From 21 June 2021 the government have announced that limits on social contact will be removed. Employees are encouraged to continue working from home wherever possible up until this date.
Employers should now begin to prepare for a return to the workplace.
Flexible Working Requests
Employees have become used to working from home and some may request to continue to do so on either a full time or part time basis. Employers should now begin to consider how they will respond to requests for flexible working and whether a hybrid of home and office working will support the needs of the business.
Review Safe Working Practices
Workplace risk assessments, provision for cleaning and continued social distancing should continue to be adhered to. This link provides full details of how to maintain safety in the workplace. https://www.hse.gov.uk/coronavirus/working-safely
Employers should consider the risk to workers with underlying health conditions who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus by ensuring social distancing, good hygiene and cleaning, ventilation, supervision etc are strictly adhered to.
Managers should be available to have individual discussions around any particular concerns and explain the controls in place to protect them and other workers.
Many employees have refrained from taking holiday whilst working from home. Employers may wish to consider requesting that employees’ book at least some of their holiday entitlement before the end of June to prevent multiple requests throughout the summer which may have a negative effect on work flow.
CJRS (THE FURLOUGH SCHEME)
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until 30 September 2021 and the level of grant available to employers under the scheme will stay the same until 30 June 2021.
From 1 July 2021, the level of grant will be reduced, and employers will be asked to contribute towards the cost of any furloughed employees’ wages. To be eligible for the grant employers must continue to pay 80% of their furloughed employees wages, up to a cap of £2,500 per month for the time they spend on furlough.
The table below shows the level of government contribution available in the coming months, the required employer contribution and the amount that the employee receives per month where the employee is furloughed 100% of the time.
Wage caps are proportional to the hours not worked.
Employers can continue to choose to top up employees’ wages above the 80% total - £2,500 cap for the hours not worked at their own expense.
There is no legal requirement to be vaccinated. To dismiss an employee on the grounds of refusing to have a Covid vaccination may give rise to unfair dismissal claims.
Depending on the individual’s role (for example working in the care sector or having a requirement to enter people’s homes) an employer may request that an employee has a Covid vaccination. However, the employer should balance what the employee wants against safeguarding the business. Should the employee refuse to receive a Covid vaccination, other options may be explored such as:
A change of role
Undertaking regular testing
Working from home
Employers should be aware that if they intend to request evidence of their employee’s Covid vaccinations or lateral flow testing records, these should be stored as Special Category Medical Data in line with GDPR and therefore employers will need to have a legitimate reason for asking for this information (such as reasons related to working in the care or medical professions) and disclose what they intend to do with the information.
Employers should take into consideration the reasons why some of their employees have not received or will not receive the Covid vaccination:
Age – As the vaccination is being offered by age group, starting with older people, younger employees may not have had an opportunity to be vaccinated.
Mental Health Conditions - issues such as phobia of needles should be considered.
Disability – people with certain health conditions may not be able to be vaccinated.
Pregnancy – Pregnant and breast-feeding mums have been advised against being vaccinated.
Religion – People practicing certain religions may not accept the vaccination due to their beliefs.
The above discrimination issues should also be considered when recruiting new employees.
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