Furlough: employers’ contributions now required
Since 1 July 2021, employers can only claim up to 70% of furloughed employees' wages, up to a maximum of £2,187.50. They are now responsible for making up the remaining 10% difference so that furloughed employees continue to receive 80% of their wages for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. During August and September 2021, employers’ contributions will rise to 20%. Employers must continue to pay all employees’ national insurance and pension contributions. You can find more information on our website: ‘Preparing for the end of furlough’.
Despite mandatory vaccination provoking intense debate, the government is intending to make a Covid vaccination (both injections) mandatory for all those working in CQC-regulated care homes from October this year. This will include all those entering care homes to perform certain tasks indoors such as hairdressers, maintenance personnel and CQC inspectors. Once the regulations come into force, there will be a 16-week grace period for those who have yet to be vaccinated to receive both doses (although there will be some exemptions). It will not be compulsory for care home residents or their visitors to have been vaccinated. Care homes are advised to have polices setting out the requirement to be jabbed as well as the process to be adopted if workers refuse to be vaccinated, which could include redeployment.
Flexible working consultation
Following a recommendation from the flexible working taskforce, the government will be consulting on a 2019 election pledge to make flexible working the default option unless there is a compelling reason not to. However, early indications suggest that a default option will not amount to a legal right. The consultation is likely to be held later this year. In the meantime, if you are considering introducing a flexible working policy or wish to review your existing policy, our employment team would be happy to advise.
Right to work checks
Temporary Covid-19 Right to Work checks concessions are extended to 31 August, rather than 20 June 2021 as originally announced, following the decision to extend Covid-related restrictions until 19 July. These concessions include a review of ID documents via video call and an online checking service for those documents that an employee or prospect cannot provide. From 31 August onwards employers will need to check the original documents in person or use the Online Right to Work checking service via a share code provided by the employee.
Pregnancy loss policy
An increasing number of companies are either considering, or have put in place, pregnancy loss policies to help employees who have miscarried before 24 weeks by allowing them to take additional paid leave following their loss. As there is no statutory requirement as yet, guidance on how to approach this is minimal. However, there are a number of things that an employer wishing to adopt such a policy needs to consider such as the length of leave, the rate of pay and whether fathers as well as mothers can benefit. Parents suffering such a loss after 24 weeks pregnancy are eligible for statutory Parental Bereavement Leave. For more information on how to frame such a policy, please contact a member of the team.
Flexible working proves less than flexible
Dobson v North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust
A community nurse brought a claim for unfair dismissal and indirect sex discrimination against her employer after she was dismissed because she was unable to comply with a new flexible working policy. The Trust had introduced the new flexible working policy for the community health team, of which she was a part, which required weekend working. Mrs Dobson was unable to comply because of her childcare responsibilities: two of her three children are disabled. The original ET dismissed both her claims, stating that there was no evidence that women were particularly disadvantaged by the requirement to work flexibly. Mrs Dobson appealed.
The EAT considered that the ET should have considered the Trust’s whole community nursing team and not just the immediate team in which the claimant worked and upheld her appeal for unfair dismissal. It also determined that the Tribunal erred in ‘not taking judicial notice of the fact that women, because of their childcare responsibilities, were less likely to be able to accommodate certain working patterns than men.’ This case is timely reminder to employers that they cannot assume that flexible working is likely to suit women as well as men, not least as women still do the majority of childcare.
As always, if you need any employment law advice, please contact our team.