Government plans regarding ‘fire and rehire’ practices, new guidance on compensation in discrimination claims, and this month’s latest COVID-19 workplace guidance are all included in this month’s quick fire roundup.
New Code of Practice
The Government has announced that it plans to issue a new statutory code of practice on the use of ‘fire and rehire’ practices by employers to bring about changes to employees’ terms and conditions.
The code will set out how businesses must hold fair, transparent and meaningful consultations on proposed changes to employment terms, and what practical steps should be taken. A failure by an employer to follow the code must be taken into account by courts and tribunals, with a maximum 25% uplift on compensation awarded.
The Government previously confirmed that it would not legislate to prevent employers from dismissing and re-engaging staff on new terms of employment, but instead asked Acas to produce new guidance for employers.
Compensation in discrimination claims
The Presidents of the Employment Tribunals in England and Wales and in Scotland have issued new guidance on employment tribunal awards for injury to feelings, which apply to new claims presented on or after 6 April 2022.
The ‘Vento bands’ provide the employment tribunal with guidance on the amount of compensation awarded for injury to feelings in discrimination claims, according to the level of seriousness of the discrimination as determined by the tribunal. These bands have been adjusted for inflation and are now as follows:
- Lower band (less serious cases): £990 to £9,900
- Middle band (more serious cases): £9,900 to £29,600
- Upper band (most serious cases): £29,600 to £49,300
In exceptional cases, awards in excess of £49,300 can be made.
Note that the very large compensation figures often reported in the media in relation to high profile discrimination claims usually represent compensation for loss of earnings, rather than injury to feelings.
On 1 April 2022, the previous ‘working safely’ COVID guidance for employers was replaced with new UKHSA guidance on reducing the spread of respiratory infections, including COVID-19 and flu, in the workplace.
In addition, on 31 March 2022, the Health and Safety Executive has published revised advice for workplaces on COVID-19:
- The requirement for most employers to explicitly consider COVID-19 in their health and safety risk assessment has been removed but the UKHSA guidance states that employers “may choose” to continue to cover COVID-19 in their risk assessments. There is still a requirement to protect those who will come into contact with COVID-19 due to their work activity and carry out a risk assessment.
- Employers “may wish” to consider the needs of employees at greater risk from COVID-19, including those whose immune system means they are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.
- Employers must continue to comply with their health and safety duties and must consult with workers and their representatives on any changes that might affect health and safety.
- Staff should follow the guidance for people with a respiratory infection. This guidance states you should “try to work from home if you can. If you are unable to work from home, talk to your employer about options available to you”.
- Employers “may wish” to consider how best to support and enable their workforce to follow this guidance as far as possible.
- Employers should reduce the spread of infections by maintaining clean working environments, encouraging and enabling staff to get vaccinated and consider ventilation.
The temporary SSP rules relating to COVID-19 have now been withdrawn, meaning that the three days waiting time before SSP becomes payable will now apply in respect of all absences. Anyone who is positive but otherwise fit for work will not be entitled to SSP if they cannot work from home. Employers may of course elect to pay discretionary or contractual sick pay in these circumstances.
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 2022.