Welcome to our second newsletter of 2021. If you missed last week’s update, you can catch up on here.
The common denominator in all things pandemic related has been the amount of information to absorb and then just when you think you’ve got to grips with it all, it’s changed again!
As promised, we plan to keep you updated on a weekly basis regarding significant changes to guidance and legislation, Q&As and best practice from a HR and H&S perspective.
For any staff who were self-isolating over the holiday period and only receiving SSP payments, they will be entitled to have those holidays back and to take them later in the year.
The Government have announced that employers can furlough employees who have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19), such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing, or caring for a vulnerable individual in their household
Employees with COVID-19 symptoms
When speaking to staff, insist that they ring in and do not come into work to tell you face to face, that either they or a member of their household has symptoms.
If a worker develops symptoms, they should request a free test as soon as their symptoms start.
Once they have ordered the test, they’ll be asked by NHS Test and Trace to provide details of anyone who they have been in close recent contact with. This will not automatically be all their co-workers, but anyone who meets the definition of a close contact.
A close ‘contact’ is a person who has been close to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 anytime from 2 days before the person was symptomatic up to 10 days from onset of symptoms (this is when they’re infectious to others). This could be a person who:
has had face-to-face contact (within one metre), including: being coughed on; having skin-to-skin physical contact, or contact within one metre for one minute or has been within 2 metres of someone who has tested positive for more than 15 minutes or has travelled in a vehicle together.
The contact tracers will not consider the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) as a mitigation when assessing whether a recent contact is likely to have risked transmitting the virus. Only full medical-grade PPE worn in health and care settings will be considered.
Alerting close contacts
When someone first develops symptoms and orders a test, they will be encouraged to alert the people that they have had close contact within the 48 hours before symptom onset. If any of those close contacts are co-workers, the person who has developed symptoms should consider asking their employer to alert those co-workers.
Close contacts at this stage do not need to self-isolate unless requested to do so by NHS Test and Trace or a public health professional, but they should avoid contact with people at high increased risk of severe illness from coronavirus, such as people with pre-existing medical conditions and take extra care in practising social distancing and good hygiene
It is a legal requirement for employers to not knowingly allow an employee who has been told to self-isolate to come into work or work anywhere other than their own home for the duration of their self-isolation period. Failure to do so could result in a fine starting from £1,000 increasing up to £10,000 for repeat offences.
Just a reminder following last week’s update that there is no longer a requirement to furlough staff for a minimum of 3 weeks.
Under the latest rules flexible furlough must last for at least 7 days in a calendar month for an employer to make a claim.
As always, the decision on who is furloughed lies with the employer and is not an employment right.
If you suddenly find yourself having to furlough an employee that’s fine, as there is no requirement to give notice.
In our last newsletter we mentioned the importance of keeping in touch with staff as much as possible. We have found that the impact of the current lockdown is affecting all of us in different ways. People who were previously coping well may now be struggling with isolation, loneliness or at the other end of the spectrum, a house full of children whilst they are feeling unwell or trying to work from home!
If you become aware of staff who are struggling, in the first instance have a chat, even if they’re at home and it’s just over the phone. Check in, see if they are concerned about anything at work and if there’s any way you can work together to improve their situation
If your staff are still struggling to cope and are overwhelmed with life outside of work, then it’s important to sign post them to their GP in the first instance in order to obtain support.
The Government have announced this month that employers can furlough employees who are clinically extremely vulnerable or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus. It is up to employers to decide whether to furlough these employees. An employer does not need to be facing a wider reduction in demand or be closed to be eligible to claim for these employees. Those employers not wanting to furlough these employees must pay SSP instead.
Training and Seminars
Employees can undertake training whilst furloughed, as long as the training does not provide services or generate revenue for your business.
Our next seminar is scheduled for 10 February, via zoom. Please use the link below to reserve a free place.
We have had a few clients, particularly those working in the Care and Education Sectors asking if they are able to insist that their staff do not refuse the vaccination when it’s offered. Whilst employers can encourage staff to get a vaccine the Government have been clear that it will not be a legal requirement. There will be many reasons why staff may refuse, from religious belief, needle phobia, a genuine concern about the safety of the vaccine or a health condition that prevents them from being vaccinated.
Due to the nature of some roles, vaccination may be necessary, even though not a legal requirement. We advise to proceed with caution and wait for further guidance from the Government before making plans.
In our next newsletter we focus on data protection and report on the records you need to be keeping and what information you can share with your workforce if you are notified that one of your staff has tested positive.