The past few months have seen employers face immense change. Most of which has been fast-moving. It is essential, now more than ever, to ensure your business is compliant with employment law to reduce the risk of claims against you. 
Here are a few critical areas to consider. Make sure you get advice if you are unsure of what applies to your business. It is better to get help now than deal with employment tribunals and claims of neglect later. 
The Health and Safety of Remote Employees 
Did you know if you have a workforce of more than five people you still have obligations under The Health and Safety At Work Act 1974? This applies even if your employees are working remotely from their own home. You need to ensure you carry out a risk assessment for employees working from home to highlight any areas of concern. As an employer, you are responsible for any changes that are needed. 
The pandemic created an urgent need for people to be working from home. Therefore many of these considerations have been overlooked. This has been mainly due to the practical difficulties of a physical inspection during the lockdown. Ask your staff to undertake a self-assessment, for example, or submit photographs of their workspace, chair and environment. This information on the ACAS website may be useful for you, or you can contact me for advice. You could be breaking the law if adequate measures are not put in place. 
Flexible Working 
The Flexible Working Regulations 2014 state that an employee who has been "continuously employed for a period of at least 26 weeks is entitled to make a flexible working application". Employers can only refuse a request for one of eight reasons allowed by the legislation, which must be given in writing along with details of your company's appeals procedure. 
You may find that there is an increase in these requests, and you must give each application due care and consideration. 
Work-related stress 
Under the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974, organisations must assess the risk of work-related stress of their employees. Over recent months there has been a rise in stress, so it is vital to check in with your employees regularly. Make sure you remind staff to take regular breaks when working from home. Also, ensure they are not working longer hours than necessary and taking time off at weekends. Check-in with weekly calls to ensure they are coping. 
Employment Contracts 
Ensure you have reviewed the employment contracts of your staff. You may wish to include new provisions in your contracts covering home working. If you have furloughed staff, you will need to consider a contract revision and a letter confirming these arrangements. You may have also taken steps to reduce working hours for some staff. Some companies have found they need to redeploy staff or change job descriptions during this time. Any changes to the original contract must be documented and reissued. If any changes are permanent, such as the place of work, the employee has the right to be consulted in the renegotiation of the contract. 
You may also want to include a clause about a right to make redundancies if work reduces, or the right to alter the working hours. 
New policies 
You may wish to consider writing new policies, so staff are clear about procedures relating to several areas around their employment. 
A work from home policy outlining health and safety, data management and security and equipment that may be required. 
Revisions to your disciplinary, grievance and performance management procedures to cater for remote working. With meetings being held by video conferencing and how investigations would be conducted should this arise. 
A temporary revision to sickness policies. This will enable you to deal with employees who are not sick but are self-isolating. Employees who are quarantined after returning from abroad. Plus employees who are "shielding" because they are clinically vulnerable or live with those who are. You will need to consider if you want to pay sick pay in these circumstances and what evidence you require. 
Workplace safety measures 
The rules are clear on returning staff to the workplace you must ensure that 
• Everyone should stay 2 metres apart where possible (applies to England) 
• If it's not possible, people should be at least 1 metre apart, and the employer should make additional changes to keep people safe. This might include things like wearing face coverings, working side by side instead of face to face, or using screens or barriers to separate people. 
• Make sure you do a full assessment and ensure the working conditions have been updated. This will protect you from potential future negligence claims. Find out more here about making your workplace COVID secure. 
As an employer, you do have the right to tell employees when they can take a holiday. The exception is for anyone who is on sick leave or because they are shielding. This also covers family leave, such as maternity leave. 
If you decide to do this, you must tell the staff at least twice as many days before the number of days they need to take. 
For example, if you wanted to close the business for a week so they would be using 5 days of their entitlement, then you should tell everyone 10 days before. 
Workers who have been placed on furlough continue to accrue statutory holiday entitlements, and any additional holiday provided for under their employment contract 
Find out more here on holiday entitlements 
Let us help you navigate the minefield of employment law 
Never feel you are alone in this. Very few employers are experts in employment law. This is why we are here! Avoid employees claiming constructive dismissal because you have breached the employment contract. 
If you need help and advice, we can help. Our role is to advise you to ensure you are compliant and that your employees are happy! 
Give us a call or send us an email for an initial free consultation. 
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