Covid employer guidance updates | February 2021

Government expands the testing available to workplaces

The Government has announced that it has widened the criteria for joining the workplace rapid testing programme to increase workplace testing in sectors open during lockdown, to detect Covid-19 in people who are not showing symptoms. Businesses with more than 50 employees (reduced from 250 employees) will now be able to make use of workplace testing. The government said that this hugely increases the number of different businesses that are able to sign up, as small and medium size companies can now benefit from rapid testing.

For information on workplace vaccinations please see Charlie Maples' article here.

Publication of employers who use the CJRS

On 26 January 2021, HMRC published a list of businesses who have made furlough claims in December 2020. HMRC has explained that the decision to publish the list of businesses was taken to ensure that they meet their transparency commitments and, also in a bid, to deter fraudulent claims. January's publication only includes the names of organisations claiming furlough, however, from February additional information will be published, including, an indication of the value of the claim within a banded range.

Woman and Equalities Committee publish report on gendered economic impact of Covid-19

The Woman and Equalities Committee published its report – Unequal Impact? Coronavirus and the gendered economic impact on 9 February 2021, which addresses the extent to which gender equality has been embedded into public policy responses to the Covid-19 pandemic and how to improve equality data. The report covers a variety of topics, including childcare, labour market and employment and pregnancy and maternity discrimination. It also makes a wide range of recommendations that the government should implement, including removing the 26 weeks' service threshold for employees to request flexible working arrangements.

The committee has also urged that gender pay gap reporting be reinstated for FY 2019/2020 and 2020/2021.

The full report can be accessed here.

Remote hearings and wearing face masks/coverings in tribunals

The President of Employment Tribunals in England and Wales (Judge Barry Clarke) and the President of Employment Tribunals in Scotland (Judge Shona Simon) have issued advice regarding arrangements for hearings and the wearing of masks/face coverings in the light of the enhanced Covid-19 restrictions announced at the beginning of January 2021.

The Presidents have clarified that employment tribunals are generally to facilitate hearings being held remotely by CVP and should only hold in person hearings where necessary in the interests of justice.

They have also issued stricter advice on wearing face masks/covering in hearing rooms (subject to whether an individual is exempt from wearing a mask), which explains that employment judges and members should strongly encourage the wearing of masks/face coverings by everyone in a tribunal hearing room, although the person who is directly addressing the tribunal and/or the judge or panel member does not need to wear a mask when speaking. Face masks/coverings are also required in any public area within a tribunal.

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