Tag: employment

January Update to the Furlough Scheme

January 8, 2021, By

Employees who are unable to work or are working reduced hours as a result of caring responsibilities arising from the coronavirus can be furloughed. New updates to the furlough scheme are explained below.

On Monday 4 January 2021, Boris Johnson announced a third national lockdown in England, dashing any hopes of the easing of coronavirus-related restrictions in 2021.

As part of the newly imposed lockdown, children in primary and secondary schools switched to remote learning until at least February half term. The only exceptions to this are vulnerable children and children of key workers who are still able to have in-person classroom lessons.

Following calls for extra support for working parents having to deal with enforced school closures, HMRC has updated its ‘Check which employees you can put on furlough to use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme’ guidance (the ‘Guidance’) to clarify that employees who are unable to work, or are working reduced hours as a result of caring responsibilities arising from the coronavirus, can be furloughed.

We have produced a tracked version of the latest changes to the relevant section of the Guidance below.

If your employee’s health has been affected by Coronavirus (COVID-19) or any other conditions

I̶f̶ ̶y̶o̶u̶r̶ ̶e̶m̶p̶l̶o̶y̶e̶e̶ ̶i̶s̶ Your employee is eligible for the grant and can be furloughed, if they are unable to work, including from home or working reduced hours because they:

  • u̶n̶a̶b̶l̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶w̶o̶r̶k̶ ̶b̶e̶c̶a̶u̶s̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶y̶ ̶are clinically extremely vulnerable, or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus and following public health guidance.
  • u̶n̶a̶b̶l̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶w̶o̶r̶k̶ ̶b̶e̶c̶a̶u̶s̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶y̶ ̶have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19), i̶n̶c̶l̶u̶d̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶e̶m̶p̶l̶o̶y̶e̶e̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶n̶e̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶l̶o̶o̶k̶ ̶a̶f̶t̶e̶r̶ ̶c̶h̶i̶l̶d̶r̶e̶n̶ ̶ such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing or caring for a vulnerable individual in their household.

This update now clarifies what has previously been an area of uncertainty and confirms that working parents caring for school children are eligible to be furloughed. We believe that parents assisting primary school children will certainly be eligible. Of course, employers do not have to agree to furlough and may instead wish to explore changing an employee’s hours, unpaid leave or taking holidays as other options.

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has now been extended further until the end of April 2021

Most of the eligibility requirements of the scheme remain the same but we note the following:-

  • Employers can still furlough employees for whom RTI submissions have been made between 20 March 2020 – 30 October 2020.
  • There is no longer a requirement that those employees should have been previously furloughed in order to be eligible for the scheme.
  • There is no cap on the number of employees who can be claimed for from November 2020 (as long as they were on the payroll on or before 30 October 2020).

Contact me with any questions

If you require any further information in relation to furlough and the new changes to the guidance, please do not hesitate to contact our team.

You can call us on 0161 969 3131 or fill in our contact form and one of the team will be in touch.

Update to the Job Support Scheme: JSS Open

October 27, 2020, By

November 1st, 2020 is when the Government’s Job Support Scheme launches. We provide the most up to date information about the latest updates on “JSS Open” here.

On Thursday 22 October 2020, Her Majesty’s Treasury announced a further update to the Job Support Scheme. This latest announcement is the second update to the scheme since it was originally introduced on 24 September 2020.

The update only applies to the Job Support Scheme so far as open businesses are concerned (now known as “JSS Open”) and effectively where you are contemplating reducing an employee’s working hours due to a down-turn in work as a result of the impact of COVID-19 on your business operations.

The JSS available for businesses legally required to close due to local and/or national restrictions (now known as “JSS Closed”) remains unchanged.
Please see our earlier update on JSS Closed here.

An overview of JSS open

The changes to JSS Open increase the extent of the Government’s financial support and protect jobs that were previously not covered under earlier versions of the scheme. In summary:

–  Employers must still pay employees their contracted wages for every hour worked.

–  In order to be eligible, employees no longer need to be working a minimum of 33% of their usual hours. This threshold has now been reduced to 20%, capturing a wider pool of employees, including those working just one day a week.

–  For every hour not worked, the Government will contribute to wages up to 61.67%, capped at £1,541.75 per month per employee. This is a significant increase in Government support compared to the previous rules where the Government’s contribution was limited to a third of wages for non-working hours, capped at £697.92 per month.

–  Employers’ required contribution to non-worked hours has now been reduced to 5%, capped at £125 per month. The revised scheme is therefore cheaper for employers to operate than previously was the case making it a potentially more viable option for struggling businesses.

–  To illustrate how the scheme now works – if an employee was being paid £587 for their unworked hours, the government would be contributing £543 and their employer only £44.

–  Employers can top up their contribution beyond 5% at their own discretion.

–  Employers will continue to receive the £1,000 Job Retention Bonus in addition to the JSS contribution, provided they meet all the requirements.

Written Agreements from employees

If you are contemplating using the new JSS Open then you must agree on the new working arrangements with your employees.

Simply notifying employees that they are being placed on the JSS is not sufficient. Therefore, it is important that you ensure that you have written agreements from all employees who have been placed on the JSS (and that you follow up with any employees who have not yet confirmed their agreement to you).

Furthermore, records of these agreements must be kept securely for 5 years as HMRC may require employers to produce them during audits (and at any time upon HMRC’s request). You are also required to keep records of how many hours employees work and the number of usual hours they are not working.

Please note that the above update reflects the Government’s guidance as in force as of today’s date. We understand that more detailed guidance will become available in respect of the above before the end of this month (including that HMRC is apparently going to issue detailed advice about what to include in the agreement with employees and will also provide more detailed worked examples).

Contact us with any questions

If you require any further information in relation to the Job Support Scheme, including how to implement it into your business, our employment team are here to guide you.

Call us on 0161 969 3131 or leave us your details and one of the team will call you back.

Coronavirus – Will I get paid if I have been told to self-isolate?

February 27, 2020, By

The government has instructed British citizens returning from Hubei province in China, Iran, northern Italy and South Korea that they must self-isolate for 14 days, even if they do not have symptoms of Coronavirus. There is a lack of clarity around the issue as to whether employees will get paid if they are not at work.

The Department of Health has sent guidance to UK employers that staff who have been told to self-isolate are entitled to take the time as sick leave.  If an employee is sick or suffers from symptoms, they will qualify for statutory sick pay or whatever their contract provides over and above that.  By law, medical evidence is not required for the first 7 days of sickness. After 7 days, it is for the employer to determine what evidence they require, but the government have advised that employers use their discretion around the need for medical evidence in these circumstances.  Whilst it is not an option for factory or retail workers to work from home, it may be possible for employees who do have the ability to do so, to continue working.

What happens if workers have been advised to self-isolate but are not actually ill?

In those circumstances, workers are not entitled to statutory sick pay.  However, ACAS consider it good practice for employers to treat the quarantine period as sick leave and follow their usual sick pay policy or agree for the time to be taken as holiday. Otherwise, there is a risk the employee will come to work because they want to get paid which could result in the virus spreading, if they have symptoms.

Employees are also entitled to time off work to care for dependents such as an ill or elderly relative or if a child’s school closes at short notice.  Again, if the employee is unable to discharge their duties at home, there is no statutory right to pay for this time off. Some employers might offer pay depending on the contract or workplace policy and encourage employees to book some of the absence as holiday after an initial period of absence.

If an employee decides that they do not wish to attend work and chooses to self-isolate, the employer should take steps to listen to the employee’s concerns. They must ensure that the employee feels safe and secure and attempt to resolve the issue to both parties satisfaction.  Employers could, if appropriate, offer working from home or flexible working as potential options.  However, if the employee insists on remaining at home, employers may be able to agree a period of unpaid leave or that the employee can take the time off as holiday.

Any failure to attend work without the employer’s authorisation could potentially result in disciplinary action.

Employment Law and Brexit

October 3, 2019, By

With the impending 31 October 2019 deadline for Brexit fast approaching, many commentators have been considering the potential impact of a departure from the EU on this date on employment law and employee and worker rights.

The government has shown appetite for implementing changes to employment rights in recent years; from the repeal of the statutory code for disciplinary and grievances, to the increase of the minimum continuous service required to bring a claim for unfair dismissal from one years to two years and the introduction (and subsequent repeal) of fees to bring a claim in the employment tribunal.

Many employment rights are derived from European legislation; such as protection against discrimination, the protection of employment in a business transfer (TUPE) and the right to paid holidays, to name but a few.

However, it is important to understand that, aside from a possible immediate effect on rights to work in the UK, an exit from the European Union will not automatically repeal those employment rights that are derived from European legislation.  This is not to say that a post-Brexit government will not address employee and worker rights at some point but what may change is difficult to predict and will depend on the makeup of any post-Brexit government.

It is also important to remember that many statutory rights are written into employment contracts and therefore, any repeals could have negative and confusing effects on businesses in terms of understanding, implementing and balancing legal and contractual positions in the event of any change.  As such, it is hopeful that any changes to employment rights are implemented only after consultation with industry, trade unions and professional bodies.

EAT decision on use of incorrect EC number on Claim Form

July 23, 2019, By
Incorrect legal documents

In the case of E.ON Control Solutions Limited v Caspall, the Claimant attempted to bring a number of claims against the Respondent, the Claimant’s previous employer. The Claim Form wrongly stated the EC number for a different Claimant, who was also bringing claims against the Respondent and who was also represented by the same solicitors as the Claimant.

A Preliminary Hearing was convened in order to consider whether the Claimant’s claims should be allowed to proceed. The Employment Judge (EJ) noted that the claim had not been rejected and decided that it was open to the Claimant to apply to amend his claim to include the correct EC number. The EJ considered that there would be no prejudice to the Respondent in allowing the amendment and that the error could be easily corrected.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) disagreed with the Employment Tribunal. It considered that having submitted a Claim Form with an inaccurate EC number, there was an obligation on the EJ to reject the claim and return the Claim form to the Claimant, explaining why it had been rejected and explaining how he could apply for a reconsideration. This did not happen but the EAT considered that this did not mean that the obligation to reject the claim ceased to apply. The EJ had a duty to reject the claim and had the EJ done so, there would no longer have been a claim before the Tribunal that could have been amended by the exercise of the EJ’s case management powers. The EJ therefore had erred in purporting to allow an amendment to a claim that ought to have been rejected.

What is Constructive Dismissal?

July 19, 2019, By
What is constructive dismissal?

Constructive dismissal is the term used where an employee resigns in response to their employer’s conduct in breach of an important term of their employment contract.

If you have experienced the following problems at work, you may be able to bring a claim for constructive dismissal in the employment tribunal:

  • If your contractual benefits are taken away;
  • If you have been bullied or harassed at work;
  • Unreasonable changes to how you work (such as changes to your working hours);
  • If you have been demoted;
  • If your employer refused to pay you;
  • If your work environment is not safe; and
  • If you didn’t have the adequate support needed to do your job.

For a constructive dismissal claim to succeed, you will need to demonstrate the following:

  • Your employer was in repudiatory breach of the employment contract;
  • You resigned in response to that breach; and
  • You did not delay too long before resigning in response to the employer’s breach. If you continue working for any length of time without leaving, you are likely to lose your right to treat the contract as breached and will be regarded as having chosen to “affirm” the contract.

Given the requirements set out above, it can be difficult for an employee to succeed in a claim for constructive dismissal.  It is essential therefore that before commencing a claim, you have the right employment law specialists to guide you through the process.

The ability to secure practical, reliable and friendly advice from an experienced employment law expert will be invaluable during this difficult time. It is important to know the options available to you and the right expert can help to put your mind at ease, advising you in respect of any potential cause of action, preparing your case and keeping you updated with the progress of any proceedings.

If you think that you have a potential claim for constructive dismissal, get in touch with our experienced employment law team who can advise you in respect of any potential cause of action you may have and guide you through your case.  You can contact one of our employment experts on 0161 969 3131, get in touch on our website.

Can You be Dismissed for Your Social Media Activity?

July 8, 2019, By
Social media rights in work

From blogs to business forums and social gaming to social networks, it is hard to escape social media, with some commentators predicting that, by 2021, at least one third of the world’s population will be active users.

Despite this, many are unaware of the potential legal implications of social media use, particularly upon their employment. Social media or internet misuse may be misconduct amounting to a potentially fair reason for an employee to be dismissed by their employer.

In an effort to understand what may or may not be acceptable social media use from an employer’s perspective, it is useful to examine how the courts have dealt with dismissals due to social media or internet misuse.

Private or Public Usage?

Case law shows that it is possible for an employer to fairly dismiss an employee for conduct outside of work, including an employee’s use of social media.

The courts have seen many employees who have been dismissed by their employers due to “private” social media use claiming that their dismissal was not fair because the post or comment made was done so on a private social media account that only friends can see.

Unfortunately, the very fact that an employer knows about a social media post and uses it as a reason for dismissal has, in the eyes of the courts, often negated the argument that the post was private.

Even if the social media use takes place on the employee’s own computer outside of work, the key issue for employers to consider regarding whether it is appropriate to discipline or dismiss an employee as a result of this is whether or not the employee’s social media post damages or has the potential to damage the employer’s reputation.

Using Social Media in Work

Due to social media still being relatively new phenomenon it can be hard for both employers and employees to know where they stand when using social media.

A common problem for many employers is employees’ social media usage affecting their productivity and work rate. This is why more employers are adopting a zero tolerance approach to the usage of social media during working hours, whether it be by implementing social media and internet policies or blocking access to social media platforms on work networks.

If you’re trying to find out where you stand with social media usage in your place of work, you should find out whether your employer has a policy in place relating to the use of social media.

Using Social Media Outside of Work

Although many employees don’t think twice about using social media outside of working hours, this is when disciplinary actions now commonly arise.

When you set up your social media accounts, it is important to consider whether or not you state your place of work on your profiles. Having the name of your employer clearly visible on your profile details means that you are a self-stated representative of that employer; in simple terms this means that any comments, posts or opinions that are viewed in a negative light could seriously affect the reputation of the employer.

If your employer can prove that these comments had or were likely to have a negative effect on its reputation, it may be within its rights to take disciplinary action against you, which could even include summary dismissal.

Overall, social media use in the workplace can be hard to understand due to it being a grey area for many businesses; not least because a business itself may heavily rely on social media platforms for things like advertising and business development. There are not always defined acceptable use policies which can assist employees and employers alike in dealing with social media use and misuse.

If your work life has been negatively impacted by the use of social media and you’re unsure whether there is anything you can do, get in touch with our employment law specialists who can help you find out more and support you through the claim process.

Employment Law Case Update – Religious Discrimination

July 1, 2019, By

The claimant in this case, Mr Page, was a non-executive director of the Respondent NHS trust. He was also a Magistrate, participating in decisions involving family matters such as adoptions. In his position as a Magistrate, Mr Page was part of a panel hearing an application by a same sex couple to adopt a young child. Mr Page was a Christian and held the firm view that a child should always be brought up by a mother and a father and not by a same sex couple. Mr Page expressed his views to his fellow magistrates and was disciplined for misconduct. He did not inform the NHS trust of what had happened, nor did he inform the NHS trust of the significant media interest around the matter.

When the NHS trust eventually found out what had happened, it warned Mr Page that his public expression of his views could affect his position as non-executive director of the NHS trust as it could suggest that he was unable to exercise his judgement impartially. He was instructed to inform the NHS trust of any further media interest. However, despite this instruction, Mr Page continued to engage with the media, even giving interviews on the subject.

As a consequence of his actions, Mr Page was removed from his position as a Magistrate and the NHS trust decided not to renew his non-executive directorship.

Mr Page brought claims of direct and indirect discrimination against the NHS trust claiming that he had been removed from office because of his religious beliefs.

The Employment Tribunal dismissed Mr Page’s claims. In so dismissing his claims, the ET decided that the NHS trust had decided not to renew his non-executive directorship because of the manner in which he had expressed his beliefs, rather than because of his beliefs themselves. In this situation the NHS did not discriminate against him.

Mr Page appealed to the EAT and the EAT dismissed his appeal. The Tribunal was entirely correct in its findings and the appeal was therefore rejected. Mr Page was not discriminated against on the ground of his religious beliefs.

Employment Tribunal Statistics

June 13, 2019, By
Employment statistics update

13 June 2019 saw the release of the Employment Tribunal statistics for January to March 2019 inclusive, which showed again a steady quarter-on-quarter increase in claims presented to the Employment Tribunal compared to the same period in 2018.

Single Employment Tribunal claims – receipts, disposals and caseload outstanding – all increased, by 6%, 22% and 39% respectively, compared to a year ago. Multiple Employment Tribunal claims – receipts and caseload outstanding – rose, 13% and 19% respectively, while disposals fell by 16%.

From the launch of the Employment Tribunal fee refund scheme in October 2017, three months after the abolition of fees in July 2017, there were 22,000 applications for refunds received and 21,700 refund payments made to 31 March 2019, with a total value of £17.3m.

Given the increase in claims presented to the Employment Tribunal and the vast number of applications for fee refunds, heralding an almost unprecedented workload for the Tribunal, it is perhaps unsurprising that adjournments and postponements of cases increased 5% and 13% respectively in 2018/2019 compared with 2017/2018, with rises seen across all tribunals where the information is recorded.

Rather interestingly, the most common jurisdictional complaint disposed of between January to March 2019 was for unauthorised deductions from wages, which would include claims for holiday pay; the very type of claim that the Supreme Court heard from workers were cost-prohibitive prior to abolishing Employment Tribunal fees in July 2017.

The statistics continue to show a renewed willingness of workers to pursue their employment rights within the Employment Tribunal now that there are no fees associated with bringing a claim and that each party, in general, will bear its own costs.