Back to Work Strategies for Employers: Health & Safety Standards, Employment Law
By Caroline Morris
UK Job Retention Scheme to support Employers and Employees throughout the pandemic crisis
Due to the pandemic and the resultant slump in work the government has agreed to pay up to 80% of an employee’s pay, capped at £2,500 per employee per month. There are certain qualifying criteria. The guidance shows that the employee must not be doing any work during the furlough period, but they can attend training. The furlough period must be at least 3 weeks, although it can be longer. At this stage, the government scheme is due to end by the end of May, although it is likely to be extended. KEY LITIGATION RISK: with Governments across the globe being in a situation of supporting businesses, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) foresee that inspections and controls across all businesses benefiting from state aid to be strict, eliminating fraudulent applications for state aid while employees have still been working.
Protecting the safety of the workforce and best practice for organising a transition back to work
The general principle is that the employer is responsible for the health and safety of their employees in terms of physical and mental health. Employers must cover risks of COVID-19 when transitioning employees back to work. Follow government guidance to ensure safe transition and to minimise a recurrence. Protocols and “back to work” plans and strategies must introduce measures taken to reduce the risk of employee infection and look to minimise exposure points. HSF, Allen & Overy and Linklaters have included a number of factors that must be included and considered by employers in the “back to work” strategy. HSF has recommended for employers to introduce disciplinary measures in the case that employees refuse to fulfill the instructions of protocols and measures that employers put in place to reduce the risk of infected employees. KEY LITIGATION RISKS: HSF and Linklaters expect to see an increase in individuals’ and class litigation from employees and their representatives, in particular to COVID-19 related illnesses as a result of employers failure to provide a safe working environment (e.g. last week Amazon has been ordered to temporarily close six warehouses in France).