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Mental health #6 – when to continue formal processes

Posted on: September 16th, 2020 by Ginny Hallam

Whether it’s a disciplinary, performance management or grievance process, it can be worrying knowing how best to continue if the employee becomes too ill and is signed off with work related stress.

Here are our thoughts on managing this challenging and sensitive issue.

Supporting recovery – progressing a disciplinary or grievance issue which may have triggered the condition might aid the employee’s recovery – consider securing expert opinion to establish whether this is the case.

Listen to medical opinion – asking a medical expert means you’ll have a better understanding of the condition and any adjustments required to support the employee during the process.

Offer alternatives – consider whether conducting conversations via telephone, video call or even written correspondence along with support from a companion (a friend or family member, for example) means the employee should be better able to attend.

Consider sick pay – exercising your discretion to continue paying salary during the employee’s absence might be creating a reluctance to return.

For details on how to access our guidance note for managers on when they should pause or progress a formal process click here.

Mental health toolkit

Promoting employee well-being and mental health creates a more engaged workforce, reduces sickness absence and drives performance. We’ve created a user-friendly toolkit providing you and your managers with the knowledge, skills and tools to support your team’s mental health needs within the wider employment law context. If you’d like to find out more about what’s included and how the toolkit will support these challenges during formal processes, click here.

This update is accurate on the date it was sent (16 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.

Furlough fails may give employees enhanced employment protection

Posted on: September 15th, 2020 by Ginny Hallam

Whether it’s opening the post, checking emails or even volunteering to do the gardening at work, if you’ve allowed employees to do any work for you whilst they’ve been furloughed (even at their request), you’ll have fallen foul of the Job Retention Scheme.

If you’re considering restructuring or going through any other employment process which may leave an employee disgruntled, they may try and protect their employment position by suggesting you’ve claimed furlough inappropriately. We’ve seen that there have been 8000 calls already to the HMRC’s fraud hotline.

Any disclosures an employee makes (whether internally or externally e.g. to HMRC) about suspected furlough fraud or uncorrected errors are likely to be amount to “protected disclosures” or “whistleblowing”. This means unlimited compensation at tribunal if the employee can show that they were dismissed or suffered a detriment as a result of making the disclosure.

If you know or suspect that you’ve acted inappropriately in respect of furlough or are the subject of a whistleblowing disclosure, here are a few things to consider:

Act first – if you think you’ve made an inappropriate furlough claim, let HMRC know immediately. See our previous update for further details. If an employee has already blown the whistle, self-reporting won’t remove the employee’s whistleblower protection but your actions show you’re not trying to cover up wrongdoing (making any argument that the employee suffered a detriment as a result of their disclosure less plausible).

Signpost – ensure employees are clear about how they should raise their concerns and to whom – a whistleblowing policy should set out that the employee is to come to you first giving you an opportunity to understand their concerns and address them. We’ve got this covered in our “Safe return to work policy” or “whistleblowing policy” – for details of how to access click here.

Deal with rule breakers – if an employee has chosen to work despite your requests for them not to do so, consider taking disciplinary action against them and/or documenting your concerns and requests for them to stop. Failure to do so could mean they later suggest that you agreed to them behaving in breach of the Job Retention Scheme or that you even encouraged them to do so.

Evidence your thought process – if you’re following a formal process (e.g. redundancy) just because an employee has blown the whistle doesn’t mean you can’t continue. Clearly you’ll need to investigate their concerns but you can usually do so alongside the formal process – just keep a careful note of your decisions and rationale.

Click here if you need advice from one of our expert lawyers.

 

This update is accurate on the date it was sent (15 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.

Kickstart Scheme is live

Posted on: September 4th, 2020 by Ginny Hallam

The government Kickstart Scheme is now live. But unless you’re creating more than 30 roles, applying independently will not be possible. We’ve outlined your options below, and what support is being made available. 

Who can apply? 

Businesses offering fewer than 30 roles can apply through a Local Authority, Chamber of Commerce, trade body, or employer group to pool applications. Otherwise you can apply by clicking here.

Each application should include how you’ll:

  1. help participants to develop their skills and experience;
  2. support them to look for long-term work (career advice, setting goals);
  3. support with CV and interview skills; and
  4. develop basic skills (such as attendance, timekeeping etc.).

What support is the government offering under the Scheme?

To receive funding for the roles, the placements must be new roles and:

  1. participants must be 16-24, receiving Universal Credit and deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment;
  2. not replace existing or planned vacancies;
  3. not reduce the employment or hours of existing employees or contractors;
  4. be for a minimum of 25 hours per week for six months;
  5. be paid at least NMW relevant for their age; and
  6. not require extensive training before commencing the placement (‘extensive training’ has not been clarified).

Provided that you meet the above criteria, following your application you’ll receive in respect of each role:

  1. 100% of the NMW for the first 25 hours per week (you can pay more if you want);
  2. 100% NICs for the first 25 hours per week;
  3. 100% of pension contributions for the first 25 hours per week; and
  4. £1500 per applicant for training, plus uniform and set-up costs.

Further help 

If you have any questions about the Scheme, there is a list of regional government contacts available to support you here, and further information on whether you can apply for funding here.

Does your business plan to use the Scheme? Click here to take our quick survey and let us know!

 

This update is accurate on the date it was sent (07 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.

Glut of holidays? What are your options?

Posted on: August 24th, 2020 by Ginny Hallam

If holidays are accruing faster than your employees have time to take them, what are your options? 

Here are our thoughts:

  1. The government have allowed workers to carry over up to four weeks’ holiday into the next two holiday years if the reason they’ve not been able to take them is due to coronavirus. That means carry over is possible if your business has been so busy since March there hasn’t been the time to take holidays or employees have been furloughed and haven’t taken the holiday for example;
  2. You have the option to require employees to take holidays (by giving them twice as much notice as the holiday you require them to take) so if there’s still time in the year to require that they take holidays (perhaps if you’re expecting a slowdown) you may at least be able to reduce the accruing holiday liability;
  3. If you’re making redundancies then you’re able to ask employees to take holiday during notice periods again by giving twice as much notice as the holiday you require them to take (saving on lumpy holiday payments at a time when the individual may otherwise have been fairly unproductive);
  4. If you already have a generous holiday scheme which is adding to your holiday woes you could always buy back holidays (provided that in doing so you don’t take the employee below statutory minimum holidays of 5.6 weeks);
  5. Although the flexible furlough scheme can’t be used solely to fund employee’s holidays, if the employee is already furloughed there is nothing wrong in ensuring employees are still taking holidays (and you can use the furlough scheme to fund them in part).

Don’t forget that however busy you are as well as holidays giving employees the opportunity to recharge, they are a health and safety requirement under the Working Time Regulations so regular holiday reminders continue to remain important.

 

This update is accurate on the date it was sent (24 August 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.

Supporting mental health #3 – employer toolkit

Posted on: August 19th, 2020 by Ginny Hallam

70 million working days are lost each year in the UK due to mental health, costing employers approximately £2.4 billion.

Proactively promoting employee well-being and mental health not only reduces absence, but creates a more engaged workforce and helps to drive performance.

We’ve created a user-friendly employer toolkit with over 30 contemporary documents providing you and your managers with the knowledge, skills and tools necessary to support your team’s mental health needs within the wider employment context. The toolkit is based around four core areas:

  1. Mental health champions
  2. Mental health concerns during a formal process
  3. Absences due to mental health
  4. Supporting mental well-being

You can view the full contents of the toolkit here. If you’d like to know more, or purchase the toolkit (£495+VAT), get in touch.

 

This update is accurate on the date it was sent (19 August 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.