A collection of important developments within Employment Law during May 2021.
- Coronavirus: Spring 2021
The government has released a ‘roadmap’ to ease coronavirus related restrictions and to bring the UK out of lockdown. The following changes are anticipated to take place, however they will be dependent upon the number of coronavirus cases in the UK and upon sustaining the NHS:
- From 17 May: 6 people or 2 households may meet indoors. Outside meetings of less than 30 will be allowed. Indoor hospitality venues will reopen, however customers will have to order, eat and drink while seated. Up to 30 people may attend weddings, receptions and funerals. Individuals may be able to travel abroad.
- From 21 June: All legal limits on social contact will be removed. Remaining commercial premises will be reopened, such as nightclubs, and large events / performances will be allowed. This has now been delayed for 4 weeks, until 19 July 2021.
- Tips for Businesses Reopening
Acas have published five helpful tips for businesses reopening from 17 May 2021. These are:
- Make sure the workplace is COVID-secure, including completing a COVID-19 risk assessment. In addition, staff should be involved in decision-making and kept informed of any changes.
- Plan ahead with staffing, for example, by considering how many workers need to attend the workplace each day, and how start and finish times can be staggered to help staff avoid busy commuting travel times. In addition, consider how to reintegrate furloughed staff into the workforce.
- Talk to staff about plans, arranging early conversations with them and listening to any concerns they may have about returning to the workplace. Employers are encouraged to be flexible where possible and seek to resolve any staff concerns.
- Think about staff health and wellbeing, for example, by learning what the signs of mental ill health may be, and tailoring management and support to individual workers.
- Have regard to employment rights, by ensuring compliance with the National Minimum Wage (which increased in April 2021), allowing workers to take their accrued holiday entitlement, and making reasonable adjustments for disabled workers.
- Order made extending health and safety detriment protection to workers from 31 May 2021
From 31 May 2021, the rights under section 44(1)(d) and (e) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA) not to be subjected to a detriment in certain health and safety cases will be extended to workers.
- Right to Work checks
Employers may continue to carry out checks over video calls, and job applicants may send scanned copies of their identity documents as an alternative to providing the originals.
Employers will also not have to carry out retrospective checks during the extended period.
- Was it fair to dismiss an employee for refusing to agree changes to her employment contract during the pandemic?
Employment Tribunal Judge Morris rules no in Khatun v Winn Solicitors Ltd ET/2501492/2020.
The claimant had declined to agree to a variation to the terms of her employment contract, which her employer had stated was necessary in the interests of their business. The changes included an agreement to go into furlough or accepted reduced hours and salary level. There were to be no immediate changes other than working from home and the claimant was told that the position was non-negotiable.
The claimant did not dispute the reason for her dismissal, however, she claimed that her employer had not acted reasonably in all the circumstances in treating it as a sufficient reason to dismiss her.
Tribunal Judge Morris agreed with the claimant and found that whilst her employer had sound business reasons for their decision to seek a contract variation and a potentially fair reason for the claimant’s dismissal, the dismissal itself was not within the band of reasonable responses of a reasonable employer in the circumstances.
When determining the case, Judge Morris considered relevant factors ‘including the fairly significant size of the response and its administrative resources; the unprecedented times; and the genuine need to preserve the respondent’s business for when it emerged from the effects of the pandemic’.
Through our newsletters, we will provide updates on the key developments in Employment Law. For further information or advice on any of the above employment law developments, please contact Hatchers Solicitors Employment Law Team on 01743 248545 or email@example.com.
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