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Employment Newsletter - Issue 11

25th May 2021

Employment Newsletter - Issue 11

In this edition, we will be covering:

  • Preparing for the End of Furlough
  • The Return of In Person Right to Work Checks
  • The Cost of Workplace Conflict
  • Determining Disability Status (Case Law Update)

Legal Update #1 - Preparing for the End of Furlough

Employers are reminded that from July employers will be required to contribute to furlough pay ahead of the scheme’s intended end date on the 30 September 2021.  From July any furloughed employees will continue to receive the same amount of furlough pay, however, employers will be required to contribute 10% of this pay in July and 20% in respect of payments in August and September.

Whilst we appreciate that there is still a good deal of economic uncertainty, employers are advised to start preparing for the end of the scheme: either bringing employees back to work or, if necessary, considering redundancies where changing circumstances mean that certain roles are no longer required on a permanent basis.  Whilst it is possible to make employees redundant whilst on furlough, the process is more complex, and employers are advised to take advice at an early stage.  Higgs’ employment team will, of course, be happy to answer any questions you may have about bringing employees back or possible redundancy situations.

Readers may remember that an alternative scheme, the Job Support Scheme, was intended to replace the CJRS following its original end date last autumn.  This scheme, based on employees working reduced hours and the government and employers continuing to pay in respect of unworked hours, was postponed when the furlough scheme was extended in the autumn.  However, there has not yet been any indication whether the government intends to introduce this (or any other) scheme following the end of the CJRS on 30 September 2021.

Legal Update #2 - The Return of In Person Right to Work Checks

Since 30 March 2020 employers have been able to carry out right to work checks via video calls and to receive either a scanned copy or a photograph of any relevant documents from both job applicants and existing employees.

From 21June 2021, however, these temporary measures designed to enable checks to continue whilst measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus were in place will end and employers will be required to either check employees’ original documents or to check the employees right to work using the online system where the employee has been able to provide them with the relevant code.

When the temporary measures were introduced in March 2020 it was intended that employers would be required to repeat the checks within 8 weeks of the temporary measures ending.  The Home Office have confirmed that this will not be necessary.  However, employers will need to check documents in person in the normal way where follow up checks are required after 21 June 2021.

Please note that the end of the temporary measures is intended to be aligned with the easing of lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures and may change if the government’s roadmap for easing restrictions is altered.

legal Update #3 - The Cost of Workplace Conflict

An ACAS report this month, based on data collected before the pandemic, has estimated that the annual cost of workplace conflict is £28.5 billion, which is the equivalent to more than £1,000 per employee.  The report also revealed that 10 million people reported that they had experienced workplace conflict, over half of whom had also experienced stress, anxiety, or depression as a result of that conflict.  Employers will no doubt be aware of the substantial amounts of management time that can be involved in resolving issues within the workplace, however, this report really highlights what this costs organisations both in monetary terms and the in terms of the negative impact on employee wellbeing.

The report writers, Professor Richard Saundry of the University of Sheffield Management School and Professor Peter Urwin of the Centre for Employment Research at the University of Westminster, suggest that there are three strong messages that employers should be taking from their report:

  • Conflict competence is essential to good management and has huge benefits in terms of organisational effectiveness and performance.  Investment developing policies and procedures to handle conflict and, perhaps crucially, training managers so that they have the confidence to deal with issues as soon as they arise may have a very significant return for organisations.
  • There is a critical time to intervene: the report showed that early intervention (ideally before formal grievance or disciplinary procedures are required) can enable employers to avoid some of the longer term (and therefore more costly) negative consequences of workplace conflict including resignations, presenteeism and sickness absence.  The report writers also estimate that where conflicts result in formal procedures, costs are more than three times those associated with informal resolution.
  • Although the costs of workplace conflict are high both for organisations and their people, approaches to managing conflict that focus on learning and avoid blame can actually beneficial as they challenge the prevailing way of doing things and may help develop fairer and more inclusive workplaces.

One of the main barriers to effective conflict resolution identified in the report was low levels of management skill and confidence.  It is, of course, important that issues in the workplace are handled sensitively and that appropriate formal procedures are followed where required.  However, fear and confusion as to what is required for legal compliance should not be a barrier that prevents managers from taking action and the Higgs’ employment team will happily provide advice at any stage of the process, or help organisations deliver training to managers to help build confidence in dealing with tricky workplace issues. 

Legal Update #4 – Determining Disability Status (Case Law Update)

An initial issue in any disability discrimination claim, is whether or not the claimant meets the statutory definition of a person with a disability.  This definition is met where the claimant has a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry our normal day to day activities.  ‘Long-term’ is defined as an effect that either has lasted for 12 months, is likely to last for at least 12 months or is likely to last for the rest of the life of the person affected.  In a recent judgement in All Answers Ltd v W and Another the Court of Appeal have clarified that when assessing whether an impairment is likely to last for 12 months, the relevant facts will only be those available at the time of the alleged discriminatory act and that subsequent events should not be considered even if they shed light on the nature and existence of the impairment.

 

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