Furlough: employers 10% contribution from 1 July
Although the government will continue to pay 80% of furloughed employees' salary for hours not worked, a new taper requiring employers to contribute 10% to wages is being introduced from 1 July, increasing to 20% from 1 August until 30 September.
Good Work Plan: Employment rights’ regulatory body
The government has responded to the results of its consultation, originally launched in October 2019, into the establishment of an enforcement body to ensure that workers’ rights are fully upheld. A single regulatory body will be set up to tackle a range of issues including modern slavery (on which the Home Office has just published new guidance), minimum wage breaches and statutory entitlements. It will also combine other employment-related regulatory bodies to ensure the pooling of resources and intelligence. This new body will be set up ‘when Parliamentary time allows’.
Right to work checks
Temporary Covid-19 Right to Work checks concessions are extended to 20 June 2021 to coincide with the date when restrictions may be fully lifted. 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 21 June 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.
Changes to employment contracts
Those employers considering dismissing employees and re-engaging them on new contracts in order to reflect fundamental changes in the workplace must tread carefully before doing so. A law firm that dismissed a solicitor because she did not agree to the proposed variation in her contract was found to have acted unfairly due to lack of consultation and failure to consider other alternatives. Even if employers have sound business reasons to propose such a change, it is imperative that they follow proper procedures. Our employment team can advise how to proceed if contract variation is the right solution for your business.
Proposed reform to shared parental leave
In response to revelations that take up of shared parental leave by eligible fathers is very low, Maternity Action has proposed a new system to include a non-transferable six months of parental leave for each parent following the first six months of maternity leave. In addition, the report also recommends that all employees from day one, regardless of employment status, should be eligible for maternity / paternity rights; and that statutory pay should be at least the same as the minimum wage. Our team will be happy to talk through what these proposals could mean for your business.
Women & Equalities Committee: Unequal Impact?
The government has responded to the Committee’s report on the unequal effect of the pandemic on women. Despite rejecting most of the recommendations, the government has reiterated its commitment to amending the Flexible Working Regulations to make it easier for people to work flexibly; and to extending the redundancy protection period to mothers on maternity leave, although the timing for both remains vague. Proposals to require large employers to publish parental leave and pay policies are also being considered.
A successful claim for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination resulted in award of £2,567,831.97 – the second largest award made to date by the Employment Tribunal. Mr Barrow, an employee of some 30 years standing, had been prescribed steroids in 2017 for symptoms that turned out to be cancer. Steroids are known for their effect in altering people’s behaviour. While on steroids, Mr Barrow sent ‘defensive’ emails to his employer following which he was excluded from workplace. Following a meeting he was dismissed but was not given a reason despite his fellow workers being told that he was dismissed for poor performance. In early 2018 after being diagnosed with rare form of cancer, Mr Barrow told his employer which then instigated a post-dated dismissal process leading to his formal dismissal in May 2018 due to a ‘breakdown in implied terms of trust and confidence’. The ET found Kellogg had not proved the breakdown and that the 2018 May dismissal was a sham and had been pre-determined. The Tribunal concluded that ‘no reasonable employer would have acted in this way, dismissing an employee that had spent 36 years working for the company’. The award was based on his length of service, age, and the fact that his cancer meant he was unlikely to work again. In addition, he received aggravated damages because of his treatment by his employer. This case is a timely reminder that discrimination awards are not subject to a cap (unlike unfair dismissal). If employers do not follow a fair dismissal process (including pre-determining the outcome) they could be exposed to potentially injurious financial penalties.