Embrace HR Covid-19 vaccines pexels-gustavo-fring-3985170
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Can you make Covid-19 vaccines mandatory for your staff?

Can you insist that your care industry employees are vaccinated? What will happen if they refuse? Read on…

As the first Covid-19 vaccines begin to roll out, we can start to see a ray of light at the end of the global pandemic tunnel. And for those of us in the care industry, with the responsibility for the safety of both staff and clients, it is a big relief.

However, just because the vaccine is being made available – and health and social care workers and care home workers are among those included in the first wave – that doesn’t mean that all of your employees will take up the offer.

Best practice

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA) says that employers must take reasonable steps to reduce workplace risks. With this in mind, it would be wise to  educate your staff about vaccination so that health and safety is front of mind and they make an informed choice regarding vaccinations.

In light of this, it is key that employers draw up a policy regarding keeping safe, with reference to vaccinations in general, if one is not already in place.

Vaccine concerns

Staff may have their own reasons for not wanting to be vaccinated – in fact according to a YouGov survey around a fifth of those surveyed said they would not be vaccinated. They may fear that it has been developed too quickly, and that there is not enough known about side effects. They may doubt its efficacy – and with the announcement that the gap between first and second doses is being extended, may be even less convinced that it will give them immunity.

They may have medical concerns. Anyone who is pregnant, breastfeeding or trying to conceive is advised to consult with medical professionals to weigh up the risks of being vaccinated [GOV.UK: The safety of COVID-19 vaccines when given in pregnancy 5/1/21], and there are also concerns for anyone who has suffered from severe allergic reactions in the past [GOV.UK Confirmation of guidance to vaccination centres on managing allergic reactions following COVID-19 vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech-vaccine. Withdrawn 11/1/21].

Or you may find that you have staff who refuse on religious grounds, or because of other beliefs – ethical vegans, for instance, may refuse to have a vaccine that has been tested on animals.

Legal viewpoint

You should also note that the vaccination is not mandatory, and it looks unlikely that there will be any law making it so.

As highlighted in People Management recently, [People Management: Can employers force staff to have the Covid vaccine? 15/12/20] there are indirect measures that an employer can take to pressurise vaccination of their employees such as “refusing staff entry to certain parts of the workplace or certain roles, if they cannot demonstrate that they have been vaccinated”. That said, we wouldn’t recommend it and any such measures would need to be considered very carefully as you might run the risk of being subject to claims of discrimination or constructive dismissal.

Of course, where the care of vulnerable clients is involved, as an employer you may feel that your responsibility for their health and safety means that their carers should be vaccinated. However, there are other requirements that can keep them safe – such as PPE, cleaning and hygiene regimes, regular testing and social hygiene. In any case, guidance from the NHS still states that all these measures should be taken even if one is vaccinated, as no vaccine is believed to be 100 per cent effective.

An option for staff who have not been vaccinated, for whatever reason, is to allow them to work at home, if that is indeed an option, or to be deployed elsewhere, away from ill or vulnerable people. When considering this, you will of course have to ensure that they agree, they are not financially disadvantaged, that it doesn’t impact on their career in a negative way, or that it is in breach of their contract.

If you would like to discuss this subject further, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited provide a specialised HR service to the care sector, from recruitment through to exit.

Embrace HR changes in 2021
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Looking ahead to 2021

There has been a lot to take in over the past 10 months, with furlough schemes and lockdown laws, but before you raise a glass to the new year, take a moment to make a note of these changes…

It has been a tough year for many of us in the business world, and it is no surprise that the UK economy has shrunk by 11.3 per cent, and that it is forecast to take until 2022 to get back to the level it was at before Covid-19.

However, we will all move forward, and as we do so, we should make a note of some of the upcoming changes that will affect anyone involved in the management of HR.

National Living Wage

The first is that the National Living Wage (NLW – previously the national minimum wage) is set to go up in April. For staff aged 16 and 17 it will become £4.62 an hour and for those aged 23-plus it will be £8.91. See the table for full details:

Age Current rate 2021 rate Percentage increase
20-21 £8.20 £8.36 2%
18-20 £6.45 £6.56 1.7%
16-17 £4.55 £4.62 1.5%
Apprentice £4.15 £4.30 3.6%

End of Furlough Scheme

STOP PRESS 17/12/20: Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the furlough scheme for one month until the end of April 2021.

The furlough scheme is set to end in March, so as you come back after the new year, plans around reintegrating staff, reviewing job descriptions and so on will need to be confirmed.

The CIPD is calling for the government to extend the scheme once more beyond the end date of 31 March 2021 [CIPD: CIPD calls on Chancellor to extend furlough scheme to the end of June to protect jobs 13/12/2020]. The independent professional body has asked that support should be gradually phased out, allowing companies some stability while the vaccination scheme is rolled out. It has said that the government should keep its contributions at 80 per cent for February and March, dropping them gradually through April, May and June.

As and when we hear more on this, we will update you.

Flexible Recruitment

If this year has shown anything, it is that many jobs can be done remotely, offering staff a better work life balance by dropping commuting time and offering the chance to work around family and caring commitments. Many companies have realised that they can also tap into a wider selection of candidates by taking their pick from potential employees located outside of commuting distance.

Now is a good time to ensure that you have policies in place for recruiting for remote-based jobs, if that is what you will do going forward, and reviewing your remote working policies around working hours, IT and security – if you didn’t do so during the first lockdown.

You might also like to review our previous blog on the subject of flexible working.

If you would like to discuss this subject further, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

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New Immigration Rules for 2021

As we head towards the end of 2020 and the UK finally leaves the EU, this will also mean the end of free movement to the UK. The UK Government is introducing a new points-based immigration system which will treat EU and non-EU citizens equally. This change comes into effect on the 1st January 2021.

Immigration Guidelines

The main work route into the UK will be via the Skilled Worker route [GOV.UK: The UK’s points-based immigration system: an introduction for employers 19/11/2020] which includes some of the below:

  • Intra-Company Transfers (including Graduates Trainees)
  • International Students & Graduates (including Graduate Immigration Route)
  • Health and Care Visa (to apply for the Health and Care Visa, the individual must be a qualified doctor, nurse, health professional or adult social care professional. They need to have a job offer from the NHS (or equivalent body) and the employer must be a licensed sponsor.)

From 1st January 2021 the Skilled Worker route replaces the current T2 General Visa and some of the rules have been relaxed:

  • Required skill level is now A-level equivalent.
  • Reduced salary threshold.
  • Resident Labour Market test is scrapped.

Under the new points-based immigration system, anyone coming to the UK for work must meet a specific set of requirements for which they will score points. A total of 70 points are required, made up of mandatory points and some points which are tradeable. All applicants must:

  • be applying for a job ‘at appropriate skill level’,
  • speak English,
  • and have a job offer from an approved sponsor.

In addition, they must have a salary offer which is competitive for the job they are applying for.

A sponsorship requirement will apply to the Skilled Worker route, to the Health and Care Visa and to the student route, as well as to some specialised worker routes. This applies to both EU and non-EU citizens who come on these routes. Although specific requirements vary by route, for most work routes, sponsors must undergo checks to demonstrate they are a genuine business, are solvent, and that the roles they wish to recruit into are credible and meet the salary and skills requirements (if applicable). Sponsors must also pay a licence fee (and Immigration Skills Charge, where required.)

Right to Work (RTW)

Employers may continue with current RTW checks for EU citizens up to 30 June 2021, eg, a passport can still be accepted as the only RTW document up to this date. After this date, it will be necessary for the employee to show their settled status documentation/visa.

Irish citizens will continue to prove their right to work in the UK as they do currently.

All passports must be valid for at least 6 months.

Driving Post EU Exit

Employees who are required to drive for work may have to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Existing EU Citizens

EU citizens currently working the UK must apply to the EU Settlement Scheme if they wish to continue working in the UK. The deadline is 30 June 2021. If, after the 30 June 2021 they have not applied for a visa then their continued employment will be unlawful.

The employee must take personal responsibility if the wish to continue working in the UK and, if they do not have settled status (or a visa) by the 30 June 2021 deadline, then their employment will be unlawful, and the employer will be fined if they continue working.

Required Actions for Employers & Case Managers

There are a number of actions required of the employer and/or case manager:

  • Review your existing workforce to identify who will be required to apply to the EU settlement scheme and if they wish to continue working in the UK.
  • The Employer cannot force an employee to apply.
  • It is reasonable for the Employer to have dialogue with the employee to enquire what their intentions are and to request that they keep the Employer informed of progress of their application under the settled status scheme (or their visa application).
  • The Employer will be required to take a copy of the employee’s new settled status documentation or visa and send a copy to the HR provider.

Immigration and EU Settlement HR Support

At Embrace HR we can assist with this process by providing the employer with a list of employees who, as per our records are currently EU citizens, in order that they may fulfil their obligations as set out above. We will record the information provided to us from the employer/employee.

Furthermore, if we do not receive the required evidence from the employer or the employee by 30 June 2021, we will contact the employer to inform them that the employee, according to our records, may be working unlawfully, and that employment may need to be terminated.

Employers and employees are welcome to contact Embrace HR Limited with any questions relating these new immigration rules.

T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Embrace HR furlough scheme
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The extended furlough scheme: who can claim?

As the UK went into a second lockdown earlier this month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed that the furlough scheme would be extended. Find out how it applies to you and your employees…

Although the second UK lockdown is set to end at the beginning of December, Rishi Sunak has recognised that companies may be affected for longer than that and has therefore extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) until the end of March 2021.

Like the original scheme, which was set up in March, the current plan will see the government paying 80% of employee’s wages, with a cap of £2,500 a month. The Chancellor said that his aim was to give businesses security over the winter period and to protect millions of jobs.

The scheme replaces the Job Support Scheme, which had initially been planned to be put in place once the first Furlough scheme came to an end, and it is good news for employees as this new plan is far more generous.

How does it work?

Employers are able to claim 80% of an employee’s salary for any hours not worked with a cap of £2,500 a month. You must confirm in writing to your employee that they have been furloughed and a written record of this must be kept for five years.

Who can be furloughed?

You must have been employing the member of staff on 30 October 2020 (and you must have made a PAYE RTI submission to the HMRC notifying a payment of earnings for them at any time between 20 March and 30 October 2020). This does not apply if you are employed as a member of staff after 23 September 2020.

It is important to note that you do not have to have made any claim on the furlough scheme before 30 October 2020.

How many employees can I claim for?

The extended furlough scheme has no upper limit on the number of employees you claim for and you are not limited to the staff that you claimed furlough for during the first lockdown in March.

What about staff on maternity leave?

If you have staff on maternity leave, who would rather be furloughed (because that pay will be higher than Statutory Maternity Pay), they must give you eight weeks’ notice to end their leave early.

I employ an apprentice, can they be furloughed?

Yes they can, and they can continue their training while on furlough, However, note that they must be receiving wages that are at least the same as the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage/National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage while they are training. So as an employer you must cover the shortfall between that amount and the amount you can claim for their wages.

I made my employee redundant…

If employees stopped working for you or were made redundant on or after 23 September 2020, it is possible to re-employ them and put them on the new furlough scheme.

There are a variety of rules for different employment conditions, you can check them here [GOV.UK: Check which employees you can put on furlough to use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme 14/05/20 Updated 19/11/20].

If you would like to discuss this subject further, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

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Latest Government Help for Businesses Explained

Learn how the Job Support Scheme and Test and Trace Support payment schemes work for businesses…

STOP PRESS: Furlough Scheme extended from Thursday 5 November to Wednesday 2 December in line with England’s second lockdown of 2020. Please note that despite the lockdown, Embrace HR will continue to operate virtually and are here to address any HR-related enquiries.

Last month, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced two schemes for businesses as we reported in a previous blog, both related to the coronavirus pandemic – the Job Support Scheme (JSS) and the Test and Trace Support Scheme.

Enhancements to the JSS were announced on 22 October and the revised scheme is now called the Job Support Scheme Open (JSS Open or JSSO) for businesses operating and the Job Support Scheme Closed (JSSC) which is intended for those businesses that cannot operate. A comprehensive explanation can be found on the Gov.co.uk website.

In this blog, we look at both the JSS Open and the Test and Trace Support schemes in more detail.

Job Support Scheme Open

The aim of the JSSO is to protect jobs that may otherwise be under threat over the winter due to Covid-19 and to help avoid redundancy where possible. While the furlough scheme saw the government paying the majority of the employees’ wages, even though they were not working, now it will be up to the employer to cover those hours not worked, with some support from the government.

The original Job Support Scheme required employers to pay a third of the wage for hours not worked, while the government also paid a third. However, as of 22 October, the Chancellor announced changes to the scheme, providing further support for businesses already impacted by the pandemic, such as:

  • Reducing the employer contribution for unworked hours to 5%, and
  • Reducing, the minimum hours requirement from 33% to 20%, so those working just one day a week will still be eligible.

The good news is that if your business uses the JSSO, you will still be able to take advantage of the Job Retention Bonus (JRB) if you meet the criteria for eligibility. This gives companies a £1,000 one-off taxable payment for each eligible member of staff that was furloughed and is continuously employed by you until 31 January 2021. The bonus can be claimed between 15 February 2021 and 31 March 2021.

The JSSO opens on 1 November and runs until April 2021. It is open to any company that has a UK bank account and runs UK PAYE schemes. Important to note is that you do not need to have used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough) to be eligible.

While the government advice states that your turnover must be lower than it was before Covid-19, it also adds that there will be no financial assessment for SMEs. However, there will be for large companies.

For your employees to be eligible they must have been on your payroll on or before 23 September 2020 and a Real Time Information submission showing payment to the employee to HMRC must have been made on or before that date. This is documented via the link below. They must also work at least 20 per cent of their usual hours.

There is no requirement to be constantly on the scheme – so you could have team members who are on the scheme one week, if the business is quiet, but if trade picks up the following week they may come off it. However, each cycle must be at least seven days.

The figures:

  • The government contribution to each member of staff is capped at £1541.75 per month.
  • Payments will be made in arrears, so the government will pay back their contribution to the employer.
  • Employers are responsible for Class 1 employer NICs or pension contributions (they are not covered by the grant).
  • If your employee was furloughed, their ‘usual wages’, not their furlough pay, will be used in grant calculations.
  • Employers must pay the contracted rate for any hours worked.
  • It appears that the government is not expecting employers to ‘top up’ the money for hours not worked, over and above the 5 per cent they must pay.
  • You cannot make an employee redundant or give notice of redundancy if you are claiming the Job Support Scheme grant for them.
  • Claims can be made from December 2020, through Gov.uk, and the grant will be paid on a monthly basis.

Further detail can be found online at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/928761/JSS_Open_factsheet.pdf

Test and Trace

Via the Test and Trace scheme, people on lower incomes, who are unable to work from home, will be supported by a £500 payment if they have to self-isolate.

More important for employers to know is that a range of fines have been implemented for those breaching self-isolation rules – and stopping others from self-isolating. This means that employers who insist on staff coming into the workplace when they are required to self-isolate, or threaten them with redundancy, could be liable to fines of anywhere between £1,000 and £10,000.

Please also be aware that NHS Test and Trace call handlers will be in regular contact with self-isolating people and will escalate any suspicion of non-compliance to local authorities and local police.

In this instance, your employees will be responsible for claiming the Test and Trace support from their local authority directly.

This scheme came into effect from 28 September 2020.

If you would like to discuss the above in more detail, and/or the impact on your business, please don’t hesitate to contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

EMBRACING WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY
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Creating and Maintaining Mentally Healthy Workplaces

In a year of considerable change and uncertainty, we have to work harder to protect our mental health. As a HR Manager or Team Leader, your attitude and actions can also help the resilience of your team.

Every employee was recruited because they offered skills, knowledge, experience and potential that your organisation needed. In a challenging year, this talent should be retained and optimised. A team with good mental health is productive, motivated and able to make valuable contributions. So, what measures need to be in place to help everyone to cope?

Every Mind Matters

This year, World Mental Health Day focuses on providing support to people within the workplace. In this article, we particularly focus on Every Mind Matters. This NHS campaign focuses on the well-being of children and young people, so how is that relevant to your workplace?

Working Parents

Some of your team are likely to be parents. In the last 6 months, their children will have missed out on opportunities that should be part of everyday life. The closure of schools, clubs, childcare facilities and leisure activities has affected their ability to socialise, learn and develop.

There have been extra pressures on working parents, including home-schooling and childcare. The continuing impact of Covid-19 on their children weighs heavy on their mind. In a Public Health survey, 52% of parents stated that the mental well-being of their children was their biggest concern. Many wanted more advice on how to support their children.

You can help by raising awareness of the ‘Every Mind Matters’ campaign. The website includes online resources and advice for parents. In addition, there may be ways to establish support networks within your team. If possible, specialist training or group coaching could help address parents’ concerns. These measures will build the confidence and resilience of your working parents.

Workplace Apprentices

Your organisation may employ young people as apprentices or in junior roles. The start of their career is likely to have been disrupted by Covid-19, along with their home and social lives. To help them remain positive, motivated and productive, it is important to talk. Maintain regular communication that expands beyond technical training.

You may not relate to the issues faced by young people, but the ‘Every Mind Matters’ website has a section dedicated to young people’s well-being. It includes videos and links to charities who offer support.

Within the workplace, mental health can also be bolstered by the routine of work, good support from colleagues and recognition of the contribution they are making to the team.

The Return to Work

If employees have been working from home or furloughed, the return to work may be particularly stressful. With new procedures in place, it is another change to their routine that may bring mental health challenges to the fore.

Communication, care and collaboration will optimise physical and mental well-being during the transition. Our article on Work-life after Lockdown offers advice on how to minimise the impact of returning to work.

Solutions-focused Mental Health Support

As a company that values the mental health of your employees, it is important to develop a culture of empathy. Individuals need to feel confident that they can talk in confidence about the challenges they are facing. The priority for those involved in those disclosures is simply to listen. By that, we mean actively listen, without distraction.

The role of the HR Manager or Team Leader is not to diagnose or judge. The aim of any discussions should be on providing solutions-focused support. Signposting to relevant internal or external resources, such as ‘Every Mind Matters’, can be helpful.

#WorldMentalHealthDay #EveryMindMatters

If your organisation would benefit from additional HR support, please don’t hesitate to contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

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Back to Work at Home

Some companies have just got staff back into the office and now they’re heading back home again. What are the employers’ responsibilities?

In the wake of a second wave of Covid-19, on 22 September 2020, the Prime Minister asked for office workers to once again work from home if they were able to. Unlike the lockdown earlier in the year where people were told to stay home unless they were key workers, this latest instruction allows those working in retail, construction and hospitality, for example, to attend their workplace.

It is also only guidance, so while earlier in the year (until 1 June), it was illegal to go into work unless you came under the key worker categories, this time around that is not the case. So what does this mean for employers?

Must my staff work at home?

There are many factors to consider when working from home, not least whether an employee is able to work ‘effectively’. If it is not possible for them to work effectively at home, you would be within your rights to ask them to come into the office, according to global HR lawyer Lewis Silkin.

If your staff do continue to come into the office, you must make sure that all health and safety procedures relating to Covid-19 are strictly adhered to, both to ensure the safety of your staff and to make sure that you are not open to complaints from staff who are required to work there.

Communication is key

For some companies, who furloughed their staff, this may be the first time they have had to organise work-from-home employees. If this is the case, there are a number of factors to consider. In all cases communication between management and staff is key.

You will need to check that staff are confident that they can carry out their work at home, safely and effectively. Allow them to be open about any concerns – for example they may have access to sensitive documents, where will they store them at home? There may be aspects of the job that are impossible or time-consuming to do from home. You need to have these types of conversations with them and about whether they need to come into the office or alter aspects of their role. To decide whether someone can work effectively, you may want to devise and make use of a Homeworking Questionnaire that can then be discussed with the individual.

It is important to be supportive of staff working from home. Not only practically but emotionally too. Ensure that there is an open line of communication for them to talk with managers and other staff. This is especially important for staff who are relatively new to the company or their role, and who still need to check in regularly with managers and senior staff. Make use of video conferencing facilities but remember to check that people know the basics of its use and are comfortable using it. Something as simple as knowing where the camera is so that not only the top of the head is displayed, or what the background looks like.

However, the responsibilities do not all fall to the employer. Employees have to take a reasonable amount of care of their health and safety, and let the company know if there are any issues, and if any initial arrangements need to be reviewed.

What if they want to come into the office?

Because the government guidance is just that, it is assumed that employers and staff will have sensible conversations about who should work from home. That said, if an employee is unable to focus at home, does not have the room to work from home, or is experiencing mental health issues from being at home all day – which mean they will be far more effective in the office – you should have a conversation with them to see how you can help. If it is just that they enjoy the company, or like getting out of the house, they should be working from home.

Homeworking policy

If your staff were furloughed during lockdown, this may all be new to the company and you will need to make sure you have got the basics in place. A homeworking policy is vital so that the company policy is clear to everyone.

  • The right space
    You should check that your staff have an acceptable place to work at home – it may be several months before we all back in our offices and the Prime Minister has certainly intimated that he wants those who can, to work at home over the winter months. Perching on a sofa five days a week with a laptop on their lap is not going to be acceptable. Help them carry out a risk assessment of their working space to make it as safe and as comfortable as possible. They may need advice on ergonomics when it comes to chair and desk, as well as lighting and ventilation. Will the organisation contribute to setting up a workspace? Remember that a DSE assessment is required.
  • The right equipment
    Make sure the relevant systems are in place so that your staff have the correct technology – if not a PC, then a laptop, monitor, keyboard and mouse may be required. What software and licenses are needed? Is all work carried out ‘in the cloud’ or is access to a server required? Most people have access to broadband but discussions about connectivity may be needed, depending on roles.
  • Change to contracts
    Consideration should be given to contractual changes may be necessary for employee’s working from home. Here conversations are vital. The CIPD believe that organisations should consider flexible working requests from Day One. It is expected that there will be an increase in employees exercising their Right to Request Flexible Working. To ensure responses are considered appropriately and are reasonable, it’s a good idea to follow the formal procedure as there may need to be a change to contracts.

What about childcare?

Unlike during lockdown, childcare facilities are open, and families can now have a support bubble to help with childcare where necessary. However, there have already been a number of instances where children have been sent home to self-isolate thanks to virus cases within school or nursery. Children who are unwell may also not be allowed back into an education setting until they have had a negative Covid-19 test.

So what happens when parents have young children isolating at home while they are supposed to be working? Some options available are that they: take annual leave; use unpaid time off for dependants, or use parental leave. However, it is unclear how many times this may happen over the next few months, and families may not  be able to afford to take too  much unpaid leave. Make sure that you can have an open conversation with staff about options, such as flexible working.

Further reading

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and subsequent containment measures will undoubtedly have a long-lasting impact on the economy, businesses and working lives. Organisations worldwide have had to make rapid changes to how they operate, including how and where jobs are carried out, as well as planning for, or returning staff to work safely. Workers in turn, have had to navigate new ways of working, as well as adapt to changing circumstances in their personal lives.

You may be interested in this research by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) with useful insights into: jobs and financial security; workload and work-life balance; health, safety and wellbeing, as well as their findings into employer and line managers’ responses to the pandemic.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you draw up a homeworking policy, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761 288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

Embrace Work From Home pexels-polina-zimmerman-3747432
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Work from Home – Latest Advice from the Prime Minister

The latest advice, announced in a statement by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on Tuesday 22 September, is for office workers to work from home wherever possible. For professions where this is not possible, such as care work, people should continue to attend their workplace…

Following a significant rise in the number of positive cases of Coronavirus since August, decisions have been taken to try and slow the spread of the virus once more. Otherwise, warned the Chief Medical Office and Chief Scientific Adviser, the doubling rate for new cases could be between seven and 20 days with the possibility of tens of thousands of new infections next month. As a result, the alert level was raised from 3 to 4 – the second most serious stage, meaning that transmission is high or rising exponentially.

The number of new cases is growing fastest amongst those aged between 20 and 29, although it is still spreading to other more vulnerable age groups. In the last fortnight, hospital admissions across England have more than doubled each day – leading to a bleak forecast for October and November when Covid is likely to spread faster as autumn turns to winter.

Key Takeaways

The PM was clear to reiterate that this was not a general instruction to stay at home, and that schools, colleges and universities can stay open – and just as importantly that businesses can stay open in a Covid-compliant way. The key principles for business are as follows:

  • Office workers are asked to work from home where they can do so
  • In key public services and where homeworking is not possible, such as education, construction and retail, people should continue to attend their workplace
  • From tomorrow, Thursday 23 September, all pubs, bar and restaurants must operate a table service only (except for takeaways obviously) and all hospitality venues must close their doors at 10pm
  • Staff in retail should now wear face coverings, as should users of taxis and private hire vehicles and both staff and customers in indoor hospitality, except when seated at a table to eat or drink
  • Covid guidelines within the retail, leisure and tourism sectors, for example, will become legal obligations

As a result of all of the above, business conferences, exhibitions and large sporting events will not be able to re-open on 1 October as planned. Additionally, businesses will need to display the official NHS QR code posters so that customers can ‘check-in’ at different premises using this option as an alternative to providing their contact details once the app is rolled out nationally (from 24 September).

More detail on this can be found on the Gov.uk website.

Legal Obligations

In addition to the changes to legal obligations within the business arena, mentioned above, the fine of up to £10,000 for those failing to self-isolate will also extend to businesses. And the penalty for failing to wear a face covering or breaking the rule of size will now double to £200 – for a first offence. To enforce the new rules, we will see a greater police presence on the streets backed up by military support where necessary.

There is no recommendation for shielding, other than in those areas in local lockdown. And, unlike the lockdown earlier in the year, the vast majority of businesses can continue to move forwards to support the UK economy.

New Support Packages

On 20 September, the government announced a Test and Trace Support payment scheme to support those people required by law to self-isolate from 28 September. The payment of £500 will be for those people on lower incomes who cannot work from home and have lost income as a result. New fines for those breaching self-isolation rules will start at £1,000 and could increase to up to £10,000 for repeat offences. This includes business owners who threaten self-isolating staff with redundancy if they do not come to work.

Furthermore, on 24 September, the Chancellor announced a ‘Job Support Scheme’ to help subsidise the wages of people in work, which will start in November. This new scheme will replace that of the previous ‘Furlough Scheme’ and means that the government will pay part of workers’ wages who have lost hours. The worker must complete at least one-third of normal hours and the government and the employer will pay one-third each of the lost hours. Fundamentally, this will ensure employees earn a minimum of 77% of their normal wages.

Working Safely

The government produced an extensive set of guidelines for businesses operating in England back in May, covering a variety of different types of industries and work. These guidelines are constantly updated and can again be referred to on the Gov.uk website. Employees can use this guidance to check what their workplace needs to be doing in order to keep people safe.

It’s important for businesses to use the learnings from lockdown to think about the future structure of their organisations and how best to work under the ‘new normal’ – not only for those continuing to work from home, but also considering those peoople’s wellbeing and family responsibilities.

If you have any concerns about the recent announcements and how it might impact your business or organization, please don’t hesitate to contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761 288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.

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Redundancy guarantee for furloughed workers

New rules will ensure that furloughed employees are not ‘short-changed’ if they are made redundant…

The government has introduced new rules that will protect furloughed workers in the event of redundancy.

The changes, introduced on 30 July 2020, will see employees receiving statutory notice pay calculated using their normal wages, not their furloughed rates of pay.

In the case of any future unfair dismissal claims, potential settlement would also be based on their pre-Covid wages, not the furlough rate they have been receiving.

Business secretary Alok Sharma said: “New laws coming into force will ensure furloughed workers are not short-changed if they are ever made redundant – providing some reassurance for workers and their families during this challenging time.”

The announcement follows on from the Job Retention Bonus plan, which was announced in the Mini Budget in July. The scheme has been designed to help stop mass redundancies as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS) winds down. It could cost the government as much as £9bn.

The plan will see each company paid £1,000 for each person that returns to work from furlough.

The bonus will be paid for staff who return to work between November and January – and who are paid at least £520 per month.

Employers encouraged to take on young staff

Also announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the Mini Budget was a £2bn ‘kickstart scheme’ aimed at creating jobs for young people – dubbed the ‘new lost generation’ in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The scheme is part of an emergency package designed to stop mass unemployment as the UK economy is hit by the effects of lockdown.

Young people aged 16-24, on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment, will receive six-month work placements funded by the government.

These kickstarter jobs will cover 25 hours’ work each week at the National Minimum Wage (that is, £4.55 for those under 18, £6.45 for young people aged 18 to 20, and £8.20 for the 21-24-year-olds). These payments can be topped up by employers who must offer training and support the young people in finding permanent employment to qualify.

Employers can apply for the scheme, which covers Wales, Scotland and England now, with jobs expected to start in the autumn. The scheme will run until December 2021, with the possibility of an extension. The government has pledged funding for a similar scheme for Northern Ireland.

The scheme could provide hundreds of thousands of jobs as no limit has been placed on numbers.

Apprentices and trainees

The government has also devised a scheme to increase apprenticeships, with employers being paid £2,000 for every apprentice they take on (the sum drops to £1,500 if the apprentice is aged 25 or over).

It has also promised to create 30,000 traineeship opportunities in England for young people aged 16 to 24. These are not paid positions, but instead offer unpaid work experience along with lessons in maths, English, and CV writing. They last from six weeks to six months and companies in England will be given £1,000 for each new work experience place they offer. A £21m fund will offer similar schemes for Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.

Companies are required to offer the young people an interview for a job or apprenticeship if available at the end of their traineeship.

If you would like to discuss this subject further and find out how we could help you navigate these new government schemes, please contact Cecily Lalloo at Embrace HR Limited.

T: 01296 761 288 or contact us here.

If you would like to receive our quarterly newsletter, please sign up here.

Based in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, Embrace HR Limited supports business owners who do not have their own HR department or those that do but need help from time to time. We also work across the Home Counties of Oxfordshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and also SMEs based in London.