The Omicron Varient

Last night, the Prime Minister announced that additional precautions would be reintroduced as a result of the new Omicron variant. This ‘Plan B’ includes:

  • From Friday 10th December, face masks will be required in more public settings including theatres and cinemas.
  • From Monday 13th December, people are asked to work from home where possible.
  • From Wednesday 15th December, an NHS COVID Pass will be required for entry into nightclubs, indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any event with more than 10,000 people.

Christmas parties and other social gatherings are advised to go ahead as planned, so long as the above restrictions are adhered to.

Regarding the rules around working from home, Boris Johnson stated “go to work if you must, but work from home if you can”. This advice is a throwback to earlier in the pandemic and will be familiar to most. As such, hopefully, it will not cause too much chaos to resurrect these practices. However, if you are at all unclear, or would like to talk it through, please get in touch.

It is hoped that once more booster jabs have been administered and there is evidence that they work against the Omicron variant, then restrictions will be eased again. However, no specific dates have been discussed.

The protocol of testing and self-isolation remains the same in regard to confirmed cases of earlier COVID-19 variants. Double vaccinated individuals who come in to contact with a positive case are not required to isolate but should be encouraged to take a PCR test to stop the spread. However, those who have been in contact with a positive case of the Omicron variant, are now required to take daily tests but there is no need to isolate for 10 days as per previous guidance. This is regardless of vaccination status.

COVID-19 – Tribunal Updates

As 2021 has progressed, we have seen the first tribunal decisions emerge against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, but what lessons can employers learn from these decisions and how has it impacted employment law?

Unfortunately, the new restrictions will mean that a lot of us will now be working from home for a period of time. However, in the next month or two, it is likely that we will return to the work place.

As such, it is important that employers who are bringing their employees back in to the workplace do consider the important lessons to be learned from the tribunal decisions. Some important tips to note are:

  • Provide a safe working environment in line with the government guidance for health and safety. Risk assessments are key.
  • The reasonableness of the employer is significant when faced with employees who are reluctant to attend the workplace.
  • The employees attitude outside of work also has influence over the tribunals ruling. You can use personal social media as evidence, if your policies allow.
  • Conduct proper and meaningful consultations with employees before carrying out a variation of contract.
  • The world post-pandemic shows how important it is to have clear policies and rules in place for annual leave, unpaid leave and remote working.

This is not an exhaustive list and although the decisions that we have seen so far provide a valuable insight into how tribunals are dealing with cases and the legal issues that are arising, it is clear that each decision turns on its own facts. The case law further emphasises how important it is that businesses turn to us as your HR experts, before making any decisions.

What else is on the horizon for 2022?

National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage

The 2022 National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates effective from 6th April, are detailed below:

The percentage increases are quite considerable this year, so it’s important to budget and to factor this into your cash flows.

Whilst the following rates have not been confirmed as yet, the below are proposed for 2022/2023:

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – 2022/2023

£99.35 per week paid after 3 waiting days for a maximum period of 28 weeks.

If the sickness is COVID-19 related, you can pay SSP from Day 1. However, please be advised that the standard three-day waiting time for statutory sick pay, will be reinstated for coronavirus related claims from 25 March 2022, unless the government intervenes.

Statutory Maternity Pay

  • First 6 weeks at 90% of Average Weekly Earnings (AWE).
  • Then 33 weeks at £156.66 or 90% of AWE (whichever is the lower).

Statutory Paternity/Adoption Pay

£156.66 or 90% of AWE (whichever is the lower).

Extra Bank Holiday – June 2022 – The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

The Nation will come together over a four-day Bank Holiday weekend to celebrate The Queen’s 70-year reign. The May Bank Holiday Weekend will be moved to Thursday 2 June and an additional Bank Holiday on Friday 3 June will see a four-day weekend to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

As a reminder, the other Bank Holidays in England are as follows:

Flexible Working

The government is currently in consultation over whether to make flexible working a day one right.

If this is agreed, it will give employees the right to request flexible working from the first day of their employment. The government says this will give 2.2 million more people access to different working arrangements.

As well as allowing employees to make flexible working requests on day one, the proposals suggest restricting the reasons employers can refuse a flexible working request and introducing a requirement for employers to offer alternatives if the arrangement the employee asks for isn’t suitable.

Currently, employees only have a right to request flexible working after 26 weeks of continuous employment.

However, the proposals are also clear that businesses should still be able to reject a request if they have sound business reasons, and that specific flexible arrangements would not be prescribed through legislation.

The government’s consultation is open for submissions until 1 December. We will send out further communication once we know more.

Recruitment & Retention

The race to recruit talent is on! I am sure we don’t have to tell you that the market is tough out there right now. So, it is more important than ever to make sure that you are reviewing and updating your recruitment and selection processes.

You need to stand out. To be different from all the other jobs. It is certainly a candidates’ market, so you need to sell yourself to them and know where they are hiding!

It is also so important to look after the talent you already have.

This topic is huge, so we are putting together a separate blog to give you further insight into all these areas. So, watch this space. If you have any specific concerns or would like us to go through your recruitment and retention strategy with you, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

How Hallidays HR can help

If you would like to discuss any of the above in more detail, then please do not hesitate to contact us.