26th January 2021
Since England entered another period of national lockdown, employers have face running their businesses during the tougher measures once again with some industries rendered in-operational completely.
Our Employment Law Team share some reminders for employers or those responsible for HR matters in their workplace.
The Government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until April 2021. If the latest lockdown restrictions are impacting on your business you can consider putting all or some of your workforce onto full or flexible furlough, where the government will currently contribute 80% of wages (subject to a cap). Remember that you must use the scheme as intended, it can only be used when your business has directly been impacted by Covid-19.
Hospitality, leisure and retail businesses which have had to close may be eligible for a one-off government grant of £9,000 to help keep them afloat during this third national lockdown. For details of how to apply and to check that your business is eligible please visit: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus/business-support.
As the schools close many working parents are tasked with childcare, home schooling and working from home. Ensure that you are supporting those employees who find themselves in this difficult position. Consider flexible working, changing working hours and ensure that they feel supported as they juggle multiple responsibilities. If you have parents who are unable to work from home with young children, you can consider putting them on furlough.
Those employees who are clinically vulnerable and at higher risk of contracting and falling very ill from the coronavirus must work from home or not work at all if they cannot carry out their duties from home. Consider what arrangements you can make to support these employees and again, utilise the furlough scheme if they are not suitable to work remotely. A person falling into this category should have been advised by letter from the NHS or told by their GP that they are on the Shielded patients list.
If your workplace is open or you have some employees coming into the office to work, it may be worth reviewing your protective measures against covid-19. These may have been in place for some months now and are worth reviewing as the virus develops and guidance changes. Many employers are facing issues with staff not feeling safe in the workplace. This can impact on staff morale, absence, productivity and increase your risk of grievances being made or reputational damage should they voice their concerns to local press. Ensure your employers are aware of risk assessments, fully understand the policies in place and adhere to them. Is there anything you can do to improve safety or make employees feel more comfortable?
The pandemic continues to take its toll of the mental health of UK population. As an employer you are responsible for supporting your employee’s mental health and wellbeing and making appropriate adjustments when required. Have you reviewed your workplace wellbeing program recently? Do you have an appointed mental health first aider? Can you offer access to an EAP scheme if needed? January can be a difficult month for many, but the added stress of lockdown and the removal of a support network could see isolated employees struggle further.
It is always sensible to review your training needs as a business, but with so much change, often implemented quickly in reaction to the latest lockdown measures, it is important to check that your staff are confident with new IT systems, equipment, and tools. Consider whether you also need additional training to help employees working remotely – are they proficient using video conferencing? Are your managers excelling at managing teams from home?
People are advised only to leave their homes for essential travel. This can include travelling to the workplace or travelling for work if they are a critical worker and it is essential for them to do so. Employees who cannot work from home may be wary of using public transport so it may be worth considering if you are able to offer car parking or any other ways to help them get to work safely.
If your workplace has had to re-shift its ways of working once again or the current operations look to be the ‘new normal’ for your business, then it would be logical to update your policies and procedures to reflect this. You may also find that your employment contracts need to be amended to include home-working procedures or flexible working patterns to protect your business and set clear expectations for your staff.
If you have any concerns about running your business and managing your staff through this third (and hopefully final) national lockdown then please do not hesitate to contact our specialist Employment Law Team.
Whilst businesses are under financial pressures, it is much more cost effective to seek professional advice and get things right, then be faced with claims and employment legal issues further down the line.
Call our pragmatic and highly regarded team on 01256 844888, email email@example.com or speak to our online chat assistant today.
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The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.
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