News & Views

Back to School, Back to Work, Back to Normality?

With the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the Furlough scheme to you and me) coming to an end on 30th September 2021 (*as it stands…Rishi, any update?), the vaccination program in full flow, the children happily returning to school (absent the dreaded ‘bubbles’) and staff going back to work, you would be forgiven for thinking that normality beckons.

Whilst this is all a positive step forward for the economy, and frankly much needed, it will inevitably open up a number of additional considerations for employers given what is still a challenging period. We outline below some things to consider:

  • The End of Furlough – decisions will need to be made about those employees on furlough. If the employer can bring them back, then those conversations should be happening imminently. If sadly there is a need to consider making redundancies, again the process should be instigated now to allow for the necessary period of consultation. A common misconception at the moment is that the redundancy is a given because the employee has been on furlough – that does not follow, and it is still necessary to meet the legal test that the role is no longer required.
  • Risk Assessment – for the workplace, it is hugely important that existing risk assessments are revisited, and new assessments undertaken considering the guidance, particularly in respect of social distancing and the new isolation rules. What the risk assessment should cover will vary depending on the nature of your work and work environment. The HSE have a handy template and guidance for Covid risk assessments, click here for the template. Employers can also use the Governments online tool, click here  for more information.
  • Don’t mention the…Vaccination – well, you can, because of course the new isolation rules take into account whether somebody has been vaccinated. However, just be wary that this is likely to be a sensitive and potentially controversial issue. There is already a challenge to new legislation making the vaccination compulsory for those who work in care homes and in other sectors, some employers are applying their own conditions and requirements about staff being double jabbed. For us employment lawyers this whole area makes us twitch, considering the potential for discrimination claims right through to GDPR compliance. It is an entire topic in itself and is one to discuss with your twitchy employment lawyer.
  • It is good to talk – the need for communication has never been more important, as we enter a new phase of safe working practices, hybrid working and that awkward moment when you don’t know if to shake a hand, fist pump, elbow bash or even go completely off piste and embrace. Keep staff in the loop not just about the changes being implemented within the workplace, but why they are being implemented.

There is no “one size fits all” solution to these matters and that is not us simply rolling out that old legal cliché. It is without doubt a matter for each employer to consider, in the context of their business and the staff they employ.

From your twitchy Employment Team.

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