Employment law updates: important changes for employers

The latest UK employment law changes for employers, HR professionals and in-house lawyers

17 September 2020

COVID-19 is presenting an unprecedented challenge for business. With people at the heart of the crisis read our guide for employers on the key issues here. 

Employment law is constantly on the move. We keep track of the latest employment law changes so you don't have to. Below you'll find our regular round-up of legislation, case updates and helpful guides. For a list of key dates for 2020, see our employment law timeline. For a quick summary of the top five topics for HR teams to be thinking about in 2020, see the latest video by Adrian Martin, Head of the Employment team.

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Employment law updates

Update posted: 17 September 2020

COVID-19 working safely guidance

The government has updated its guidance on working safely during the COVID-19 pandemic in different types of workplaces in England. The key changes include:

  • A new list at the start of each guidance of priority actions to take, including risk assessments, cleaning, face coverings, social distancing, ventilation, Test and Trace records, and turning away anyone with symptoms of COVID-19.
  • New restrictions on indoor or outdoor gatherings of more than six people (with some exceptions) which came into force on Monday 14 September.
  • Amendments to the Test and Trace guidance to state that that employers "must" keep records of staff and contractors’ working patterns for a period of 21 days (whereas previously it only advised that employers “should” do so) and the introduction of financial penalties for non-compliance with the Test and Trace data requirements which is intended to come into force on 18 September 2020.

COVID-19 Testing

The Department of Health and Social Care has published guidance for employers on COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. The guidance advises against using NHS Test and Trace to test non-symptomatic staff and suggests that employers consider private alternatives.

Read working safely guidance >>

Read COVID-19 testing guidance >>

Disability discrimination 

The EAT has held that an employee who suffered from paranoid delusions, which caused him to believe that he was being tracked by a Russian gang and affected his timekeeping and attendance at work, was not disabled for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010.

Although the paranoid delusions that the employee suffered did have a substantial adverse effect, the tribunal held that at the relevant time, the substantial adverse effect was not long term, as it was not likely to last for at least 12 months, nor likely to recur. The EAT agreed and held that the mere fact that the condition did recur later did not undermine the assessment of the likelihood of recurrence, which the tribunal must make based on the conditions prevailing at the time.

(Sullivan v Bury Street Capital Limited)

Public sector exit payments

The draft Restriction of Public Sector Exit Payments Regulations 2020 have been published and are making their way through Parliament. The Regulations will bring into force the £95,000 cap on public sector exit payments that has been expected for some time. The implementation date is yet to be confirmed but it is expected that they will come into force by the end of 2020.

The cap is likely to have significant implications and those that may be affected will need to consider putting into place plans now for implementation.

Read more about public sector exit payments >>

Distressed M&M: managing employment risk 

One of the first questions often asked by buyers in distressed M&A situations is what is the likely quantum of employee liabilities? It is not uncommon for buyers to want to restructure the workforce post-completion and early engagement on this issue is key.

In the latest of our series of articles concerning distressed M&A, we examine the key employment considerations.

Read more about managing employment risk >>


Update posted: 10 September 2020

Calculation of CJRS grants: disclosure of mistakes to HMRC

As you will be aware the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme comes to an end at the end of October. Whilst the scheme has been widely welcomed by employers, it is not without its complexities, not least as guidance on the application of the scheme and the calculation of grants has been updated on a frequent basis.

Under the CJRS legislation, HMRC has the power to recover amounts of CJRS grants that have been incorrectly claimed, and if notification was not made of this, there could also be penalties. These are subject to the normal rules for penalties for failure to notify but where employers are aware of a problem and do not come forward the penalty could be up to 100 per cent.

Given the changes in guidance and the complexity of the rules, many employers may have made some technical mistakes in applying for grants under the scheme, particularly given the need to operate at speed.

It will therefore be prudent, in all but very straightforward cases, to review the amounts claimed and to make sure that any problems or errors are identified and can be corrected. Reviewing this and ensuring that any points on which the operation of the rules is unclear have been properly addressed should also help to protect against penalties.

If you have overclaimed a CJRS grant and have not repaid it, you need to tell HMRC this, ideally, within the “notification period”. This ends on (and is the later of)

  • 90 days after the relevant grant was received (if this was in excess of the correct amount);
  • 90 days after the date circumstances changed so that you were no longer entitled to the CJRS grant; or
  • on 20 October 2020.

This can be done in the next claim if a further claim is being submitted or otherwise will need to be done separately. If you do not do this you may have to pay a penalty. Once a disclosure has been made to HMRC any overpaid amount will either be assessed directly by HMRC or need to be adjusted for in the tax return for the period.

HMRC have made clear that disclosure of innocent errors should not result in penalties provided the amounts are duly repaid, but that they will seek penalties for overclaims known to be incorrect or in cases where circumstances changed and HMRC should have been notified that the grant was repayable or taxable.

Common problem areas include:

  • the use in the Scheme of calendar days not working days where the claim is for part of a period;
  • activities undertaken by an employee while on furlough (particularly if the employee is also a shareholder or in the case of company directors);
  • holiday and bank holiday pay and arrangements;
  • interplay between family/sick leave and furlough;
  • identifying which elements of pay constituted ‘regular payments’ when calculating how much to claim;
  • “hangover” problems caused by the fact that until 5 June it wasn’t possible to correct errors for a previous period’s claim in the next claim.

 


Update posted: 02 September 2020

Winding down of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Increase in employer contributions to furlough pay

With the CJRS due to end next month, a reminder that the furlough scheme is changing. Whilst employees continue to be entitled to receive a minimum of 80 per cent of their wages (subject to the cap of £2,500) whilst on furlough, from 1 September, employers will now be required to pay 10 percent of the employee’s wages (as well as employer NICs and pension contributions) with the government paying the additional 70 percent.

From 1 October, the government’s contribution will reduce to 60 per cent of the employee’s wages and employers will need to pay the remaining 20 per cent to make up the 80 per cent total.

Over/under payment of claims

A reminder that there is a short guidance note available to help employers who have claimed too much or too little under the scheme to rectify the situation. Read the guidance here.

The return to the office

With children returning to school and a new government push to encourage people back to the office, many employers are now keen to bring their employees back to the workplace in some shape or form and where it is safe to do so.

However, with many employees having been away from the office since March, and with COVID-19 still very much in existence, employers are likely to encounter employees who are anxious or reluctant to return to work.

Recorded earlier in the summer, our popular video 'A Conversation about...COVID-19 and the reluctant returner' provides practical information for employers about how to facilitate a return to the workplace.

Watch now >


 

Update posted: 30 July 2020

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Furloughed employees to receive statutory redundancy payments and statutory notice at full pay

The government has announced that new legislation has been introduced, effective 31 July 2020, requiring that any employee who has been furloughed and who is made redundant will be entitled to receive a statutory redundancy payment (subject to the usual eligibility criteria) calculated using their normal wages, as opposed to their reduced furlough pay. 

This legislation will also apply to statutory notice pay and statutory compensation for unfair dismissal amongst other statutory payments. 

Over/under payment of claims

The government has just released a short guidance note to help employers who have claimed too much or too little under the scheme to rectify the situation. Read the guidance here.

The return to the workplace: updated guidance

The government has now updated its guidance following the Prime Minister’s announcement that, from 1 August, people who had been instructed to work from home, will be free to return to their workplaces.

Employers are still under a duty to ensure their staff can work safely and working from home remains one way of doing this. However, if you are intending to bring more people back to your workplace then the guidance advises that you consider:

  • The maximum number of people the workplace can accommodate (given social distancing requirements);
  • Engaging with the workforce to ensure they feel safe when they return to the workplace;
  • Whether additional measures such as face coverings may assist to manage risk and make employees feel safe;
  • Updating COVID-19 risk assessments and actions to reflect the return of staff to the workplace;
  • Avoiding forcing any workers to return to a workplace that is unsafe.

When deciding which members of staff to bring back, employers must take account of individual employees’ circumstances including caring responsibilities, the need to use public transport, and any protected characteristics. Particular consideration should be given to employees in the higher risk groups.

Understandably, employers are likely to encounter employees who are anxious or reluctant to return to work. Our video 'A Conversation about...COVID-19 and the reluctant returner' provides additional information about how to facilitate a return to the workplace.

It has also been announced that the period of time for which an employee, who has symptoms and/or has tested positive for COVID-19, will now have to self-isolate is increased to 10 days (previously it was 7 days).

To find out more about working safely, dealing with employee absence, managing employees with childcare issues, business travel and much more, why not check out our COVID-19: a guide for employers which has been fully updated to take account of the most recent government guidance.

Read our guide for employers.

Test and Trace Scheme: updated guidance for employers

In an effort to provide clarity on how employers can assist with the implementation of the NHS Test and Trace Scheme, the government has updated its guidance for employers. In particular the definition of what constitutes ‘close contact’ has been expanded and employers are also asked to obtain up to date contact details for all staff.

In addition, the government is calling on businesses in certain sectors, including hospitality and leisure, to retain a record for 21 days of any customers or visitors to their establishment. This record can then assist the NHS Test and Trace Scheme if required. To find out more about the updated guidance and the information that employers should be retaining, please read our update.


 

Update posted: 23 July 2020

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: clarification on claims during notice periods

Following some initial confusion, HMRC has now confirmed in its guidance that employers can continue to claim for furloughed employees who are on notice whether that notice is statutory or contractual. It is worth remembering that an employee cannot do any work for their employer whilst on furlough leave so, where an employee is serving notice, you may need to bring them off furlough if you need them for handover arrangements. You may want to consider if you can flexibly furlough the employee in this situation. 

The guidance also makes clear that grants cannot be used for redundancy payments.

Also, by way of reminder, from 1 August, employers will be required to contribute towards the costs of any furloughed workers by paying the worker’s national insurance and pensions contributions whilst the worker is on furlough.

Read our guide to the CJRS >

From August, employers will able to bring more employees back to the workplace. However, with COVID-19 still presenting a risk, many employees may be reluctant to return. In our latest ‘Conversation’ we discuss how employers can facilitate the return to work. 

Watch 'A conversation about...COVID-19 and the reluctant returner'

Employing EU workers after freedom of movement ends

The government has recently published a statement setting out further detail on how the UK’s immigration system will operate after freedom of movement ends on 31 December 2020. The latest statement builds on the detail set out in the Policy Statement issued back in February, providing further clarification on changes to the existing Tier 2 (Intra Company Transfer) visa and introducing a new Skilled Worker visa in replacement of the current Tier 2 (General) visa. To find out more about the statement and how employers can prepare for these changes to the UK’s immigration system, please read our update.

Read our immigration update >

Capping public sector compensation on termination of employment

The government has now published its response to the consultation (which closed over a year ago) on regulations which will implement a £95,000 cap on public sector exit payments. The draft regulations will now make their way through Parliament and guidance will be available to accompany the regulations.

Read the consultation response >

Appeal Watch

Not even coronavirus can prevent the march of Uber BV v Aslam up through the courts with Uber’s appeal to the Supreme Court starting this week. With the Uber drivers arguing they are workers providing services for what they say is a transport company, Uber argues it is a technology company which acts as an agency for the drivers in their business relationship with their passengers. With the drivers having been successful at each court stage to date, it will be of great interest to see whose view the Supreme Court favours.

Definition of “agency workers”

The Agency Workers Regulations give agency workers working for an ‘end-user’ on a temporary basis the right to the same basic employment conditions as the end-user’s permanent staff. Here, considering the meaning of ‘temporary’, the EAT held that a group of claimants were agency workers despite being consistently supplied to work exclusively for Royal Mail, the only client of the agency, on a long-term basis.

The Respondent agency argued that the claimants did not satisfy the definition of ‘agency workers’ as they were not supplied temporarily, but rather worked consistently for Royal Mail. The EAT disagreed. When determining whether the work was ‘temporary’, the relevant relationship is that between the worker and the end-user, not that between the worker and the agency. Here the claimants worked for Royal Mail under a series of temporary assignments, each of which lasted for a distinct period and referred to different shift patterns and it was therefore right to conclude that the claimants were supplied to work temporarily.

Angard Staffing Solutions Ltd v Kocur and others


Update posted: 09 July 2020

Coronavirus

Job Retention Bonus

The government has announced that it will pay a one-off bonus payment of £1,000 to UK employers for every furloughed employee who remains continuously employed through to the end of January 2021. Employees must earn above the Lower Earnings Limit of £520 per month on average between the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the end of January 2021. The bonus will be paid from February 2021.

The government also announced that it will make a payment to employers in England for each new apprentice they hire from 1st August 2020 to 31st January 2021. The payments of £2,000 for each new apprentice aged under 25 and £1,500 for each new apprentice aged 25 and over, will be in addition to the existing £1,000 payment the government already provides for new 16-18 year-old apprentices.

Further details are expected to be announced by the end of July.

Holiday

The government has issued further guidance on the taking of holiday. Where an employee is flexibly furloughed then any hours taken as holiday during the claim period should be counted as furloughed hours rather than working hours. However the guidance makes clear that employees should not be placed on furlough simply because they are taking holiday.

Read more >

Acas has also published new guidance on Coronavirus and mental health at work.

Read more >


COVID-19 and statutory sick pay

New regulations came into force on 6 July which clarify the statutory sick pay (SSP) entitlement of those individuals who are shielding, making it clear that they will cease to be entitled to SSP when their shielding period ends and also providing flexibility for additional notifications to be issued if necessary to enable an individual to start shielding (and to become entitled to SSP) again.

The regulations also provide for SSP to be payable to an individual who self isolates because they are in a linked household (or extended household) (i.e. a bubble) with someone who has COVID-19 symptoms. Previously, SSP was only payable where an individual was living in the same household as the person with symptoms. SSP will cease to be payable if the person with symptoms tests negative for COVID-19.

Read more >


International restructures: how we can help

As countries across the world gradually ease their lockdown arrangements, many organisations are having to restructure to take account of the impact of Covid-19 on their business. Where the restructure impacts on more than one jurisdiction the complexities around managing the project increase. We work and collaborate on a regular basis with employment lawyers from our international network of like-minded law firms and are currently working with a number of clients on their international restructures. If you are looking for similar assistance we can facilitate an initial discussion with the relevant international employment specialists. Please contact employment partners, Chris Seaton or Katie Russell, or your normal employment contact to find out more. 


Disability - reasonable adjustments

The EAT has held that an employer failed to make reasonable adjustments for an employee who was disabled with depression, which she said was due to bullying and harassment by two colleagues.

After a period of absence from work due to stress, the Claimant sought an undertaking from her employer that she would not have to work with the two colleagues again and/or, in the event that there was no alternative but to work with them, the employer would offer her a severance package equivalent to an enhanced redundancy payment. The employer refused to give such an undertaking.

The EAT held that giving the undertaking would have alleviated the fear and anxiety the Claimant suffered as a result of possibly having to work with the two colleagues and it would have been reasonable for the employer to give the undertaking in the circumstances. The EAT also held that there was no reason in principle that would prevent an employment tribunal making a recommendation under section 124(3) Equality Act 2010 that the employer give such an undertaking.


SMCR – implementation extended

The deadline for FCA solo-regulated firms to have undertaken their first assessment of the fitness and propriety of Certified Persons has been delayed from 9 December 2020 to 31 March 2021. In addition, the FCA is consulting on extending the deadline, also to 31 March 2021, for the date on which Conduct Rules come into force for all staff (except ancillary roles) and the deadline for submissions of information about Directory Persons to the Register.

This is no barrier to continuing work in progress, and firms can certify earlier if they wish, but in most cases we anticipate that this will give some much-needed breathing space. The FCA has also announced that it intends to produce some further communications about their expectations on Conduct Rules training, which we will circulate when it becomes available.

Read more >


Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - judicial review

The High Court has dismissed an application by two Uber drivers and the Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain for a judicial review of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) scheme, which exclude workers who are not paid via PAYE.

The Claimants argued that HM Treasury failed to provide adequate protection for gig economy workers under the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and that it was unlawful to exclude ‘limb b’ workers from the CJRS and not to amend the scheme for SSP in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to include ‘limb b’ workers.

The High Court held that aims of the CJRS (which include supporting employers, reducing fraud, simplicity, flexibility and speed of assistance) and the aim of providing extra assistance within the SSP scheme for those who are covered by the SSP scheme and who are unable to work because they had coronavirus or were self-isolating or shielding, were rational and justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

(Adiatu & Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain v HM Treasury)

ICO guidance

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has issued further guidance on data protection during the COVID-19 pandemic recovery period. The guidance gives further details on how organisations may collect data lawfully and proportionately when implementing testing or other screening measures for COVID-19 in the work place and includes a number of FAQs to help organisations understand and comply with their data protection obligations.

Read more >

COVID-19 guidance updated

The guidance for employers on working safely during the COVID-19 pandemic has been updated and now includes additional guides, including a guide for the visitor economy which is specifically aimed at people who work in hotels and guest accommodation, indoor and outdoor attractions, and business events and consumer shows.

The government has also updated its guidance to clinically extremely vulnerable individuals who are shielding and also announced its intention that the shielding programme will be paused on 31 July. This means that from 1 August, those who are clinically extremely vulnerable will be advised to adopt strict social distancing rather than full shielding measures and they will be able to go to work, if they cannot work from home, as long as the business is COVID-safe.

Many employees will be understandably nervous or anxious about a return to the workplace. Employers will need to handle the situation carefully and engage with the employees to understand their concerns and reassure them about the steps taken on site and the safety measures put in place. The ‘Working safely’ chapter of our booklet, gives guidance for employers on managing the return to the workplace and includes a discussion on what to do if an employee is reluctant to return.

Read the booklet here >

Reducing workforce costs webinar series – now available on-demand

Given the difficult economic outlook, many businesses will need to reduce workforce costs. Whilst many employers will want to do all that they can to preserve jobs, regrettably the current crisis will force the hand of some organisations to make redundancies.

The first webinar in the series considers ways in which organisations can reduce costs without resorting to redundancies offers an overview of how to change terms and conditions of employment.

Our second webinar looks at the redundancy and restructuring process and the legal framework that applies, together with points to consider arising out of COVID-19.

Both webinars are now available to watch on-demand.

Watch now >


 

Preparing for a return to office working

With preparations now gathering momentum for a return to office working of sorts, many are grappling with the complex issues that operating a safe, and lawful, working office environment presents. Over the next few weeks, experts from our Real Estate Sector Group will be looking at some of these issues, offering practical and essential guidance.

In this first article, Kate Redshaw, one of our senior Employment lawyers, examines the choices employers face and how best to manage the employee relationship when navigating the new normal.

View our guidance here.


 

 Update posted: 15 June 2020

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: updated for flexible furloughing

As promised, last Friday saw the release of a raft of new and updated guidance from HMRC on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, primarily in relation to flexible furloughing.

Key points are as follows:

1. Employers may now only furlough employees who have already been furloughed. The only exception to this is that employees returning from family leave, for example maternity leave or shared parental leave, may be furloughed on their return.

2. Employers who have not furloughed any employees to date will not be able to do so now.

3. From 1 July:

  • the number of employees an employer can claim for in any one month may not exceed the number in any previous claim;
  • the minimum furlough period of 3 weeks will be removed so employers will be able to furlough an employee for a shorter period of time;
  • an employee on furlough may also carry out some work for their employer whilst on furlough. In these circumstances the employer will need to enter into a new agreement with the employee unless there is a recognised trade union in which case terms can be collectively agreed. The employer will need to pay the employee in full for the hours they work and will be able to claim back a percentage of the employee’s wages (up to a pro-rated cap) for the time spent on furlough. The employer will also need to keep detailed records of actual hours worked and ‘usual’ hours.

So should an employer look to take advantage of the flexible furlough scheme?

Many employers have been frustrated by the fact that the furlough scheme prohibited an employee from carrying out any work for them at all. This means, at first blush, the idea of being able to bring employees back flexibly is appealing.

However, the process for calculating and submitting a ‘flexible furlough’ claim is complex and the requirement to enter into a new agreement with the employee together with additional record-keeping requirements present extra burdens. Employers will need to review whether the new process will work for them.

It may be easier now that the minimum three week furlough period has been relaxed for employers to rotate employees on and off furlough more frequently. Equally it may make sense for employers to bring some employees off furlough entirely in order to manage their business demands.

To read about the changes in full (including how employer contributions to furlough pay will change from August onwards), please read our updated guidance note.


 

 Update posted: 11 June 2020

New restrictions for those travelling to the UK

From 8 June 2020, all persons travelling to the UK are now required to complete a Public Health Passenger Locator form detailing their journey and contact details in the 48 hours prior to their entry. Save for a limited number of recognised exemptions, the vast majority of travellers are also required to go straight to the place they are staying on their arrival and self-isolate for 14 days.

Employers should ensure that any employees who may be travelling on business are aware of the new requirements and they should not be required (or allowed) to physically attend their workplace within the quarantine period, because to do so could amount to encouraging the worker to commit a criminal offence. However, the regulations do not prevent an individual from working during a period of self-isolation so if the employee is able to work remotely, they can be required to do so.

Difficulties may arise where an employee is unable to work from home during the 14 day quarantine period. If the employee was not travelling on business, one option would be to require the employee to take the quarantine period as holiday, provided the employee has sufficient annual leave to do so and subject to any contractual provisions, relevant agreements and any notice requirements on annual leave. Alternatively, an employer may decide to treat the 14 day quarantine period as unpaid leave. At the current time, it is unlikely an employee would be able to claim sick pay during the 14 day quarantine period unless they are otherwise required to self-isolate because either they or someone in their household are displaying coronavirus symptoms

 

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme will close to new entrants from 30 June. From this point onwards, employers will only be able to furlough employees that they have furloughed for a full three week period prior to 30 June. There is an exception for parents who are returning in the coming months from statutory maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave, shared parental leave and parental bereavement leave. They will still be eligible for the furlough scheme even after the 10 June cut-off date, provided that they work for an employer which has previously furloughed employees.

From 1 July, employers will be able to bring back to work employees who have been previously furloughed for any amount of time and any shift pattern, while still being able to claim under the scheme for normal hours not worked by an employee (with the employer paying for hours that are worked). Further details on the new ‘flexible furloughing scheme’ are due to be announced on 12 June.

You can read about more about the changes in our updated guide to the CJRS.


 

 Update posted: 26 May 2020

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme - Treasury Direction

Last Friday (22 May) the government published a new Treasury Direction in relation to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The Direction sets out the legal framework for the Scheme.

The new Direction modifies the previous Direction issued on 15 April and extends the Scheme until 30 June 2020. This means that a further Direction will be required for the extension of the current Scheme until 31 July and for the new terms applicable between August and October. We are expecting an announcement on those changes later this week.

The new Direction seeks to resolve some of the discrepancies between the original Treasury Direction and the various supporting guidance published by HMRC.

Key points from the new Direction are as follows:

  • The Direction no longer appears to require the employee to have agreed to be furloughed in writing. Whilst employee agreement will still be required, the new Direction confirms that such agreement must be made in writing ‘or confirmed’ in writing by the employer (and writing includes email). Any such agreement must specify ‘the main terms and conditions upon which the employee will cease all work’.
  • Whilst still not completely clear, it now appears that an employer and employee can agree to end a period of SSP in order to start furlough – this change is presumably to cover those employees whose eligibility for SSP is due to them shielding and not being able to work at home.
  • It has been clarified that non-discretionary payments such as overtime, fees and commissions and payments ‘made in recognition of the employee undertaking additional or exceptional responsibilities’ can potentially count as ‘regular pay’. The definition of ‘regular pay’ has also been modified with the previously unhelpful ‘not conditional on any matter’ wording being removed.
  • The relevant date for TUPE transfers has been changed from 19 March to 28 February so claims can be made for employees who transferred after 28 February even if there was no RTI submission before 19 March.
  • The Direction provides more detail on what study and training is permitted under the Scheme.

We will be updating our more detailed CJRS briefing notes to reflect these changes as well as any wider announcement on the Scheme made later this week.


 

Update posted: 18 May 2020 

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Following the Chancellor’s announcement last week that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ('CJRS') would be extended until the end of October, HMRC has again updated its guidance.

Key points from the latest updates are as follows:

  • The guidance has been updated to reflect the extension of the scheme to the end of October and to confirm that the scheme will remain in its current form until the end of July. Whilst employees will continue to receive 80 per cent of their salaries (up to the monthly cap of £2,500), from August, employers will be required to pay a proportion of this. Furloughed employees will be able to return to work part-time whilst still receiving support from the CJRS.
  • Furloughed employees cannot ‘volunteer’ for the employer in the same or a different role.
  • When determining, for the purposes of a claim, whether a payment to an employee is non-discretionary, employers should only include payments that they are contractually obliged to pay and to which the employee has an enforceable right. If variable payments are specified in a contract and those payments are always made, then they may be non-discretionary and therefore should be included in the calculation.
  • Where an employee has been paid variable payments due to working overtime, the employer can include these payments in the 80 per cent calculation, as long as the overtime payments were non-discretionary. Payments will be non-discretionary if the employer is contractually obliged to pay the employee at a set and defined rate for the overtime they have worked. On the face of it, this would apply to voluntary overtime in a number of cases.
  • Claims cannot be made through the portal more than 14 days in advance of the claim end date.
  • Employers must also keep a copy of all records of claims made for six years, including the amount claimed and the claim period for each employee, the claim reference number and their calculations in case HMRC require more information about their claim.

Employers should continue to note that this remains only guidance, without legal force. In the case of a conflict, the Direction published by HM Treasury on 15 April 2020 is expected to take precedence.

Read CJRS - an essential guide for employers >
 

Update posted: 13 May 2020

Guidance issued on holiday entitlement and pay during coronavirus

Yesterday the government issued new guidance for employers outlining how holiday entitlement and pay operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. It provides guidance in relation to employees who continue to work and those who have been placed on furlough leave under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

Holiday during furlough

Key points to note from the guidance include:

  • Employees on furlough leave continue to accrue statutory holiday and any additional holiday entitlement under their contract of employment.
  • Furloughed employees may take holiday without it disrupting their furlough leave.
  • An employer may, subject to the usual notice requirements, require employees to take holiday whether or not the employee is on furlough leave. However, before requiring them to do so the employer should:
    • engage with the employee and explain its reasons for wanting the employee to take leave; and
    • consider whether any restrictions the employee is under, such as the need to socially distance or self-isolate, would prevent them from resting, relaxing and enjoying leisure time, which is the fundamental purpose of holiday. Employers should therefore consider individual circumstances and the current level of government measures before requiring employees to take leave – the recent easing of measures in England might assist employers in this respect.
  • Payment for holiday taken during furlough leave should be calculated in line with current holiday pay legislation. If the holiday pay is more than the rate of pay that the employee is receiving whilst on furlough leave, the employer will have to pay the difference but will still be able to claim up to 80 per cent (or £2,500 per month) under the CJRS.

Carrying holiday forward

The government has already issued legislation which allows workers to carry over holiday for up to two years if they have not been able to take leave because of coronavirus. The guidance expands on this legislation and sets out:

  • various factors that an employer should consider when deciding whether it was ‘not reasonably practicable’ for a worker to take some or all of their statutory annual leave as a result of the effects of coronavirus, such that the worker is able to carry forward up to four weeks of their untaken leave into the following two leave years.
  • that employers should do everything reasonably practicable to ensure that the worker is able to take as much of their leave as possible in the year to which it relates.
  • that employees on furlough leave are unlikely to need to carry forward statutory annual leave, as they will be able to take it during the furlough period.

The guidance is not legally binding and employment tribunals are not required to follow the guidance.

 

Update posted 12 May 2020

An announcement issued on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Chancellor has announced that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (the Scheme) will be extended for all employers until the end of October 2020 and there will be no changes to the Scheme at all until the end of July.

From August 2020, the Scheme will become more flexible in order to support the transition of workers back to work. More details are expected to follow by the end of May about the changes that will be made to the Scheme, including allowing those workers on furlough to work part-time and requiring employers to make contributions to the furloughed employees’ salary. However, the government has confirmed that furloughed employees will continue to receive the same level of support of 80 per cent of salary up to a cap of £2500 per month. We will keep you informed of the changes.

Guidance issued on working safely during COVID-19

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday evening about getting employees to return to work, new guidance has been published for employers to help them get their businesses back up and running and workplaces operating safely.

Eight guides have been published containing non-statutory guidance for employers to take into account when complying with existing health and safety obligations. The guides cover a range of different types of workplace and businesses that operate more than one type of workplace will need to familiarise themselves with more than one of the guides.

The guidance focuses on five key points:

  • Employers should take all reasonable steps to help employees work from home, if possible. Those workplaces that are allowed to be open and whose employees cannot work from home should prepare for employees to return to work.
  • Employers should carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, in consultation with workers or trade unions. All businesses with over 50 employees are expected to publish the results of their risk assessments on their website.
  • Employers should re-design workspaces to maintain two metres social distancing between people wherever possible, by staggering start times, creating one way walk-throughs, opening more ent3E
    (Civil Aviation Authority v R (on the application of Jet2.com Ltd))

     

    Parental bereavement leave

    The Parental Bereavement Leave Regulations 2020 and the Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (General) Regulations 2020 are due to come into force on 6 April 2020.

    Under the legislation, employed parents will be entitled to a statutory minimum of twommissioner was in breach of an implied duty owed to the officers to protect them from economic or reputational harm. The Supreme Court said it would not be fair, just and reasonable to impose such a duty.

    Read article: Police commissioner owed no duty of care to officers when conducting litigation

    Sexual harassment

    The Women and Equalities Commission has produced its report on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Its recommendations include:

    • a mandatory duty on employers to protect employees from sexual harassment in the workplace
    • a duty for public sector employers to conduct risk assessments for sexual harassment and then mitigate risks
    • reintroducing employer liability for third party harassment
    • extending sexual harassment protection to interns and volunteers
    • extending the time limit for bringing a claim to 6 months
    • enabling tribunals to award punitive damages
    • limiting the use of confidentiality clauses in settlement agreements to government approved standard clauses.

    It is now up to the government to consider these recommendations and decide which, if any, to implement.

    Caste discrimination

    The government has decided not to add ‘caste’ as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.

    The government expects that emerging caselaw, such as Chandok v Tirkey in which the EAT held that caste could be protected under the Equality Act 2010 to the extent that it is bound up with ethnic origin, will continue to provide some measure of protection againsr and unlawful age discrimination.

    The University claimed that the policy was a proportionate means of achieving the legitimate aim of creating opportunities for younger and more diverse staff. However, whilst the University was successful in showing the policy was justified in a different case before a different tribunal panel earlier this year, the statistical evidence provided by the Claimant in this case indicated the policy had only created a small number of vacancies. The tribunal held that the University had not shown the policy contributed to the achievement of the legitimate aims to a sufficient extent to justify the discriminatory effect.

    (Ewart v The Chancellor, Master and Scholars of the University of Oxford)

    Philosophical belief - veganism

    In contrast to a recent case relating to vegetarianism, an employment tribunal has held at a preliminary hearing that ethical veganism can amount to a philosophical belief that is capable of protection under the Equality Act 2010. The tribunal held that the beliefs were genuinely held by the Claimant in this case and met the necessary criteria:

    • it related to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour.
    • it attained the required level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance.
    • it was worthy of respect in a democratic society, not incompatible with human dignity and it did not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.

    The case will now proceed to a full hearing to decide whether the Claimant was discriminated against because of his beliefs guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
     
    HMRC continues to update and issue new guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Our briefings for employers have been updated to take account of the changes and also include links to the latest HMRC guidance.

    Read 'CJRS - an essential guide for employers' >

    Read 'Treasury Direction on the CJRS - a summary of key points' >

     

     

     

    Update posted 16 April 2020

    More guidance issued on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

    In advance of yesterday’s launch of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme claims portal, HMRC did not disappoint in its enthusiasm for churning out guidance.

    In addition to confirming that the Scheme will be extended until the end of June, last Friday saw the following additions and updates to the suite of information for employers and employees:

    • The Guide for employers to claim under the CJRS was updated;
    • The Guide for employees to the CJRS was updated;
    • Guidance for employers on how to make a claim under CJRS was published; and
    • Guidance on how to calculate 80% of your employees' wages was published.

    To help you understand how these new and updated documents change what you already know about the Scheme, we have prepared a summary of key points coming out of this new guidance.

    Read our guidance here.


     Update posted 16 April 2020

    The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

    On 9 April and again on 15 April, HMRC further updated its guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

    We have updated our briefing on the Scheme to reflect the latest guidance but in summary the guidance now confirms that:

    • Employers can now furlough and claim for employees provided they were on the PAYE payroll on or before 19 March – previously the scheme excluded employees who were hired after 28 February
    • Employees who were made redundant or who stopped working for the employer after 28 February but before 19 March can also be furloughed if the employer re-employs them
    • An employee who is sick or self-isolating can be furloughed if there are business reasons to do so. This means the employee would move to furlough pay and not sick pay. It also provides that if an employee becomes sick whilst on furlough it is up to the employer to decide whether to move the employee onto SSP or to keep them on furlough pay
    • If the employee is moved onto SSP, the employer can no longer claim for the furloughed salary under the Job Retention Scheme and the employer will be required to pay SSP, although a rebate for up to two weeks of SSP may be available
    • The new employer of employees who transferred under TUPE after 19 March 2020 may claim under the Job Retention Scheme in relation to transferred employees who are furloughed
    • Furloughed employees cannot work for their employer or any associated or linked organisation
    • The grant reclaimed from the government under the CJRS must be paid to the employee in full without any deductions for fees, administration charges or other employment costs. It cannot be used to pay for benefits or a salary sacrifice scheme.

    The updated guidance is still silent on the interplay between furlough and annual leave.

    Read our updated CJRS briefing.

    CJRS: Treasury Direction

    The Chancellor has today made a Treasury Direction in relation to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme setting out the legal framework for the scheme. You can read the direction here.


    Update posted 3 April 2020

    COVID-19: Managing holiday and extension of carry-over provisions

    With COVID–19 causing all sorts of challenges for employers, in an effort to relieve some potential operational difficulties, the government is introducing a temporary change to the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR). The change will allow workers to carry over up to 4 weeks of holiday for up to 2 years if issues relating to COVID-19 have meant it was "not reasonably practicable" for a worker to take some or all of their leave.

    Read our update on the implications of this.

    Vicarious liability

    The Supreme Court has delivered its judgment in two important cases which clarify the law on vicarious liability. The decisions of the Court of Appeal in both cases have been overturned and the organisations were found not to be liable for the acts of a rogue individual.

    (VM Morrison Supermarkets plc v Various Claimants)

    (Barclays Bank plc v Various Claimants)

    Read our update here.


    Update posted 31 March 2020

    Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

    On Friday 20 March, the government announced it was establishing a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to help employers through the current COVID-19 crisis. rances and exits, or changing seating layouts.

  • Where the social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full, in relation to a particular activity, businesses should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate, and, if so, take all the mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between their staff, for example, by putting barriers in shared spaces, creating workplace shift patterns or ensuring colleagues are facing away from each other.
  • Employers should provide handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers at entry and exit points and ensure workplaces are cleaned more frequently.

A downloadable notice is included in the documents, which employers are required to display to show their employees, customers and other visitors to their workplace, that they have followed the guidance.

Points to consider

The implementation and monitoring of any risk assessments will also be key for employers, in particular:

  • Do what you say – it’s very easy to make something look good on paper but it is important to implement the steps you say you are taking.
  • Be prepared to change – it’s a risk management cycle so monitor whether the steps are working and be prepared to change.
  • Consider the impact on other risks – some tasks need two people to be done safety. Some tasks are safer with two people. Some tasks need to be supervised. Organisations should not, therefore, think about COVID-19 risk in isolation. Where a core pillar of any COVID-19 risk assessment is to keep two metres apart wherever possible, organisations also need to think about how this impacts other processes and existing risk assessments so as to avoid re-introducing or increasing risk in those other areas.

 

Update posted 30 April 2020 

COVID-19 - extension to testing

In an important development for employers, the government announced yesterday that it was extending testing so that any worker who cannot work from home who develops symptoms of coronavirus can now be tested to see if they are infected. 

This should enable those who test negative to resume duties more quickly as the target for sending test results back is 48 hours. Currently self-isolation provisions require people in this position to self-isolate for 7 days.


The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Paid family-related leave

New regulations came in to force on 25 April to ensure that furloughed workers who take maternity or other paid family-related leave will have their pay during the leave based on their usual earnings rather than their reduced furloughed pay. 

Furloughed workers who take paid family-related leave on or% gossip which the Claimant had overheard in a bar could not be used to support his discrimination and victimisation claims.

(R (on the application of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain) v Central Arbitration Committee)

Disability discrimination

The Supreme Court has held that an ill-health early retirement pension awarded to a disabled employee, based on the part-time salary that he was earning before he retired, was not unfavourable treatment for the purposes of a disability discrimination claim.

The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeal and held there was nothing intrinsically unfavourable or disadvantageous about the award of a pension, to which the employee was only entitled because of his disability. Although the employ0sector off-payroll working rules will be extended to the private sector from 6 April 2020. Private sector businesses who use contractors should review how these changes will impact them and plan accordingly.

The Chancellor also announced that the introduction of Class 1A National Insurance contributions on termination payments over £30,000 has been delayed until April 2020.


Company liable for data breach

(WM Morrison Supermarkets plc v Various Claimants)

The Court of Appeal has upheld the decision of the High Court that Morrisons was vicariously liable for the actions of a disgruntled employee who posted the payroll details of around 100,000 employees online.

The Court held that there was a sufficient connection between the employee’s actions and his employment to make Morrisons vicariously liable. He had received the data in the course of his employment as a senior IT internal auditor and had been asked to send it to the company’s external auditor. The fact that he had copied it and disclosed it in an unauthorised way was closely connected to what he had been asked to do and his motive was irrelevant.

Morrisons have been granted permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Company liable for assault

(Bellman v Northampton Recruitment Limited)

In another vicarious liability case, the Court of Appeal has overturn20of Appeal has held that it was direct disability discrimination to refuse a police officer’s request to transfer to a new role because of a perceived disability.

In this case the Claimant had some hearing loss but this did not have an adverse effect on her ability to carry out her duties. However, when she applied to transfer to a new role, her request was refused on the stereotypical and mistaken assumption about the effects of what was perceived to be a progressive condition which would mean that she would not be able to carry out her front-line duties in the future. This amounted to direct disability discrimination even though she was not currently disabled.

(Chief Constable of Norfolk v Coffey)

Off-payroll working

If you are an organisation which engages contractors, o be considered "in the course of employment" to render the employer vicariously liable.

Whistleblowing – non-executive directors liable

(Timis and anor v Osipov)

The Court of Appeal has held that an employee may make a whistleblowing detriment claim against individual workers for their conduct in relation to his dismissal after he made protected disclosures.

In this case, the CEO made protected disclosure and was then dismissed on the instruction of two non-executive directors. The CEO was found to have been unfairly dismissed but, as the employer was insolvent, the CEO sought to claim against the directors personally. The Court held that the non-executive directors were jointly and severally liable with the employer to compensate the CEO for the losses he suffered from his dismissal as a result of the detriment to which they subjected him.


Sexual orientation discrimination

(Lee v Ashers Baking Company Ltd and others)

As widely reported, the Supreme Court held on Wednesday that a bakery did not discriminate against a gay man when it refused, on the grounds of the owners’ religious beliefs, to bake a cake with a photo of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street and the wording 'Support Gay Marriage'.

Mr Lee had previously been successful in his claim in the Northern Irish courts for direct discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and political beliefs. However, this decision now overturns the previous decisions.

The Supreme Court noted that the bakery had not refused to fulfil the order because of any personal characteristics of Mr Lee or of anyone with whom he was associated; they refused because they objected to the message on the cake.

The Supreme Court also considered the freedoms relating to religion and expression protected under Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Those freedoms include a right not to be obliged to manifest a belief which you do not hold and the Court held that an infringement of those rights could not be justified by an obligation to supply a cake iced with a message with which the bakers profoundly disagreed.

Ethnicity pay reporting

The government has begun consultation on the introduction of mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting for large employers and has asked for views on what ethnicity pay information should be reported in order to drive change without causing undue burdens on businesses. The consultation closes on 11 January 2019.

Alongside this consultation, the Prime Minister has also announced a Race at Work Charter, which has been designed with Business in the Community, and commits those businesses that sign up to the Charter to drive forward changes to increase the recruitment and progression of ethnic minority employees.

Tips, parental leave and flexible working

The government has announced new measures to support workers, businesses and entrepreneurs. These include plans to:

  • prevent employers keeping tips intended to go to workers and to ensure tips left for workers go to them in full. Details will be set out in new legislation but as yet we do not have details o the proposed timeframe for implementation
  • consult on requiring employers with more than 250 staff to publish their parental leave and pay policies
  • create a duty on employers to consider whether a role may be done flexibly and to make that clear when advertising the role.

Immigration

Following the recent publication of the final report on EEA migration in the UK by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), the government has announced more details of its skills-based immigration plans after Brexit and promised to publish a White Paper setting out the details in the autumn.

In the interim period, the EU settlement scheme is intended to apply to EU citizens resident in the UK before 31 December 2020 (and their family members), provided they apply for settled status before 20 June 2021.

Employers will need to evaluate the impact of new travel and work restrictions on their workforce after Brexit and ensure that any necessary applications for settled status are made within the deadline.

For more information, please read our article on the EU Settlement Scheme


Update posted 8 October 2018

Companions

(Talon Engineering Ltd v Smith)

The EAT has held that an employer acted unreasonably by refusing to postpone a rescheduled disciplinary hearing by 10 days so that the employee’s chosen trade union representative could attend.

This refusal to postpone for a short time rendered the subsequent dismissal procedurally unfair even though it was not in breach of the right to be accompanied provisions in s10 Employment Relations Act 1999 (which only require an employer to agree to a request to postpone a hearing if the suggested rescheduled date is within five working days of the original date).

This does not mean that an employer should always agree to a postponement in such circumstances but it is important to note that an employer’s overriding obligation is to act reasonably and this may involve a degree of flexibility in the process.

Corporate governance

The FRC has published the new 2018 UK Corporate Governance Code, which will apply to all premium listed companies for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2019.

The key employment related changes include requirements for:

  • a board-monitored whistleblowing mechanism
  • a mechanism for workforce engagement
  • additional diversity reporting, covering senior managers
  • greater focus on gender, social and ethnic diversity in succession planning for both the board and senior managers
  • additional executive remuneration reporting.

Employment tribunal statistics

 

Parents with at least 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employer and weekly average earnings over the lower earnings limit will also be entitled to Statutory Parental Bereavement Pay (SPBP), paid at the statutory rate of £151.20 per week (from April 2020), or 90% of average weekly earnings where this is lower. SPBP will be administered by employers in the same way as existing family-related statutory payments.

 


Update posted 20 January 2020

Sexual harrassment

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published new guidance for employers on sexual harassment and other forms of harassment at work which sets out best practice and gives practical examples on how to tackle and respond effectively to harassment. Although the guidance does not have the same force as a statutory code of practice, it may be used as evidence in legal proceedings.

See EHRC guidance, here.

IR35

The government has announced a review into the implementation of the changes to the off-payroll working rules which are due to come into force on 6 April 2020. The review will conclude in mid-February and is intended to address concerns from businesses in order to ensure a smooth implementation rather than review whether the reforms should go ahead.

For more information about the changes to the off-payroll working rules please see our briefing.

Age discrimination

An employment tribunal has held that the dismissal of a University professor under an Employer Justified Retirement Age policy at age 69 was unfai year for employees who are providing unpaid care. The consultation seeks views on a number of aspects of the proposed leave including who should be eligible to take the leave, what the leave can be taken for and the process for taking the leave.


Update posted 12 March 2020

Section 1 written statements

Employers will need to review their contracts to ensure that they comply with the new rules that come into effect for employees and workers engaged on or after 6 April 2020. The key changes are:

  • all workers and employees must be provided with a Section 1 written statement of terms on or before start20after 25 April 2020, will have their statutory maternity pay, paternity pay, shared parental pay, parental bereavement pay or adoption pay based on their pre-furlough normal weekly earnings during the eight week reference period used for calculating the statutory pay even if some or all of this reference period falls during a time they were on furlough.
     
    Updated has announced that it plans to push ahead with implementing the changes to the off-payroll working rules in the private sector from 6 April 2020. It has also published its response to the review. Key points include:

 

  • the rules will only apply to services provided on or after 6 April 2020 (not to services that were provided before that date but invoiced after it)
  • the government will legislate in order to oblige clients to respond when agencies or workers request information about their size
  • HMRC will take a light-touch approach to enforcement in the first year and will not impose penalties for inaccuracies unless there is evidence to show that there has been deliberate non-compliance with the rules and will not use any information gathered from the implementation of the rules to open any historical enquiries

HMRC will run a campaign to raise awareness of the rules and provide support and guidance in various forms to enable companies and contractors to understand the changes.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Whilst a very fast moving issue, both the government and Acas have now published guidance for employers and businesses on how to deal with issues in the workplace surrounding coronavirus.

As part of its strategy to contain coronavirus, the government has announced that it will bring forward emergency legislation temporarily amending the eligibility requirements for SSP, allowing the payment to be made from the first day of sickness absence and also making it available to those advised to self-isolate and those caring for others within the same household who self-isolate. The government has also committed in the Budget that the cost of providing SSP to any employee off work due to coronavirus will be refunded by the government in full for up to 14 days for businesses with fewer than 250 employees.

For further advice on these issues and your response to coronavirus please get in touch with your usual contact or a member of the wider employment team.

Statutory payments

The annual increases to various statutory compensation limits have been announced. These increases are of particular relevance to those making redundancies on or after 6 April 2020 as the maximum amount for a week’s pay (used to calculate statutory redundancy payments) will increase to £538 per week (from £525 per week).

The maximum compensatory award for unfair dismissal increases to £88,519 (from £86,444) where the effective date of termination is on or after 6 April 2020.


Update posted 26 February 2020 

New immigration system

The government has published its plans for the new points-based immigration system which will apply from 1 January 2021 to both EU and non-EU migrant workers.

Under the new system, all would be Tier Two (General) migrants must speak English and will need an offer from an approved sponsor, for a role at the required skill level (i.e. a role requiring qualifications equivalent to A levels) and at the required salary.

The minimum salary threshold will be set at £25,600 (with no regional variation across the UK). However, in certain circumstances, the minimum salary threshold will be reduced to £20,480. There will be no need to advertise a role and there will be no cap on Tier Two work visas.

Confidentiality and NDAs

Acas has published new guidance on non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). This is the latest in a series of developments and, although the guidance does not have the same force as a statutory code of practice, it may be used as evidence in legal proceedings.

 

The Acas guidance discourages the routine use of NDAs. It also states that a worker should be given reasonable time to carefully consider the agreement and makes it clear that NDAs should not be used to stop someone from:

  • reporting discrimination or sexual harassment at work or to the police
  • disclosing a future act of discrimination or harassment
  • whistleblowing

Although we are still awaiting details of the government’s proposed legislation on confidentiality clauses, employers should familiarise themselves with the guidance and review confidentiality provisions in contracts and settlement agreements.

Shared parental pay

The Supreme Court has refused Mr Hextall permission to appeal the decision of the Court of Appeal that it was not direct or indirect discrimination, nor a breach of the equal pay sex equality clause, for him not to be paid enhanced shared parental pay of an amount equivalent to the enhanced maternity pay available to female employees.

This means that the decision of the Court of Appeal in this case is binding. Therefore, it is not discriminatory to pay men on shared parental leave less than the enhanced rate of maternity pay that is paid to women on maternity leave.

(Hextall v Chief Constable of Leicestershire Police)


Future of UK immigration

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) has published its long-awaited report in which it makes various recommendations on the future of the UK immigration system after Brexit.

The new immigration system is expected to come into effect on 1 January 2021 and, although it remains to be seen how the government responds to the MAC report, employers should consider reviewing their resourcing arrangements well before then. This is particularly important for those employers who are dependent on low skilled workers from the EU, given the MAC’s recommendations that only medium-skilled, and not low-skilled workers, should be eligible to apply for a Tier 2 work visa.

Disability discrimination

The EAT has held that in a disability discrimination claim, an employee cannot rely on acts that occur before they have satisfied the definition of disability.

In this case, the employment judge had decided that the employee’s depression amounted to a disability as it had a substantial and long term adverse effect that had lasted for more than 12 months. However, the EAT held that she could only bring a claim based on acts that occurred after this 12 month period had elapsed in order for her to be classed as disabled at the date the act occurred. Before then, the effect had not lasted for 12 months and there was no evidence of a prognosis was that it was likely to last for more than 12 months.

(Tesco Stores Limited v Tennant)

Legal advice privilege

The Court of Appeal has held that legal advice privilege requires the party claiming the privilege to show that the relevant document or communication was created or sent for the dominant purpose of obtaining legal advice. This allows in-house lawyers some opportunity to provide strategic and/or commercial advice at the same time provided that the dominant purpose is still to provide legal advice.

The Court of Appeal also provided some guidance on the application of legal advice privilege to emails sent to multiple recipients simultaneously for their comments, including a lawyer. If the email is sent in order to circulate a draft and collect information, to obtain comments before instructing a lawyer or to get a commercial view, it will not be privileged, even if an in-house lawyer is copied in to the email.

In order to maximise the chance of internal communications attracting legal advice privilege, employers should have in place procedures to ensure commercial and legal emails are kept separate and staff are aware that they should avoid where possible copying emails to multiple recipients (mixing lawyers and non-lawyers).<br%under></br%under>

Following the release, last Thursday, of additional guidance from the government, we have written a briefing for employers to explain more about how the Scheme will work.

Read our guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Time off to volunteer

A new statutory right allowing employees to take emergency volunteer leave in blocks of two, three or four weeks in order to act as a volunteer in health or social care is being introduced.

Read our briefing for details about how this leave will operate.

Other COVID-19 measures

The government has announced a number of employment-related measures and delays, in addition to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • a delay of the extension of the off-payroll working rules to the private sector until 6 April 2021;
  • the suspension of the enforcement of the gender pay gap deadlines for this reporting year (2019/20) and confirmation there will be no expectation on employers to report their gender pay gap data;
  • an announcement that workers will be allowed to carry over up to 4 weeks (not 5.6 weeks) annual leave into the next two leave years – more details to follow shortly in a separate update; and
  • the conversion of all in-person employment tribunal hearings to a case management hearing by telephone or other electronic means to discuss how best to proceed.

Neonatal leave and pay

The government has published its response to the consultation on neonatal leave and pay and will set out the new statutory entitlement in the Employment Bill.

 The government intends that parents of babies who are admitted into hospital as a neonate (28 days old or less) will be eligible for statutory neonatal leave and pay if the admission lasts for a continuous period of 7 days or more. It is proposed that parents will receive a week of neonatal leave and pay (subject to eligibility) for every week that their baby is in neonatal care, capped at a maximum of 12 weeks.

Carers' leave

The government has begun consultation on a new statutory right to one week’s additional unpaid carers’ leave pert caste discrimination.

Philosophical belief discrimination

Gray v Mulberry

Case: The EAT has held that a belief in the sanc20area open to the public, the ECtHR held that this did not exceed what was necessary. The employer’s reasonable suspicion of serious misconduct by employees in a concerted action over a number of months and the extent of the losses could also be a justification for the monitoring.

(López Ribalda and others v Spain)

Legal advice privilege

The Court of Appeal has held that legally privileged emails anding work (currently it must be provided within one month and only applies to employees)

  • the majority of details must be included in one document and a reference to a separate document is only permitted for certain information, for example, pensions or collective agreements
  • the Section 1 statement must set out new particulars, including the days and hours of work (and any variation) and any probationary period, paid leave, benefits and training.

In addition, on 6 April 2020 the reference period used to calculate holiday pay increases from 12 weeks to 52 weeks (or if a worker does not have 52 weeks’ service, however many weeks they have accrued). The government has now updated its guidance on calculating statutory holiday pay for workers without fixed hours or pay in anticipation of this change.

IR35

The government.

(Casamitjana v League Against Cruel Sports)

New statutory rates

The government have published the proposed new rates for statutory maternity pay (SMP), adoption pay (SAP) and paternity pay (SPP) and shared parental pay (ShPP).

SMP, SAP, SPP and ShPP are all expected to increase from £148.68 to £151.20 from 5 April 2020.

The rate of statutory sick pay is also proposed to increase from £94.25 to £95.85 on 6 April 2020.

The National Living Wage for workers aged 25 and over will increase from £8.21 per hour to £8.72 per hour from 1 April 2020. The National Minimum Wage rates will also increase from 1 April 2020:

  • from £7.70 to £8.20 for 21 to 24 year olds
  • from £6.15 to £6.45 for 18 to 20 year olds
  • from £4.35 to £4.55 for 16 and 17 year olds
  • from £3.90 to £4.15 for apprentices

 

Whistleblowing

The Supreme Court has held that it was automatically unfair to dismiss an employee where the person who took the decision to dismiss was not aware that the employee had made protected disclosures and had been misled by the employee’s line manager, who knew of the disclosure and had engineered a dismissal for poor performance.

The Supreme Court agreed with the EAT and overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal, summarising the position by stating “if a person in the hierarchy of responsibility above the employee determines that she (or he) should be dismissed for a reason but hides it behind an invented reason which the decision-maker adopts, the reason for the dismissal is the hidden reason rather than the invented reason.”

(Royal Mail Group Limited v Jhuti) 

Investigations

The EAT has held that the motivation of a senior manager, who was prejudiced against the Claimant because of his trade union activities, could be attributed to the employer even though he did not take the decision to dismiss.

In this case, the senior manager had manipulated the investigation to drive it towards dismissal, by withholding information, amending the terms of reference and making unnecessary and unexplained references to the Claimant’s trade union activities.

The EAT held that the investigation was inadequate and the dismissal was automatically unfair. Although the tribunal had found that the managers who conducted the disciplinary and appeal hearings were not motivated by prejudice towards the Claimant because of his trade union activities, this did not mean that it did not play a part in their decision to dismiss.

(Cadent Gas Limited v Singh)

TUPE and workers

An employment tribunal has held that TUPE applies to workers as well as employees. This is because the definition of employee under TUPE is “an individual who works for another person whether under a contract of service or apprenticeship or otherwise" and the tribunal concluded that the use of the term 'or otherwise' should include limb (b) workers as well as traditional employees.

Although it is only an employment tribunal decision, which is not binding on other tribunals and is likely to be appealed, employers may want to bear in mind the potential impact of the case and to consider workers when undertaking due diligence and complying with information and consultation requirements on a TUPE transfer.

(Dewhurst v Revisecatch Ltd t/a Ecourier and City Sprint (UK) Ltd)

Annual leave - carry over

The ECJ has confirmed that Member States are not obliged to allow annual leave in excess of the four weeks’ annual leave under the Working Time Directive (WTD) to be carried forward to the next leave year if it has been untaken due to sickness.

The ECJ held that the WTD does not preclude national rules or agreements which provide paid annual leave which exceeds the minimum period of four weeks. Any additional paid annual leave is ruled by national law, not the WTD, and, therefore, it is up to Members States to decide whether to allow or exclude the carry over of leave in circumstances where the worker has been unable to take the leave due to sickness.

Although the decision was in relation to two Finnish cases, it confirms the decision of the EAT in Sood Enterprises Ltd v Healy was correct and that the extra 1.6 weeks of leave granted by our national Working Time Regulations 1998 need not be carried forward, unless there is a contractual agreement to the contrary.

(TSN v Hyvinvointialan)


Update posted 14 November 2019

Confidentiality and NDAs

The government has published its response to the Women and Equalities Committee report on the use of non-disclosure agreements in discrimination cases. It restates a number of points set out in the government’s response to its consultation on the misuse of confidentiality clauses, including the proposed new legislation on the use of non-disclosure agreements.

The government also proposes to:

  • consult on whether to introduce a statutory obligation on employers to provide a basic factual reference
  • consider whether to require employers to investigate all discrimination and harassment complaints regardless of whether a settlement is reached
  • investigate the possible adverse effect on individuals of publishing employment tribunal judgments online.

Now that a general election has been called, it may still be some time before the proposals are implemented.

Click here to read the response.

Third-party harassment

The EAT has re-affirmed that an employer cannot be liable for failing to prevent third-party harassment of its employees in the workplace, unless the employer’s own conduct or inaction amounts to harassment relating to a protected characteristic.

The harassment complaint in this case was based on the employer’s failure to take steps to prevent an employee suffering racial abuse by a patient and its failure to ensure staff reported incidents of racial abuse. Although the employer was held not liable for the third-party harassment, the tribunal was critical of the employer’s failure to create a culture where all incidents of racist abuse were formally reported, the lack of feedback when a report was made and the lack of staff training to reinforce the message that such incidents were unacceptable.

(Bessong v Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust)

However, the government is considering whether the third-party harassment provisions should be re-introduced into the Equality Act 2010 and its consultation closed on 2 October 2019, so we await the response.

Redundancy - trial periods

A recent decision of the EAT is a useful reminder of the importance of following the correct process in a redundancy situation when making an offer of suitable alternative employment which is subject to a statutory trial period.

In this case, the employee was informed that he was at risk of redundancy as his role was going to be deleted. He was offered a trial period in a different role but he did not regard this as suitable alternative employment and raised a grievance. When he was eventually dismissed, the employer refused to pay a redundancy payment to him on the basis that he had unreasonably refused an offer of suitable alternative employment and his right to reject the role during the statutory trial period had passed.

However, the EAT held that, as the employer had not issued notice to terminate his employment after he was put at risk of redundancy, the statutory trial period in the new role had not started. It will now be for the tribunal to decide whether his eventual dismissal was on the grounds of redundancy and whether he is entitled to a redundancy payment.

(East London NHS Foundation Trust v O’Connor)

Menopause guidance

Acas has published new guidance to help employers and managers support employees who are affected by menopause symptoms at work. Click here to read the guidance.

 


Update posted 25 October 2019

Covert recording

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has held that it was not a breach of Article 6 (right to a fair trial) or Article 8 (right to respect for a private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, to covertly record employees as part of an investigation into suspected theft and for the recording to be used at trial.

The ECtHR considered a number of factors regarding the proportionality of the video-surveillance, including whether the employees had been notified, the extent of the monitoring, the degree of intrusion and whether the employer had legitimate reasons. As the surveillance in this case was only for 10 days and limited to the checkout in an%timate place in employment contracts and settlement agreements, the government states that using these clauses to silence and intimidate victims of harassment and discrimination cannot be tolerated, and therefore itd that, when assessing whether workplace conduct amounts to harassment, it is appropriate to assess that conduct within the context in which it takes place.

In this case, the Claimant brought a harassment claim on the ground that he had been called a “fat ginger pikey”. He was diabetic and had strong links with the traveller community. The Employment Tribunal noted that the comment is potentially discriminatory but that the office culture in question was one of good natured jibing and teasing among competitive sales people and, at the time, the Claimant did not take the remark amiss. The EAT confirmed that the Employment Tribunal was entitled to make this finding.

Notably, the EAT stressed that harassment claims are highly fact sensitive and context specific. Employers should, therefore, remain wary of tolerating potentially discriminatory comments dressed up as workplace “banter”.

Autumn 2018 Budget

The key employment-related announcement in this Autumn’s Budget is that, as expected, the public%2September 2018

Victimisation

Saad v Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust

Case: The EAT has held that an employee will be protected from victimisation if they wrongly but honestly believed the allegations they made to be true, even if they had an ulterior motive for making those allegations.

The claimant had made an allegation of racial or religious discrimination. The tribunal found that the allegation had been made in order to postpone an assessment of his skills and that the allegation itself was false, but because the claimant subjectively (albeit unreasonably) believed his allegation to be true, the tribunal concluded that it had not been made in bad faith. The claimant was therefore entitled to protection from victimisation.

Employment contracts and resignation

Brown & another v Neon Management & another

Case: The High Court has held that resignation on a lengthy notice period could constitute affirmation of an employment contract. The claimants in this case had resigned in response to breaches of their employment contracts, but did so on notice periods of six months and 12 months respectively.

The High Court found that it would be unconscionable to keep one’s right to discharge a repudiated contract for that length of time – in the face of a repudiatory breach of contract, the employee must not leave it too long before resigning. By resigning on such lengthy notice periods, the claimants in this case had affirmed their contracts.

Agency workers

Brooknight Guarding Ltd v Matei

Case: The EAT has held that an employee on a zero hours contract was an agency worker due to the temporary nature of his assignment.

Mr Matei was employed by the respondent on a zero hours contract and was assigned to work as a security guard for different clients, but mainly worked for one client. Mr Matei claimed he was an agency worker, but the respondent argued that he worked permanently for one client and was therefore not an agency worker.

The EAT said that the question of whether Mr Matei was an agency worker came down to whether he was working temporarily and concluded that he was – the position was not indefinite. Mr Matei was therefore an agency worker and entitled, after 12 weeks service, to the same terms and conditions as someone employed directly by the client.

Brexit update

The government has published a technical notice on workplace rights in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The notice states that there will be minimal change to UK legislation derived from EU law and existing employment rights would not be changed.

However, there may be changes in relation to employee rights on an employer’s insolvency and in respect of European Works Councils. In that regard, the notice recommends that:

  • UK and EU employees working in an EU country should make themselves aware of the relevant implementing legislation in that country to confirm whether they will still be protected in the event of their employer's insolvency under the national guarantee fund established in that country
  • UK businesses with EWCs may need to review those agreements in light of there no longer being reciprocal arrangements between the UK and the EU.

Update posted 20 August 2018

Employment status and personal service companies

Sprint Electric Ltd v Buyer’s Dream Ltd and another

Case: The High Court has expressed concern about the level of artificiality involved with the use of personal service companies for tax avoidance reasons in an employment context.

In this case neither party had questioned the status of their relationship, which was governed by a service company arrangement. However, the High Court said that where a court had concerns that labels chosen by the parties to apply to their relationship were untrue and had been applied as a tax avoidance scheme, it could and should consider the issue of its own motion.

The dispute in this case primarily concerned the ownership of intellectual property. The High Court determined that the relationship was really an employer-employee relationship, and decided the intellectual property dispute accordingly. The case illustrates that courts are prepared to challenge the use of personal service companies of their own volition and in wide-ranging contexts.

EU settlement scheme

The Home Office has published an employer toolkit  to help guide employers through the new EU settlement scheme.

The toolkit includes a briefing pack for communicating key facts to employees, a leaflet with important info for EU citizens in the UK, a leaflet with steps to apply for settled status, a leaflet with key terminology, and various posters with important dates, the benefits of applying and steps to apply.

Read article: Settled status: the Home Office announces further details of the EU Settlement Scheme

Gender pay gap reporting

The House of Commons’ BEIS Committee has published a report which includes a number of recommendations for strengthening gender pay gap reporting and closing the gender pay gap, including:

  • reporting obligations to extend to companies with 50 or more employees
  • reporting to include a narrative explanation for pay disparity and an action plan to tackle the gender pay gap
  • partner remuneration to be include in reported figures
  • salary quartiles to be replaced by deciles (to allow a more nuanced analysis)
  • further guidance to be provided to clarify areas of ambiguity (e.g. how bonus figures are calculated)
  • giving the EHRC specific enforcement powers to levy fines for non-compliance.

It is now up to the government to consider these recommendations and decide which, if any, to implement.

Meanwhile, the Government Equalities Office has also published guidance setting out recommendations on how employers can close the gender pay gap.

Enforcement of the Equality Act 2010

The Women and Equalities Committee has launched an inquiry into the enforcement of the Equality Act 2010.

Among other things, it has invited evidence on how easy it is for the public to understand and enforce their statutory rights, and whether enforcement of the Equality Act 2010 succeeds in securing change.


Update posted 02 August 2018

Implied term of trust and confidence

James-Bowen v Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis

Case: The Supreme Court has found that an employer does not owe a duty of care to conduct litigation in a manner which protects its employees from economic or reputational harm.

This case arose from the arrest of a suspected terrorist who made allegations of serious assault against the arresting officers and argued that the Commissioner of Police was vicariously liable for their actions. As part of a settlement, the Commissioner made an admission of liability and apologised for the officers’ actions.

The officers then claimed that, in entering such a settlement, the Cp>The latest quarterly statistics published by the Ministry of Justice for the period April to June 2018 show:

  • there has been an increase of 165% in the number of single employment tribunal claims lodged compared to the same period in 2017 (the last quarter when fees were in force)
  • there has been an increase of 344% in the number of multiple claims lodged compared to the same period in 2017.

Parental bereavement leave

The Parental Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Act 2018 has received Royal Assent and is expected to come into force in 2020.

The Act will give all employed parents who lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from 24 weeks of pregnancy, a right to two weeks' leave and statutory parental bereavement pay, if they meet the eligibility criteria. Details of how and when the leave may be taken will be set out in regulations in due course.


Update posted 21 September 2018

Legal privilege

The Director of the SFO v Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation Limited

Case: The Court of Appeal has held that documents, prepared during the course of an internal investigation by lawyers and a firm of forensic accountants, for the purpose of resisting or avoiding contemplated legal proceedings or criminal prosecution, were protected by litigation privilege.

This important decision overturns the previous High Court decision and will be welcome news for any organisation faced with conducting an internal investigation into allegations of wrongdoing but it will be important to note that the application of legal privilege is fact-sensitive and will depend on the circumstances of each case. For more details see our briefing.

TUPE transfers

HMRC has changed its enforcement of national minimum wage (NMW) liabilities where there has been a TUPE transfer. With effect from 2 July 2018, all NMW liabilities will be enforced against the transferee employer. Penalties triggered by arrears that accrued before employees transferred under TUPE will also be enforced against the transferee rather than against the transferor (as was previously the case).

Calculating the correct NMW is notoriously difficult and the penalties for getting it wrong can be substantial (currently 200% of the total NMW underpayment, with an overall maximum penalty of £20,000 per underpaid worker), so organisations taking on employees under TU/p>

The emails contained legal advice about whether the Claimant, who had an existing disability discrimination claim against his employer, could be dismissed on the grounds of redundancy during a planned reorganisation. The emails were legally privileged and, although privilege can be lost if there is an iniquitous purpose, the Court of Appeal did not agree with the EAT that it was advice to act in an underhand or iniquitous way by 'cloaking' a discriminatory dismissal as redundancy. It was the sort of advice which employment lawyers give 'day in, day out' about the risks involved where an employer wanted to consider an underperforming employee for redundancy.

(Curless v Shell International Limited)

Religious and philosophical beliefs

The belief in the right to own the copyright of your own creative work has been held not to be a philosophical belief protected by the Equality Act 2010.

The Claimant’s refusal to sign a Copyright Agreement, which assigned to her employer the copyright in any work she created during the period she was employed, led to her subsequent dismissal when no resolution could be reached. Although the Claimant claimed this was discrimination on the grounds of her belief in the right to own the copyright of your own creative work, the Court of Appeal held that this dispute about the wording and interpretation of an agreement could not be a philosophical belief.

(Gray v MulberryCompany (Design) Ltd)

Confidentiality and NDAs

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published guidance for employers on the use of confidentiality agreements in discrimination cases. The guidance sets out best practice and, although it does not have the same force as a statutory code of practice, it may be used as evidence in legal proceedings.

The guidance states that a confidentiality agreement should spell out the details of what information is confidential and it should not be used to stop employees from whistleblowing, reporting criminal activity or disclosing other information as required by law. It should also not prevent a worker from discussing a discriminatory incident unless, for example, the victim has requested confidentiality around their discriminatory experience.

Workers should be given time to read and fully understand the terms of a confidentiality agreement and be given a copy. Employers are also encouraged to monitor the use of confidentiality agreements in their organisation.

 


Update posted 11 October 2019

Religious discrimination

An employment tribunal has held that a Christian doctor, who claimed that he was unfairly dismissed for refusing to address transgender individuals by their preferred pronoun, was not discriminated against on the grounds of his religious beliefs.

The tribunal found that the doctor’s particular views were incompatible with human dignity and conflicted with the fundamental rights of others so they were not protected religious or philosophical beliefs under the Equality Act 2010.

(Mackereth v The Department for Work and Pensions and another)

Investigations

The EAT has held that the removal of evaluative conclusions from a draft investigation report did not make the dismissal procedurally unfair.

The draft investigation report had been amended following advice from the employer’s in-house solicitor that it should not set out evaluative conclusions as those judgments should properly be left to the disciplinary panel. There was no suggestion that any evidential material had been withheld from the disciplinary panel and submissions about the changes in the report were considered during the appeal hearing.

This case is a useful reminder that the role of an investigator is to decide whether there is a prima facie case to answer and it is then for the disciplinary panel to make their own evaluations.

(Dronsfield v The University of Reading)

IR35

The First-tier Tribunal (Tax) has held that IR35 applied to the successive contracts of three news presenters working for the BBC.

The tribunal held that there was mutuality of obligation because the BBC was obliged to provide and pay for a minimum number of days' work and the presenters were obliged to be available on a 'first-call basis'. There was no meaningful right of substitution in the contracts and the BBC exercised a degree of control consistent with employment as it determined the place of work and the presenters were obliged to attend meetings, training and appraisals and adhere to the BBC’s editorial guidelines. The presenters were also subject to restrictions on outside activities, including working for others.

(Paya Limited and others v HMRC)

Changes to IR35 in the private sector are due to come into force in April 2020.

Adrian Martin shares his top five tips to help you prepare in the video here.

Inclusive workspaces

The CIPD has published a report on Building Inclusive Workspaces which sets out some of the key actions employers can take to enhance workplace inclusion.

 


Update posted 26 September 2019 

Is vegetarianism a philosophical belief?

An employment tribunal has held at a preliminary hearing that vegetarianism is not a philosophical belief that is capable of protection under the Equality Act 2010. The tribunal held it did not meet the necessary criteria because:

  • it did not relate to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behaviour. The tribunal’s view was that it was a lifestyle choice.
  • it did not attain the required level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance. There were numerous, differing reasons for being vegetarian and the tribunal contrasted this with veganism where the reasons for adopting veganism are largely the same and there was a clear cogency and cohesion in the belief.
  • it did not have a similar status and cogency to religious beliefs.

(Conisbee v Crossley Farms Limited)

Rest breaks and detriment

The EAT has held that it was an unlawful detriment for an employer to threaten a worker with dismissal for refusing to work at a client’s premises because on a previous occasion the client had not allowed him to take a rest break as required by the Working Time Regulations.

In addition to the right to specified rest breaks, workers are protected against suffering a detriment on the grounds that they refuse to comply with a requirement in breach of the Working Time Regulations or allege that the employer had infringed their rights.

This case serves as a useful reminder of workers’ rights and the fact that they apply even if the worker is working at another premises.

(Pazur v Lexington Catering Services Ltd)

Sexual harassment

The EAT has held that, when a female manager briefly massaged the shoulders of a male colleague whilst he was sitting at his desk in an open-plan office, it did not amount to sexual harassment. There was no evidence that the conduct was related to sex and, although the conduct was unwanted, it was a one off isolated incident which the tribunal held to be a misguided attempt at encouragement.

Although the conduct did not amount to sexual harassment on the facts of this case, it highlights the need for employers to have a clear policy and training for employees and managers setting out what is and is not acceptable conduct in the workplace.

(Raj v Capita Business Services Limited)

Health at work

Senior Associate Annelise Tracy Phillips writes for People Management on the government’s plans for health at work and the latest consultation on how employers can better support employees experiencing long-term ill-health.

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