Covid employer guidance updates | June 2021

Delay to the Roadmap means the Work from Home guidance continues

The Government confirmed on 14 June that the full easing of lockdown restrictions in England will be delayed for four more weeks. Next steps will become clearer over time, but employers will need to adjust return to work strategies according to the revised timeline.

For those employees who cannot work from home, COVID-secure requirements need to remain in place.

Employers preparing to re-open premises may also need to consider other health and safety factors (for example, risks associated with legionella, resulting from reduced building occupancy throughout the pandemic and water system stagnation).

Government announces mandatory vaccination for care home workers

The Government announced that vaccinations against COVID-19 are to be mandatory for all staff at English care homes with older adult residents. Staff who refuse vaccination (with certain exceptions permitted) will potentially face dismissal. Although employers are permitted to dismiss an employee where a continued employment would be illegal, consideration of other options such as redeployment to another role and fair dismissal processes will remain necessary.

Health and Safety protections officially extended to workers

From 31 May 2021, protection from detrimental treatment in certain health and safety cases (under section 44(1)(d) and (e) in the Employment Rights Act 1996 (ERA 1996)) was extended to workers.

This follows the judgment in R (Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and another [2020] EWHC 3050 (Admin) and means that workers (not just employees) are protected from detriment if they are absent (or propose to be) due to a reasonable belief that attendance at work would put them in serious and imminent danger.  They are also protected if they are taking steps (or proposing to take steps) to protect themselves and/or others in the reasonable belief of serious and imminent danger. This is particularly relevant with ongoing COVID-19 compliance rules in the workplace.

Government to commence consultation on flexible working

The Government confirmed its plans to begin a consultation on whether flexible working should become the default option, in the absence of reasons for an employer not to allow it. Currently employers are free to decline flexible working requests for prescribed fair reasons, provided they deal with requests reasonably and within a set timeframe. An absolute right to work from home is unlikely to result from the consultation but there may be a change in rules and required approach following the consultation.

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