Kate Brooks
Partner, Solicitor & Head of Employment/HR Services
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Date Published:06 Jul 2021 Last Updated:13 Oct 2021

Employer guidance for step 4 of the road map on 19th July 2021

Employment Law Advice

With the announcement that we will be moving to step 4 of the roadmap on 19th July, employers should consider the following:

Health and safety

While there will be no legal restrictions on social contact, employers still have pre-COVID health and safety obligations.

All employers have a duty to create a safe place of work, and often specific pre-pandemic health and safety rules.

This will mean that employers will still be under an obligation to carry out risks assessments that are relevant to the spread of COVID.

In all situations this will include:

  1. Not requiring a self isolating worker to come into work – it is a legal requirement for people to self isolate if they are positive or told to by track and trace;
  2. Encouraging staff and customers to clean their hands regularly – washing hands and sanitiser;
  3. Cleaning surfaces that are touched regularly;
  4. Continue to use outside space where practical, and consider supply of fresh air inside;
  5. Make sure that staff and customers who do not feel well, do not attend the business;
  6. Carry out enhanced risk assessments for clinically extremely vulnerable staff and increased measures could be to ask staff to continue wearing face masks, limiting numbers of people in close contact, continuing working from home arrangements;
  7. Follow government guidance for working safely.

We recommend that the above is covered by a written policy, and we are very happy to help you put together a policy or review an pre-existing policy. Contact Kate Brooks today if you would like to discuss this further.

Working from home

For over 16 months, official guidance has stated that employers and employees should take every possible step to facilitate employees working from home.

It is likely that following 19th July that it will be up to businesses and individuals to agree what is best for the business and the worker.

We recommend employers should obtain staff input when making plans to return to the office, and ensure these are clearly communicated to everyone and also individual circumstances taken into account.

There may not be a legal entitlement to work from home as such, however there are laws that provide that:

  1. It is a fundamental breach of contract to change employee’s terms without agreement. If an employee has been working for home since March 2020, this is arguably a term that is implied into that employee’s contract. To suddenly force them to return, could be seen as a breach of contract and an employee could choose to resign and claim constructive dismissal; and
  2. It is unlawful to treat someone differently or put them at a disadvantage as a result of a protected characteristic. There is also a legal duty to consider reasonable adjustments for disabled employees to ensure they are not made to suffer a disadvantage.

Employers may therefore be legally obliged to consider continued working from home in some situations. We have helped employers put in place successful policies for the future, and would be very happy to discuss this with any business. Contact Kate Brooks today to discuss.

Holiday

With restrictions being lifted on sporting events, festivals, weddings etc. there may be an influx on holiday requests.

We advise that employers should communicate clear messages on the following relevant to holiday:

Is carry over of holiday allowed? The amendment to the holiday legislation that allowed holiday carry over for up to 2 years, is only relevant to employees that have not been able to take holiday due to either being made to work, or having COVID. In most situations the message to employees will be that we want and urge you to take holiday in the holiday year, and if it is not taken entitlement will be lost.

In what situations can the employer reject the holiday request? It may be that there is an influx of holiday requests. It is important to manage expectations as to when these requests can be rejected if too many other people in the same team are taking holiday.

Most employment contracts include provisions for holiday carry over, and when holiday requests can be forced or rejected. We are very happy to carry out a free review of employee contracts, and recommend changes. If you are interested CLICK HERE to contact Kate Brooks.

If you require employment law or HR advice, please do not hesitate to get in contact for a free, no obligation discussion kate.brooks@ellisjones.co.uk or 01202 057754.