Quick fire - May 2021

27 May 2021

The Queen's Speech, National Minimum Wage guidance and Acas: ‘Long COVID’ advice are all covered in this month's Quick fire.

Queen's Speech

Notable by its absence from the Queen’s Speech on 11 May 2021 was any mention of the Government’s Employment Bill, which was included in the December 2019 Queen’s Speech but has not yet been published.

The Bill was expected to cover a wide range of employment reforms, some originating from the Government’s Good Work Plan and several featuring in the Conservative Party’s election manifesto, including:

  • introducing a new single labour market enforcement body
  • tips to be paid to workers
  • a new right to request fixed working hours
  • extended redundancy protection for pregnant employees and beyond maternity leave
  • a new right to take an additional period of neonatal leave of up to 12 weeks
  • unpaid carer’s leave
  • flexible working to be offered by default.

Trade unions and opposition parties have been highly critical of the Government’s decision not to include the Employment Bill in the Queen’s speech. It has been suggested on behalf of the Government that the Bill has been delayed rather than abandoned, but it is unlikely to appear in the current parliamentary session.

Shortly before the Queen’s speech took place, the Government’s flexible working taskforce, comprised of business associations, charities and trade unions, reportedly issued a recommendation that flexible working should be the default position for all workers.

National Minimum Wage guidance

Following the recent Supreme Court decision in the conjoined case of Royal Mencap Society v Tomlinson-Blake and Shannon v Rampersand, the Government guidance on calculating the national minimum wage (NMW) has been updated to clarify the position in relation to sleep-in workers.

The revised guidance confirms that sleep-in workers are only entitled to be paid the NMW if they are awake for the purposes of working, and not during periods they are asleep. However, if they are expected to carry out their duties for most or all of their shift, with only limited periods of sleep in between, they will still be entitled to receive at least the NMW for the full shift. In practice this might be difficult to determine and it will depend on an analysis of a worker’s individual circumstances. The guidance includes examples of different scenarios when the worker either would, or would not, be entitled to receive the NMW.

Acas: ‘Long COVID’ advice

Acas has published new advice for both employers and workers in dealing with long COVID in the workplace.

The guidance outlines the range of symptoms that are experienced by sufferers of long COVID and provides practical tips for employers on how to manage the effects of the condition in a sensitive way and to support employees in returning to work.

The Office for National Statistics has estimated that over one million people have reported experiencing long COVID. For some sufferers, it is possible that the condition could be deemed a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010, giving rise to the duty to make reasonable adjustments. However, Acas recommends that employers should focus on what reasonable adjustments can be made, rather than whether the condition amounts to a disability.

These articles are from the May 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 May 2021.


Liz Stevens

Professional Support Lawyer

+44 (0)1603 756474

+44 (0)7580 355031


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