This article outlines the ramifications, in terms of employment law, of a return to the office workplace and offers some practical steps that can be taken.
The main issues that we plan to cover are employer considerations in preparing for the return of workers to the workplace, communicating information about new working procedures to staff and employee rights on the return to the workplace. There are some tips on employees travelling to and from work and the issues this may cause. We will also provide details of the Governments latest Furlough advice, including the Flexible Furlough Scheme and how this can be implemented.
With better days hoped for ahead, we ask what the Law Commission’s recommendations on extending time limits and enlarging Employment Tribunal jurisdiction may mean for employers.
Politically, there may be willingness in future days to recognise the contributions of workers during Covid-19, in a departure from the predominant mindset when the current Government swept into number 10. Certainly, the Prime Minister is one reported to be in reflective mood.
The Law Commission has no power to change the law, but the Government (under protocol) has to respond to the Commission’s report and historically more than two thirds of its recommendations have been implemented.
All employees must be issued with a statement setting out specific terms of their employment within two months of them starting work (known as a Section 1 Statement). Often this information will be part of a lengthier employment contract. From the 6 April 2020 the requirement to issue a Section 1 Statement will extend to workers as well as employees. It must also be issued on day one of the employment and the information it must include is expanding.
If you employ staff or if you have contractors who are deemed to be ‘workers’, it is essential that you review your employment documentation to ensure it is compliant.
The European Working Time Directive entitles workers to at least 4 weeks’ holiday per year. Many countries, including the UK, choose to give workers additional holiday entitlement over and above the minimum. The Working Time Regulations 1998 gives UK employees an additional 1.6 weeks of leave per year.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) has looked at whether the right to carry over holiday due to sickness applies only to the 4 week entitlement under the Directive.
A dismissal for redundancy is likely to be unfair unless the employer has considered whether there is suitable alternative employment within the business (or group). If suitable alternative employment is offered, it might be subject to a statutory 4 week trial period if the role, place of work or other terms and conditions are different from the previous job. A statutory trial period starts at the end of the employee’s employment under their old contract or within 4 weeks of it ending.
What happens if a role is deleted in a reorganisation and an employee works in another suitable role for more than four weeks – do they lose the right to a redundancy payment?
How many working days is your business losing to hangovers? This is particularly relevant after the festive season where Christmas parties and social events often fall on a school night. Did your business suffer a flurry of suspicious tummy bugs during Christmas party season?
Some businesses are choosing to accommodate hangovers in a different way, keen to avoid the extra absence which seems to occur around this time of year.
A dismissal will be automatically unfair if the main reason for the dismissal is the fact that the employee has ‘blown the whistle’ on malpractice.
The Supreme Court has recently decided that an employer was liable for automatic unfair dismissal even though the decision maker was unaware of the protected disclosures.
The Equality Act 2010 protects people from discrimination based on their philosophical beliefs. In order to be protected, the belief must be:
- Genuinely held;
- Be a belief not an opinion or viewpoint;
- Concern a weighty or substantial aspect of human life;
- Have attained a certain level of cogency, seriousness or importance (in a similar way to a religion);
- And must be worthy of respect in a democratic society.
Hot on the back of the #MeToo movement, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published some non-statutory guidance on the use of confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements in discrimination cases. The guidance confirms that confidentiality clauses can be used in employment contracts to protect a business’s confidential information. However, they shouldn’t be used to stop a worker pursuing a discrimination claim in relation to future acts – those clauses will not be enforceable.
Is a dismissal unfair if the employer changes an investigation report following advice from an in-house lawyer? Not in this case, said the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Dronsfield v The University of Reading. The employee was a professor who had a sexual relationship with a student. University rules said he could only be dismissed for immoral, scandalous or disgraceful conduct. The University investigated the allegations and produced a report. An in-house lawyer suggested some changes, including parts which were favourable to the employee.