Liz Stevens provides a ‘quick fire’ overview of employment news items for June 2022
With effect from 1 July 2022, new regulations take effect to allow a wider range of healthcare professionals to sign statements of fitness for work (“fit notes”).
As a result of the Social Security (Medical Evidence) and Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2022 (view here), registered nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists will be permitted to sign fit notes, as well as doctors. The amendment is intended to help reduce the workload for GPs.
Employment Tribunals – latest statistics
The latest tribunal quarterly statistics for January to March 2022 have been published, which show a decrease in single and multiple claims for this period, compared with last year.
Single claims have reduced by 11% compared with the same period last year, meaning that single claims appear to have returned to pre-pandemic levels. Multiple claims (brought by more than one person on the same set of facts) have decreased by 40%, but these claims are more volatile as they can be skewed by a high number of claims against a single employer.
Note that as a result of the transition to a new database last year, data has not been gathered on a consistent basis which makes it more difficult to compare statistics from this year and the same period in the preceding year.
Agency workers during industrial action
The Government has announced measures to remove existing restrictions preventing agency staff from covering the work normally carried out by employees who are on strike.
The Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003 currently prevent an employment business from supplying an employer with temporary (agency) workers to perform the duties normally performed by a worker who is on strike or taking other industrial action, or to perform the duties normally performed by any other worker who has been assigned to cover the striking worker. This restriction is imposed on the employment business that supplies the agency staff, rather than the employer. A breach of the restriction is a criminal offence.
The proposed changes to the existing regulations are intended to reduce the impact of industrial action, particularly when it affects public services such as the recent strikes by train workers. It is anticipated that the amendment would take effect very shortly, “over the coming weeks”, subject to parliamentary approval.
In addition, the government is proposing to raise the maximum damages that courts can award against a union, when strike action is held to be unlawful. The maximum award, applicable to large unions, will rise from £250,000 to £1 million with effect from 21 July 2022.
Acas: hybrid working
Acas has recently published its findings following a survey it has conducted of hybrid working. Not unsurprisingly, a large number of employers – 60% – have seen an increase in hybrid working following the Covid-19 pandemic. Perhaps more unexpected is the 52% of employers that have seen an increase in staff working from home on a full time basis.
Acas has also issued further advice to employers on how to ensure hybrid working is a success:
- A hybrid working policy should explain how an individual can request it and on what basis decisions will be made.
- Employers should ensure that staff working remotely are not excluded and have access to the same opportunities as those attending the workplace.
- Decisions on staff requests for hybrid working should be fair and transparent, with other forms of flexible working discussed as alternatives where appropriate.
- Make sure employees have the necessary equipment and information to work safely from home.
- Employers must follow the law on working hours and employees must make sure they take rest breaks and take care of their mental health.
- Consider a trial period to see whether the arrangement works and if any further adjustments to arrangements are needed.
More detailed advice is available on the Acas website.
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 June 2022.