks would only provide a temporary statutory excuse and that new retrospective checks would need to be carried out within 8 weeks of the temporary measures coming to an end.
Remember you could face a civil penalty if you employ an illegal worker and have not carried out a correct right to work check.
Managing the Return to Work – Covid Concerns
Whilst we were hoping that that the work from home where possible guidance would be lifted from 21 June this has potentially been pushed back by a further 4 weeks.
Here is an interesting recent tribunal judgement regarding dismissing an employee who refused to attend work due to Covid-related health and safety concerns.
In this case the employee refused to return to work stating there was an imminent danger to his health and safety, upon which he was dismissed and claimed automatic unfair dismissal. The tribunal, however, did find the dismissal was fair in the circumstances as the employee did not have reasonable belief of serious danger in the workplace simply that there was danger everywhere. His belief was considered unreasonable given the employer had put measures in place to reduce the risk of Covid transmission.
To help communicate to your employees and reassure them that the workplaces are safe and appropriate measures have been put in place ensure your risk assessments are up to date and these are conducted regularly. You do need to demonstrate that you have done everything reasonably practicable to minimise any risks. The next step would be to communicate the measures you have put in place, what the expectations of them are and how if they have any issues, do they raise them with you. Should any of your employees raise their concerns with you, listen, document, address where necessary and try to reassure them you are doing everything you possibly can.
Employers have a duty to ensure as far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of their employees. Encouraging employees to be vaccinated to protect themselves against coronavirus (Covid-19) is likely to be a reasonable step to take to reduce the risk to employee’s health. As the vaccination programme gathers pace and most of the adult population now being offered their vaccine it is important to strike the right balance and tone when encouraging your staff to get vaccinated. Remember most organisations will be on shaky legal grounds if they are requiring new recruits or existing employees to get the Covid-19 jab (the “no jab, no job” policy).
This Summer we have two major sporting events due to their postponement last year. The Euro’s and the Olympics. Both events will have fixtures during the working day and in the early evening. You may want to consider giving employees time off or be flexible to allow your employees to watch these sporting events, but also be alert to the potential attendance and conduct issues that may arise. You may even want to consider reminding your employees that how they behave themselves outside of work, could have consequences to their job should any inappropriate behaviour that is shared on social media/news outlets bring the company into disrepute.
Where possible, it is prudent for employers to relax their dress code during the summer, especially during the high temperatures we have been experiencing. However, you must also ensure that standards of presentation are maintained, health and safety and hygiene processes are followed and PPE is worn where required.
For those who have employees continuing to work from home it may be worth reminding them of the expectations of dress and appearance when appearing remotely to colleagues and customers.
The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that the temperature in a workplace must be “reasonable”, however they do not dictate a maximum temperature. The nature of the work being undertaken (e.g. whether or not it is physical or requires exertion), will play a part in helping an organisation deciding if the temperature is within the definition of reasonable.
This year, in addition to the Covid-secure measures already in place to reduce risks of virus transmission, employers will also need to consider their legal obligation to ensure a supply of fresh air/ventilation to enclosed areas of the workplace, particularly when the weather is warm.
Note: The above guidance was correct at the time of writing this article on 16/06/21 however, you need to be fluid in your approach to coronavirus as the policy and government guidance is changing rapidly. We therefore recommend you regularly check the government official guidance on the gov.uk website and news for updates or contact us if you have any specific questions.
If you have any questions regarding the content of this newsletter or would like more information to support your business with the changes, please get in touch.