Legislation and Guidance
ACAS has published new guidance for employers and employees on long covid. The guidance provides advice on how employers should deal with long covid and whether it should be treated as a disability. It highlights the fluctuating nature of the condition and encourages employers to do everything they can before considering a capability procedure.
ACAS have also published brief guidance offering 5 top tips for businesses that re-opened on 17 May. The guidance covers covid safety measures, planning ahead and consulting with staff, awareness of health and wellbeing as well as ensuring employers are on top of practical management issues such as the updated rates of NMW and checking outstanding holiday entitlements for staff.
The UK Government has published its response to the Women and Equalities Select Committee report "Unequal Impact? Coronavirus and the gendered economic impact". The response re-states the intention to extend the redundancy protection afforded to pregnant women and new mothers that was first announced in 2019, however there is no firm timescale for implementation. The response also confirms that a consultation on making flexible working the default unless employers have good reason not to will be issued in due course. However, the recommendation that an Employment Bill be published by the end of June 2021 was rejected, with the Government instead confirming it will be brought forward when parliamentary time allows.
There has been a great deal of publicity regarding the gendered impact of the pandemic on women. However, although more women than men have been furloughed, the Minister for Equalities has made a statement confirming that the latest employment figures suggest that more men than women have been made redundant. However, it was acknowledged that the furlough scheme ending in September 2021 may impact on this statistic.
On 12 May it was reported that the UK Government intends to end the current work from home guidance in England with effect from 21 June when it is due to start step 4 of the Spring 2021 roadmap. However, the increase in cases caused by a variant first found in India has put this into doubt with indications being that the move to step 4 may be delayed.
Some of the UK's largest employers including Asda, IKEA and Santander have united to encourage staff to get the Covid-19 vaccine when they become eligible. The businesses have pledged to promote positive Covid safety measures and signpost staff to NHS-verified advice on vaccines, including pledging flexibility to help staff get the vaccine during working hours.
Another Covid-19 related claim has made its way to the employment tribunal. In Khatun v Winn Solicitors Ltd the tribunal found a solicitor who refused to agree to changes to her employment contract had been unfairly dismissed. Her employer sought to impose a variation of contract allowing them to furlough or unilaterally reduce pay and hours, potentially for up to 9 months, as part of its response to the pandemic. The solicitor, who was not earmarked for immediate furlough, said she would consider the variation should the need arise. Although the tribunal found the firm had good business reasons for the variation, the failure to consult properly and consider alternatives to dismissal rendered it unfair. The case highlights the importance of following a fair and reasonable procedure.