Quick fire - April 2021


30 April 2021

New consultations on mandatory vaccines, a review of social distancing, a report from the ONS on homeworking and a new Treasury direction are all covered in this month's quick fire.

New consultation on mandatory vaccines

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has launched a new consultation on whether to introduce a mandatory requirement for care home workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

It is estimated that an uptake rate of 80% of staff and 90% of residents is required to provide a minimum level of protection against outbreaks. Current figures show that vaccine uptake amongst care home workers is below the level required for protection in many areas.

The proposal would apply to workers in care homes with older adult residents, including those providing direct care (whether employed by the care home or an agency, and volunteers) as well as those working in other roles such as cleaners and kitchen staff. The policy may be extended to visiting professionals and those providing services such as hairdressers and faith leaders. Certain medical exemptions would apply, for example if the individual has had a prior allergic reaction to a component of the vaccine. It will be the responsibility of care home managers to check whether workers have been vaccinated (or if they are exempt), and the consultation will consider the best methods for proving vaccination status.

If implemented, the requirement would be included by way of an amendment to the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014. The Government also proposes to amend the Code of Practice on Infection Prevention and Control and its associated guidance.

Review of social distancing

On 5 April 2021, the Government launched four reviews to clarify how the COVID-19 pandemic will be managed following the final stage of the ‘roadmap’ on 21 June 2021.

One of these reviews is intended to establish how social distancing measures can be reduced in various settings, including the workplace. This also ties in with the separate COVID-Status Certification Review, which is considering the possibility of introducing COVID-status certification as a way of reopening the economy and reducing social distancing restrictions.

The Social Distancing Review will determine when and under what circumstances social distancing guidance can be lifted or amended, and will consider the implications of lifting social distancing for other measures, including face coverings and working from home guidance. As part of this review, the Government is consulting with businesses about the introduction of long-term social distancing measures aimed at bringing workers back into the office. In the meantime, the Government’s existing work from home guidance remains in place until 21 June.

ONS report on homeworking

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has issued a new report on homeworking, which shows a large increase in the number of people working from home at least part of the time. In 2020, the figure increased to 35.9% compared with 9.4% in 2019.

The study found that full-time homeworkers worked an average of six hours overtime per week, with those who recently began working from home accounting for the highest levels of unpaid overtime hours. The percentage of employee sickness absence for homeworkers was just 0.9% (two days per worker per year) compared with 4.3 days for those who never worked from home.

According to the ONS, as restrictions are lifted it remains uncertain which changes in demand for homeworking will be temporary and which will persist. However, their evidence suggests that flexibility towards homeworking in the future might be key to its success.

CJRS: new Treasury direction

HM Treasury has published the seventh Treasury direction on its Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

This covers the period from 1 May 2021 to 30 September, when the scheme is due to close. The rules of the scheme remain broadly the same, but the proportion of the grant paid by HMRC will reduce to 70% from 1 July 2021 (capped at £2,187.50 per month) and 60% (capped at £1, 875) from 1 August 2021.

  May and June July August and September
CJRS contribution to wages (per month) 80% up to £2,500 70% up to £2,187.50 60% up to £1,875
Employer contribution to wages (per month) - 10% up to £312.50 20% up to £625
Total 80% up to £2,500 80% up to £2,500 80% up to £2,500

 

The direction confirms that HMRC will continue to publish the names of employers that are claiming under the scheme.

These articles are from the April 2021 issue of Employment and Immigration Law Update, our monthly newsletter for HR professionals. To download the latest issue, please visit the newsletter section of our website. For further information please contact Liz Stevens or another member of Birketts' Employment Law Team.

The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at April 2021.

Author

Liz Stevens

Professional Support Lawyer

+44 (0)1603 756474

+44 (0)7580 355031

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