Quick fire - November 2021


30 November 2021

New ‘fire and rehire’ guidance, mandatory vaccination for health and social care workers and menopause issues in the workplace are all covered in this month's Quick fire.

New ‘fire and rehire’ guidance

Acas has published new guidance for employers on making changes to employment contracts, including advice on how to avoid having to ‘fire and rehire’ staff, which it describes as an extreme step that can damage staff morale, trust, productivity and working relations, as well as risking reputational damage. 
The guidance emphasises the importance of conducting full and meaningful consultation with all affected staff and their representatives, and includes suggestions for keeping discussions constructive in the event that agreement cannot be reached.

The new guidance follows an earlier Acas report on the use of ‘fire and rehire’ practices by employers seeking to force contractual changes on their employees.  In response to that report, the Government confirmed that it would not be seeking to legislate to prevent the use of ‘fire and rehire’ tactics by employers, but instead asked Acas to produce more detailed guidance on how and when dismissal and reengagement should be used.

Last month the Government blocked a Private Member’s Bill, the Employment and Trade Union Rights (Dismissal and Re-engagement) Bill, which was intended to curb the practice of firing and rehiring by employers, following some recent high-profile disputes.

Mandatory vaccination for health and social care workers

As had been widely anticipated, the Government has now confirmed that the statutory requirement to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will be extended to frontline health and social care workers.

In its response to the recent consultation, the Government confirms that those who work in the health and social care sector and who have direct face-to-face contact with patients or service users, including both clinical and non-clinical staff, must be fully vaccinated by 1 April 2022. This requirement will apply to COVID-19 vaccination and not, for the time being at least, flu vaccination, which had also been considered as part of the consultation exercise. Medical exemptions will also apply, conditional on supplying the necessary evidence.

Regulations will be introduced to amend the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) 2014 at least 12 weeks prior to 1 April, in order to give employers and workers in the sector time to comply with the new requirements. There will be new operational guidance for employers, as has already been issued for care home providers.

Menopause issues in the workplace

During a parliamentary debate on a Private Member’s Bill, the Menopause (Support and Services) Bill, the Government has outlined various measures it is taking to improve women’s experience of the menopause, including in the workplace.

A roundtable discussion with a number of organisations, including the British Chambers of Commerce and the Federation of Small Businesses, will lead to recommendations to Parliament, expected later this month. This follows an earlier inquiry on menopause and the workplace by the Women and Equalities Committee, which closed on 17 September 2021.

The Government encouraged responses to be submitted to the ongoing flexible working consultation, on the basis that flexible working options can assist during the menopause. It also highlighted the guidance available to support employers on the subject, published by various organisations including the CIPD.

A new menopause taskforce has been promised, to encourage a fast and coherent approach to improve support for those experiencing the menopause, and it will be a women’s health strategy priority.

At this stage, it appears unlikely that any statutory changes will be introduced specifically to deal with issues concerning the menopause in the workplace. The Private Member’s Bill has now been withdrawn and will not be progressed any further.

These articles are from the November 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 a member of Birketts' Employment 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 November 2021.

Author

Liz Stevens

Professional Support Lawyer

+44 (0)1603 756474

+44 (0)7580 355031

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