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Archive

September, 2020

Employment contracts pt.1 – lockdown learning and future-proofing

Posted on: September 30th, 2020 by Ginny Hallam

With local lockdowns and the government’s latest response confirming home-working may continue into 2021, it’s important to consider whether your employment contracts, policies and practices are fit for purpose to deal with the ever-changing approach to working. 

Here are our thoughts on a few of the key terms you’ll want to consider / update to ensure you create flexibility and commercial protection in these uncertain times:

Confidentiality – with the challenges that home-working brings, individuals considering jumping ship have a great opportunity to take your contact lists, marketing plans and pricing structures. Introducing or tightening up confidentiality and property clauses are a must at this time along with the right to monitor individuals’ use of your systems.

Lay-off/ short–time working – if your contract doesn’t include a lay-off or short-time working provision, now is the time to do something about it. With the furlough scheme coming to an end and the new Job Support Scheme requiring employees to work a third of their hours, including contractual lay-off and short-time working clauses provides you with greater flexibility to manage your workforce without having to ask for their consent to do so.

Post-termination restrictions – if they don’t explain that periods of absence will be discounted in determining the key relationships that are protected, you should review your restrictions. So often, restrictions explain that ‘stuff’ happening just before exit is protected (whether it’s relationships, sales or tenders) but if an individual has been on furlough, sick or on statutory leave, you’ll find that if nothing has been going on just prior to exit then nothing will be protected! With the appropriate amendments to post-termination restrictions this can be avoided.

Click here for more information about our contract review and redraft packages.

 

This update is accurate on the date it was sent (01 October 2020), but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.

Job Support Scheme – added redundancy complexity?

Posted on: September 29th, 2020 by Ginny Hallam

The Chancellor’s new Job Support Scheme has come as a ‘welcome offer’ to some, but is unlikely to ‘live up to its promise’ of averting job losses for others. We think it may create as many problems as it provides possible solutions.

Watch out for…

Unfair dismissals – you’ll know from our redundancy series that in order to conduct a fair redundancy process you need to consult with the ‘at risk’ employee about alternatives to making their role redundant. If you ignore the Scheme and the impact it might have on the individual’s role were you to seek the Scheme’s support, it is possible the dismissal will be unfair.

Recent redundancies – an extension to the point above, if employees are currently serving notice or have just been made redundant you should consider communicating to them why it is (if that’s the case) that the Scheme would not have secured their role and avoided their redundancy.

Age discrimination – the Scheme may encourage the retention of longer serving (and possibly older) employees (see below). If you apply a practice of ‘last in first out’ (or a version of) you could find yourself liable for claims of age discrimination from younger workers. Take advice before instigating a strategy of retaining longer serving employees over more recently employed individuals.

But is it worth considering the Scheme…

As an alternative to redundancy for long serving employees – particularly if you’re likely to see an upturn in their work over the next six months and their redundancy attracts significant notice and redundancy payments.

If your employees are still on furlough – you’ll already be contributing to the payments employees receive when they’re not working and arguably the new Scheme is a continuation of that theme.

Get in touch if you need advice or support in managing a redundancy process, or click here to find out more about our flexible support packages.

 

This update is accurate on the date it was sent (29 September 2020), but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.

Job Support Scheme – chancellor’s announcement

Posted on: September 24th, 2020 by Ginny Hallam

Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has just announced a new Job Support Scheme to help businesses maintain viable jobs from 01 November. The Scheme is set to last six months.

We’ve also included a reminder below on changes to the current furlough scheme up until the end of October. 

Job Support Scheme

Designed to support businesses to maintain viable jobs by contributing to the wages of people in work (rather than making them redundant). The detail so far:

  1. Employees must work at least 1/3 of their normal hours and continue to be paid as normal by their employer for those hours.
  2. (This is the complicated bit) The government, along with the employer, will then split equally the payment of 2/3rds of the employee’s normal pay for the hours not worked (ie 2/3rds of the remaining up to 2/3rds).
  3. For example, an employee working 33% of their normal hours would get 77% of their normal pay (55% paid by the employer and 22% by the government). The maths isn’t the most straightforward – here’s what HM Treasury have tweeted.
  4. Support will be available to all small and medium sized businesses. Larger businesses will only be able to access the Scheme if they can show their turnover has fallen as a result of the pandemic.
  5. It will be open to all employers across the UK even if they haven’t previously used the furlough scheme and all employees will be eligible subject to the above criteria (even if they’ve not been furloughed previously).
  6. Businesses will be able to access both the Job Retention Bonus, as well as the Job Support Scheme.

We’ll update you as soon as we have further information or more detailed government guidance.

Existing Job Retention Scheme and Job Retention Bonus

01 October – the government will contribute 60% up to £1,875 a month and you will need to contribute the remaining 20% up to £625 for working hours that employees are furloughed. You can decide to top up employees’ wages beyond the 80% total while furloughed. You will need to continue to pay NICs and pension contributions.

01 November – the furlough scheme will end and you’ll be entitled to a one-off Job Retention Bonus of £1000 for every eligible employee who was previously furloughed and is still employed by you at 31 January 2021 (and not serving notice). You’ll be able to claim the bonus after you’ve filed PAYE for January 2021 and payments will be made to you from February 2021. More detail here.

NHS Covid-19 app

The official NHS contact-tracing app is now live and available to download from the App Store for iPhones and Google’s Play Store for Android phones.

 

This update is accurate on the date it was sent (24 September 2020), but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.

ACAS changes and new tribunal procedure rules

Posted on: September 23rd, 2020 by Ginny Hallam

In an attempt to reduce the backlog that both ACAS and the Tribunal Service are experiencing as a result of coronavirus, changes to ACAS Early Conciliation provisions and new tribunal procedure rules are being introduced.

Below are the most significant changes:

ACAS Early Conciliation

  1. From 1 December 2020, the default conciliation period is being extended to six weeks with no possibility of a further extension.
  2. This means that employees will effectively have an extra two weeks to lodge an employment tribunal claim. The time limit currently sits at five months, but with this extension employees now have five months and two weeks to bring a claim in time.
  3. The change will only take effect for early conciliation entered into after 1 December 2020.

Tribunal procedure rules

You can access the full legislation here (be warned, it’s not for the faint hearted!). The changes will come into effect on 7 October 2020 and explain amongst other things that:

  1. To increase capacity, judges from outside the employment tribunal will be allowed to sit as judges in employment tribunals. It remains to be seen how using non-employment specialists will impact decisions.
  2. Legal officers (who don’t need to be legally qualified) will be able to carry out administrative tasks for employment judges. This could include acceptance or rejection of claim forms and ET3 extensions, for example.

With more uncertainty on the horizon, it’s unlikely to be the last time rules and procedures are relaxed to provide additional capacity and flexibility.

 

This update is accurate on the date it was sent (23 September 2020), but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.

Dates confirmed for new government restrictions

Posted on: September 23rd, 2020 by Ginny Hallam

Following Boris Johnson’s announcement yesterday, dates for the new restrictions coming into effect have been released. Below are the headlines:

Pubs, bars and restaurants: 24 September – required to close their doors (not just call last orders) at 10pm and restricted to table-service only. They must also display official NHS QR code posters for the contact tracing app.

Working form home: immediate – no date has been provided so we assume the advice to work from home if you can takes effect immediately.

Face coverings: 24 September – all retail and indoor hospitality staff must wear face coverings. Customers will be required to wear them at all times except when seated at a table. Wearing face coverings and visors in close contact services will also become law.

Fines: 24 September – individuals abusing or breaking the rule of six or failing to wear a face covering will see fines doubled to £200 for their first offence.

Covid-secure guidelines: 28 September – will become legal obligations in retail, leisure, tourism and other sectors. Businesses will be fined and could be closed if they breach these rules.

You can find the full government update here.

We’ll provide updated versions of all of our coronavirus related policies and documents as appropriate.

 

This update is accurate on the date it was sent (23 September 2020), but may be subject to change which may or may not be notified to you. This update is not to be taken as advice and you should seek advice if anything contained within affects you or your business.