Many employers were concerned that the Government would not publish their April 2021 proposed statutory rates because of the immense focus on the pandemic. However, the rates were published in December to keep statutory rates in line with the consumer price index (CPI).Continue reading
On 4 March 2020, the Prime Minister announced in Parliament that the Government will introduce, as part of its emergency coronavirus legislation, measures to allow statutory sick pay to be paid from the first day of sickness, rather than after three waiting days. The Government intends to apply this measure retrospectively from 13 March 2020.
The Government announced further measures in the Budget 2020 on 11 March 2020, namely that:
- entitlement to statutory sick pay will temporarily extend to those who:
- are unable to work because they have been advised to self-isolate, even if they do not have symptoms in effect from 13 March 2020 or
- are caring for others in the same household who are displaying coronavirus symptoms and have been told to self-isolate
- employers with fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020 will be refunded two weeks’ eligible statutory sick pay costs related to coronavirus, per employee
- employers will have to keep sickness records but employees should not be required to provide a fit note
- the Government will introduce an alternative to the fit note, whereby employees who are advised to self-isolate will be able to get a notification from NHS 111 that can be used as evidence for their absence during the coronavirus outbreak
- the Government will set up a process for repaying statutory sick pay as soon as possible.
Evidence of Sickness
Current government guidance is that, to prevent the spread of coronavirus, individuals with flu-like symptoms should obtain medical advice from NHS 111 online and should not go to see their GP.
Most sickness absence policies allow for employees to self-certify absences of up to seven days. Where an employee who is absent for more than seven days advises that they have flu-like symptoms, the employer will need to make an exception to its normal requirement for medical evidence. Nevertheless, the employer should take all reasonable steps to verify the sickness absence. This could include requiring the employee to make regular telephone contact, and requiring the employee to explain what medical advice they have sought and followed. The employee could be asked to provide evidence where possible, but employers should act reasonably in what they require from employees in the circumstances.
In the Budget 2020, on 11 March 2020, the Chancellor announced that employees who are advised to self-isolate to prevent the spread of coronavirus will ‘soon’ be able to obtain an alternative to the fit note from the NHS 111 service.
For the purposes of determining eligibility for statutory sick pay, employers are able to set their own rules on what evidence they reasonably require of employees’ illness. Legislation does not require that the evidence is in the form of a fit note.
Rate of Statutory Sick Pay
When in force, the Social Security Benefits Up-rating Order 2020 (still in draft form) will increase the weekly rate of statutory sick pay from £94.25 to £95.85 from 6 April 2020. The lower earnings limit for national insurance purposes will increase from £118 to £120 per week from 6 April 2020.
Qualifying days are days on which the employee would usually be required to work. Employers and employees can agree between themselves what days should be qualifying days, as long as each week has at least one qualifying day. Qualifying days should not be defined by reference to the days on which the employee has been sick.
Many employers define qualifying days as the same days the employee is expected to perform work under the contract of employment. Then the first three normal working days of sickness are qualifying days, but they do not attract payment of statutory sick pay.
If you need advice any further advice regarding your staff and Statutory Sick Pay, please do get in touch. Call me on 0118 940 3032 or click here to email me.
Post-Brexit Immigration Rule Changes
Regardless of whether a deal on the UK’s exit from the EU is agreed, the rules around the employment of EU nationals will change sooner or later. Once the UK leaves the EU, free movement will end, although in practice this is likely to be delayed pending legislation to repeal the current arrangements. Also, it will take time to put in place the practical arrangements necessary to make this possible. The government has introduced a scheme under which EU workers already in the UK will be able to apply for “settled status”, to be able to live and work in the UK indefinitely.
However, as an employer you need to be aware that, going forward, the employment of workers from the EU is likely to be subject to restrictions in the same way as the employment of other foreign nationals, so will need to adjust their recruitment processes accordingly. Recruitment and retention policies will need to be reviewed for effective workforce planning.
Extend Itemised Pay Statements to Workers
From 6 April 2019, the right to an itemised pay statement will extend to workers, not just employees. Further, where a member of staff’s pay varies according to time worked, the employer will have to include on the itemised pay statement the total number of hours worked for which variable pay is received. This can be done either as an aggregate figure or as separate figures for different types of work or different rates of pay.
Be Aware of National Minimum Wage Rate Increases
The national living wage is due to increase to £8.21 per hour from 1 April 2019. Other national minimum wage rates are also due to increase, with hourly rates rising to £7.70 for workers aged at least 21 but under 25, to £6.15 for workers aged at least 18 but under 21 and to £4.35 for workers aged under 18 who are no longer of compulsory school age. The hourly apprentice rate will increase to £3.90 and the daily accommodation offset will increase to £7.55.
Meet Increased Statutory Family and Sick Pay Rates
The weekly amount for statutory family pay rates is expected to increase to £148.68 for 2019/20. This rate will apply to maternity pay, adoption pay, paternity pay, shared parental pay and maternity allowance. The increase normally occurs on the first Sunday in April, which in 2019 is 7 April. The weekly rate for statutory sick pay is expected to increase to £94.25 from 6 April 2019.
Start Preparing For Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay
The government has confirmed that it intends to introduce a right for bereaved parents to take paid time off work. Under the current proposals, bereaved parents will be able to take leave as a single two-week period, as two separate periods of one week each, or as a single week. They will have 56 weeks from their child’s death to take leave. The new right is expected to come into force in April 2020, but employers should start preparing for it during 2019, and could decide to introduce their own bereavement leave policy if they don’t already have one.
We will look at these issues and others relevant to your business at our next Employment Law Update workshop in April 2019. Click here for more details and to book online.
Do you have a member of staff who always seems to be off sick, or who doesn’t turn up at work as often as they should do? What’s the best way to handle this?
The first thing you need to do is find out exactly how many days your employee has been off work due to illness and why. What next? Watch this video to find out how to meet to with your employee and what you expect from them next.
If you have any specific questions about handling short term sickness issues with your team, call us 0118 940 3032 or email email@example.com for some confidential advice.
There’s a lot more to running a business than ‘doing business’. You have to spend time looking after your staff too! And that involves understanding all the legal implications of recruiting, retaining and releasing staff. The law changes on a regular basis, so you really need to know what’s going on, in order to keep on the right side of the law.
Because you’re busy doing what you do, in this blog we’ll bring you a summary of some of the recent legal changes that you need to know about. We discussed them all at our Employment Law Update workshop in May. If you have any questions about particular issues and how they relate to your employees, please do get in touch. We’ll run another workshop in the autumn.
March 2015: Companions – from March this year, changes have been made to the right to be accompanied in disciplinary meetings. Employees now have the right to choose any fellow employee, and employers must agree to this choice. The employee must think about the practicalities of their choice and can change their mind at any time. The request to be accompanied does not have to be in writing, but employees must give their employer time to make the necessary arrangements for the meeting.
April 2015: Parental Leave – before this year, parental leave was 18 weeks before the 5th birthday of the child. This has been extended to 18 weeks before the 18th birthday. The right to parental leave is an employee’s right to be absent from work for the purpose of caring for a child for whom he or she has parental responsibility. Parents can use it to spend more time with their children and achieve a better balance between their work and family life. The time is unpaid and employees must have completed one year’s service with the company to be eligible.
April 2015: Shared Parental Leave – this is a new right enabling mothers, fathers, partners and adopters to choose how to share time off work after their child is born or placed. It applies to children born on or after 5 April 2015 and must be taken by the child’s 1st birthday. The basic rate of pay is £139.58 per week.
This leave does not replace maternity leave, statutory maternity pay or the maternity allowance and is optional to parents. It allows the mother to end her maternity leave early and allow the father to take leave instead. It does not replace the father’s paid ordinary paternity leave.
Adopters and surrogate parents have the same rights as others. A mother can share her leave with the child’s father, her husband, partner or civil partner, a partner living in an enduring family relationship, but not with grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, aunts or uncles, nieces or nephews.
Holiday Pay Calculations – in a recent case, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that a week’s pay, when calculating holiday pay, must include overtime that employees are required to work, even if the employer is not contractually obliged to offer a minimum number of overtime hours.
The government has introduced the Deduction from Wages (Limitation) Regulations 2014, which limits any potential back claims for holiday pay to two years for claims made from 1 July 2015. Arrears are limited to claims in the last three months.
The following now need to be included in calculating holiday pay: compulsory overtime, semi-voluntary overtime, commission and supplements for on call and anti social hours. It applies to the first four weeks of holiday only.
Keep reading our blogs for news on more employment law changes that will be coming in later this year.
The Department for Work & Pensions has finally launched its service for employers, employees and GPs, to help employees who have been sick for four weeks or more to return to work.
It has been designed to reduce sick pay costs for employers by facilitating a quicker return to work and by providing an occupational health service to small businesses with limited access to this type of resource.
As an employer you can access web and telephone advice about any work related health matters affecting you and your employees by visiting www.FitForWork.org or by calling 0800 032 6235.
It is not mandatory to use the service but you should now consider updating your sickness absence policies to reflect the availability of Fit for Work. You should make sure your managers know about the resources offered and that they may be contacted by the service concerning an employee referred to them. They also need to understand how to deal with a Return to Work Plan from Fit for Work and the fact that this plan removes the need for a fit note while it remains current.
You can refer an employee to Fit for Work if:
- They are still employed by you
- They have been absent for four weeks or more
- They have not been referred for an assessment within the last 12 months
- They have provided consent to be referred and
- They have not already been referred to the service by their GP.
Fit for Work offers:
- Advice by telephone and online, including information on adjustments at work or general work related health advice
- Referral for an occupational health assessment. Employees referred will be contacted within two days of the referral and a telephone assessment completed. In some cases a face to face assessment may be deemed necessary
- A Return to Work Plan. This will be provided to the employer by email and the employer should then consider whether it can act on the recommendations.
Fit for Work may contact you to gain an understanding of your specific workplace, when recommendations in the Return to Work Plan have not been actioned, or in cases where the relationship between you and your employee are identified as one of the obstacles to a return to work.
Employees will be discharged from Fit for Work when they have returned to work (including on a phased return basis) or when the Fit for Work service can no longer provide assistance or if a return to work has not been possible after three months.
Find out more at www.FitForWork.org or call 0800 032 6235.
Can Santa get the sack?
Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat … but so is Santa! He’s now too big to fit down the chimney; the elves think they have man flu; and Rudolf says the roads are blocked with snow so he can’t get to work!
You might think that Christmas runs smoothly at the North Pole – after all, they have all year to plan it. However, this year there are a few problems for the Head Reindeer (HR) department to sort out.
Father Christmas is too big to fit down the chimney. All year Santa has been relaxing at the North Pole and as a result, his girth has expanded somewhat. The Head Reindeer is worried that he won’t be able to do his job properly – after all, he is supposed to climb down chimneys in order to deliver presents. Can he get the sack for not being able to carry out the work in his job description? If Santa is morbidly obese and can’t carry out his daily tasks, he could be classed as disabled. This means that sacking him because of his girth may be discrimination – something the Head Reindeer would like to avoid!
The elves think they have ‘man flu’. They’re sneezing and coughing and their noses are running, so they’re really like to stay in bed – especially during December when work gets really busy. Are they allowed to take time off sick, when Father Christmas thinks they just have colds? Staff taking time off for sickness usually increases over the winter months, so the Head Reindeer will need to speak to each of the elves and find out what’s actually wrong with them and make sure they have the right evidence to support the reasons for their absence. Keeping in contact with sick staff is always a good idea. After all, how can Christmas carry on without the elves?
Rudolf says the roads are blocked with snow. He says he can’t get to the office because of the weather conditions. He can’t really work from home, although for some staff, it’s worth setting up remote access, so that they can still work, even if they’re not in the office. The Head Reindeer needs to make sure that the Staff Handbook is up to date, to cover issues like bad weather. And he needs to find out how else to get Rudolf to work, if there is snow on the road, or Christmas might have to be cancelled.
With a little bit of forward planning (and perhaps some advice from an expert) the Head Reindeer (HR) manager will be able to make sure that everything goes to plan for a great Christmas. At least he can let all the elves take time off together, once the festive period is over!
Long term sickness can be difficult to deal with in any business. However, when that business is staffed by just two or three people, when one of them needs to take a long period of time off work, because they are ill, the impact can be even greater. How do you cope without them? How long do you have to keep their job open?
One of our clients is a small agency with just three members of staff, including the business owner. Earlier this year, their secretary was rushed into hospital. After three weeks of tests, she was told that she should take another 2-3 months to fully recover. The business owner knew that this was the best course of action, not wanting his employee to return to work before she was really well enough to work again. So that he and his other team member weren’t over loaded with work (which could have made both of them stressed and ill!) they took on a part-time Admin Assistant to cover the work. The boss still had to pay Statutory Sick Pay to his recuperating secretary and, due to changes to the law that occurred in April 2014, he was not able to claim any of this back – something that is easier for larger companies to bear.
All through this time, the business owner had kept in touch with his secretary to see how she was getting on. As the agreed period of sick leave was coming to an end, it became apparent that she might not be ready to return to a full-time job. There were other complications that meant that a full risk assessment would have to be carried out, should she return. How long should the job be kept open?
Our advice to our client was to write to the employee’s doctor and ask for a full medical report. Even though this had to be paid for, it showed that she was not ready to go back to working full-time. During her time away, the other members of the small team had realised that they really did need full-time support. Because the lines of communication had been kept open, the three of them were able to reach an amicable decision about the future, which suited both of them.
The lessons they have all taken away from this situation is to stay in communication (aside from the fact that it shows you care!) and to get advice from an HR professional, to make sure you are complying with employment law at all stages. When you follow these two tips, potentially tricky situations are so much easier to resolve.
The Next Round of Employment Law Updates
Just when you thought you knew everything you needed to know about employing staff, they changed the law! Here is a summary of some of the recent changes that you need to know about.
- Tribunal penalties for employers – from 6 April penalties can be imposed on employers who lose tribunals. This could be 50% of the award between £100 and £5000 where the employer breaches the employee’s rights and where there are aggravating factors; or where the employer has not made a genuine mistake but has made a deliberate breach of the ACAS code. If you run a small business there is some leniency, but larger employers are expected to follow the new rules.
- ACAS Early Conciliation – from 6 May, early conciliation is compulsory before a claim can be submitted. The claimant must contact ACAS, who will issue an early conciliation certificate when the process is complete. As an employer, this now gives you opportunity to get early warning of a case or to settle.
- Statutory pay rates – from 6 April, maternity, paternity and adoption is raised to £138.18. Sick pay rises to £87.55 and gross pay for redundancy is £464.
- Abolition of the percentage threshold – before 6 April employers could claim back sick pay if it exceeded 13% of the employees Class 1 National Insurance in the month. That threshold has now been abolished.
- Abolition of SSP record keeping obligations – from 6 April there will be no requirement to keep specified records of dates of sickness and SSP payments. Before this there was a requirement to keep records for three years.
There are more changes proposed for later in the year, which I’ll tell about in future blogs. If you need to know how any of the changes specifically affect your business and your employees, do get in touch and I’ll talk you through what you need to know.