HR Update: Living with Covid, Parental Leave, Fit Notes, Data Privacy for Sick Leave, Right to Work, Fire and Re-Hire, Hospitality Tips – 3rd May 2022

[Information edited from various sources including CIPD & Gov.uk E&EO. All copyrights acknowledged. Please seek professional advice. Information is correct at the time of writing, and subject to change.]

Living with Covid

The mandatory restrictions may now be removed, but as an employer you have a legal duty to keep your workforce safe. It is important that you have a policy going forward, and you inform your employees of what your expectations are and their responsibilities to help maintain a safe working environment.

First start with the Covid assessments you had in place previously. Review these for what is no longer required and what still needs to be in place. From this produce a Covid policy.

Things to consider are:

Infection Control: Frequent hand washing, use of hand-sanitiser; covering mouth and nose when sneezing/coughing with a flexed elbow or tissue; avoiding close contact with those who have a fever and cough.

Measures in Place: Frequent cleaning; deep cleans; social distancing; staggered start/end/break times

Regular testing: Do you require staff to continue testing regularly? When/How often? Who will provide the tests?

If employees have symptoms/test positive: Remain off work; work from home; following existing sickness reporting; keep workplace informed; confirm latest government advice; SSP or any sick pay enhancement

If they have been in close contact with a positive case: Should they attend work? Can they work from home?

Travel Plans: To include both employee holiday plans and business travel

Working from another location: Could your employees need to work elsewhere if they work at a third-party location that may close. What contingency might you need to have in place?

COVID Vaccination: Although you cannot enforce take up, does you Company have any  considerations on this, such as strongly encouraging staff to have the vaccinations as they become available to them.

Other Support: Mental Health support; Long Covid; employee assistance programs; support through Line Manager; Occupational Health; online support.

What Contingency Plans could be put in place, such as the ability to work from home if the person tests positive, but still wishes to continue work.

Contact us if you need assistance in putting together a policy:

Call 01843 260704 or email amanda@holgesconsulting.co.uk.

It is crucial that you have a suitable document in place and everyone is aware of the Company’s expectations going forward.

Repeal of Mandatory Vaccination

To clarify on March 15th the mandatory vaccination laws were repealed. There still may be regulatory requirements announced later but as of now Workers are encouraged to ‘consider their professional duty to those in their care’. If anyone is currently under disciplinary action with regards to this it must be halted, and anyone yet to be dismissed must be re-instated. Those already dismissed is a matter of choice for employers with regards to reinstatement.

Contact us if any of this applies to you, or you need further assistance:

Call 01843 260704 or email amanda@holgesconsulting.co.uk.

Covid & SSP

Again to clarify payment of SSP from day one for Covid has now been withdrawn. Normal SSP (4 days absence) rules now apply. In addition, there is no longer a legal requirement to self-isolate, just advice to do so. As such there is no longer automatic payment for self-isolation. However, under Health & Safety Law employers have a legal duty to take reasonable measures to minimise the risk from exposure to and spread of Covid.

It now falls on your own Company requirements on whether you continue to compensate to encourage staff to take leave or not. Either way I would suggest you make the change clear to your employees, and encourage them to continue to remain vigilant and take the time off as needed.

Furlough Records

Although this may now be a distant memory already, remember Furlough agreements and documentation need to be kept for 5 years. There may still be investigations etc on this so keep them securely filed and mark to be destroyed in 2027.

Family Friendly Rights – Parental Leave

There are a number of family friendly policies, some such as Maternity and Paternity pay are well known. Others such as Bereavement Pay (Jack’s Law) are relatively new. However, it may be worth making staff more aware of Parental Leave if you find staff are struggling to find holiday cover for their children, and you end up with last minute requests for leave. Perhaps it would be better to know and plan in advance.

Parental leave is unpaid and can be requested for up to 4 weeks a year (a total of 18 weeks up until the age of 18). They should be as blocks of 1 or 2 weeks, though this can be different upon agreement. Enabling staff to request this in advance so that arrangements can be made might make it easier in the long term for all involved.

More on Right to Work

From 6th April those with a Biometric Residence Card, a Biometric Residence Permit or Frontier Permit can only provide their right through the Home Office online service. In these cases, manual checks are no longer valid.

Remember it is important that you have valid Right to Work documents for all employees, and that you request such information prior to the start date for new employees.

Full details are available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/right-to-work-checks-employers-guide

Contact us if you need any assistance or are not sure if you have everything in place:

Call 01843 260704 or email amanda@holgesconsulting.co.uk.

Fit Notes

From 6th April fit notes will no longer need to be signed. In a move to make things digital it will have the name of the authorising doctor instead. The old forms are still valid but will be phased out.

P&O

As a local company, and having quite likely seen the fallout on the M20, I am sure you have raised a few eyebrows on the actions of P&O recently. In a nutshell they sacked all their staff and had cheaper agency staff waiting to take over their positions. This has raised a lot of concerns over passenger safety and the need for increased checks.

As such there is a lot of new plans for enhanced Seafarer regulations, but there is also talk of a new Fire and Re-hire code of practice being proposed. Last year ACAS put forward new guidance that you need to actively engage with staff to negotiate changes to contracts, with fire-rehire being a last resort. A new statutory code will be developed later this year and implemented as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Hospitality – Tips

New laws are being introduced to allow hospitality staff to keep 100% of the tips they earn, with a new statutory code of practice to be introduced to ensure fairness and transparency. No date set yet.

Data Breach – A Cautionary Tale

Sometimes a data breach can occur so very easily and innocently, with a devastating effect on the subject and potentially a concern for ICO too….

Recently a client had a member of staff off absent. It was for quite a distressing reason, so the Senior Manager felt it best to let the team know why the person was away so they could be understanding on their return. However, once the member of staff came back in they were extremely annoyed that everyone had been ‘told their business’. This was a direct Data breach. Although the intention may have been good, there is never a reason for informing others why someone is absent. If you feel that anyone else needs to be informed, then you need to seek authority from the member of staff in the first place.

As another example, what if a manager asks to see the personnel files of their staff? Can they see them? As the information in the files will be covered by the Data Protection Act, they cannot be accessed by anyone unless they have good reason. The files are likely to have sensitive information – remember health/sick records are sensitive information. As such the individual would need to know it was being accessed, why and give permission.

First step would be to ask what the manager wants to see and why. Explain that they cannot just have general access to the files, but if there is specific information wanted then assuming it is appropriate and not sensitive information, you can provide them with the information they require.

Contact us if you have any specific issues raised that you need support with:

Call 01843 260704 or email amanda@holgesconsulting.co.uk.

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