Sagegreen HR’s Alison Gill outlines the latest rules, changes and wider responsibilities for employers as we move into 2021.

“Firstly, we would like to wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Safe New Year!

As we entered day five of 2021 yet more challenges greet us as all of the UK enter tighter lockdown restrictions and we now need to do our best to work together at beating this pandemic. We would also like to remind of the implications that the latest announcement made last night by the Prime Minister, may have on you as an employer.

It is now no surprise that this is a constantly moving situation, so to help you, below we have provided a short summary following yesterday’s announcement on the key areas impacted. Full government guidance is available by clicking here.

Furlough Scheme
Firstly, at this stage there have been no changes to the Job Retention Scheme (Furlough). This means that employees had to be on payroll, with the RTI submitted on or before 30 October 2020 in order to qualify for furlough. Presently this remains in place until April 2021

Work
As a rule, you must work from home unless you really cannot do so and you should only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home.

You can work in other people’s houses if your job role requires you to do so (e.g. emergency trades people) and you can stay away overnight or travel across counties for work or volunteering purposes.

We would where at all possible suggest avoiding all unnecessary travel in line with government guidance. If, however, you do have workers who need to travel overnight, please provide them with a letter confirming the reason for such travel, as this could avoid employees being challenged by the Police.

You should discuss working arrangements with your employees and should take every possible step to facilitate working from home. After having experienced last year’s lockdown we anticipate that such measures can be swiftly reactivated or reinstated where applicable.

Volunteering
You can still leave home to provide voluntary or charitable services.

Child Care
We know from the previous lockdown that home schooling and childcare arrangements have a significant impact on employees and their ability to perform their duties from home. You should talk to your employees about how they can, where possible, balance the situation and what challenges they may face and also what support you can offer them to give some flexibility. You may also need to consider furlough or flexible furlough, where eligible. If you need support in this area please do get in touch.

You will be aware the majority of education settings are now closed until at least 15th February 2021, apart from the following exceptions:-

  • Nurseries and childminders/early years settings remain open (within England)
  • Vulnerable children and children of critical workers can continue to use registered childcare, childminders and other childcare activities (including wraparound care)
  • Nannies will be able to continue to provide services, including in the home

Unable to attend work
This link provides the latest guidance if an employee is unable to attend work or needs to self-isolate due to coronavirus.

Penalties for breaches
It’s an offence for an employer to knowingly allow a person who is required to self-isolate to work anywhere other than where they are self-isolating (normally their home). This applies only when they’re required to self-isolate following a positive test, contacted by NHS Test and Trace or their local authority, or where they are required to quarantine after returning from abroad.

If an employer is reasonably believed to be in breach of this requirement, they may be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN), this can range from £1,000 for a first FPN up to £10,000 for a fourth or more.

Shielding and Protecting Clinically Extremely Vulnerable People
We were informed last night that shielding will be re-instated and that individuals required to shield will receive a letter confirming this. Under Tier 4, clinically extremely vulnerable people were not allowed to attend work if they could not work from home, we presume this will be the case under the national lockdown as well, but await further clarification.

To clarify people who are defined as clinically extremely vulnerable are at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus.

There are 2 ways they may be identified as clinically extremely vulnerable:

  1. They present with one or more of the recognised conditions as detailed on the government website or
  2. Their clinician or GP has added them to the Shielded Patient List because, based on their clinical judgement, they are deemed at higher risk of serious illness if they catch the virus.

Business and Premises that must close
If your business is in the unfortunate position it has had to close or if you are considering redundancies or any other options, please contact us for further support and advice if needed. 

Further support from Sagegreen HR
If you are concerned for the wellbeing of any colleagues, please do consider what support can be offered at a personal level from your business. Maintaining regular contact with those who may be vulnerable or in isolation is important, often being in work is a life-line to some. To this end, we can offer remote based mental health training workshops to support your business and managers. If this is something you’d wish to consider then please do get in touch.

We would also like to remind you that Employee Assistance Programmes are often very useful at such times and please do get in touch if this is something that you would like to consider.

By us all working together to reduce the spread of Covid-19 we hope this lockdown is not too long. It’s anticipated once the roll-out of the vaccine gains momentum we will all see a more positive 2021

As always, we will continue to update you as and when additional information becomes available or if there are further changes and we are here to provide support and guidance during such challenging times.

Please do contact Sagegreen HR and we will do all we can to help you and your business and, in the meantime, please stay safe!

Alison Gill

Alison Gill heads up the advo hr & Sagegreen HR teams and is a Chartered Member of the Institute of Personnel and Development and has worked in senior positions within the HR profession for over 25 years. Her broad range of experience has been gained working both in-house for large corporations and SME’s and as an external consultant advising a myriad of businesses in a wide range of industries. Alison’s thorough and extensive knowledge of employment law enables her to bring the rule book to life and support businesses in solving complex employee relations issues.

hr@sagegreenhr.co.uk

 

Do you need some FREE HR advice?

Why not book a no obligation chat, with one of our local HR professionals (not a salesperson)