When we consider the likely HR and Employment Law developments for 2022, COVID is still top of the agenda and continues to present unprecedented challenges for people and the organisations they work for. HR and Employment Law developments linked to the pandemic have been coming thick and fast of late and show no signs of slowing down. As such, we thought we’d take stock and compile a quick-reference guide to some of the most common issues that we’ve been advising clients on. This is as follows:
- Fit Notes: Between 17 December 2021 and 26 January 2022, the length of absence after which an employee needs to provide a Fit Note for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) purposes has been temporarily extended from 7 days to 28 days (this measure also applies to periods of absence which started before 17 December 2021 but on that date, hadn’t exceeded 7 days).
- Statutory Sick Pay: Since 21 December 2021, employers with less than 250 staff (as at 30 November 2021) have once again been able to claim rebates of up to 2 weeks of SSP for COVID-related sickness absence. This applies even if the employer made a claim in respect of payments to the same employee under the previous scheme. For the purposes of determining eligibility for SSP, employers can set their own rules on what evidence they require of employees’ illness. Legislation doesn’t require that the evidence is in the form of a Fit Note (see reference to isolation notes in ‘Sickness Absence’ section below).
- Self-Isolation: The length of time for which a person with COVID needs to self-isolate has been reduced from 10 days to 7 days, provided that they have two negative LFT results no earlier than day 6 and day 7 of the isolation period. There’s no legal requirement for these results to be reported.
- Sickness Absence: If an employer requires evidence of COVID-related sickness absence, employees who are staying at home because they have symptoms of coronavirus or have tested positive can get an isolation note from NHS 111 online. Employees can also get an isolation note if they are required to self-isolate because they share a household with someone who has symptoms or has tested positive, or they have been advised to self-isolate by the NHS test and trace service or the NHS COVID-19 app.
- Sick Pay: If an employee isn’t able to work because they have COVID or can’t work from home whilst self-isolating, they must get any sick pay they’re entitled to. This could be SSP (if they’re eligible) or Company Sick Pay depending on the terms of their employment contract and / or the employer’s sickness policy. If someone’s been told to self-isolate, they could also be entitled to a £500 Test and Trace Support Payment.
- Workplace: Workplaces are allowed to open, but working from home is now recommended where possible. If workplace is open, you should follow the ‘Working safely during coronavirus (COVID-19)’ relevant to your sector, but generally wear face coverings where required, social distance where possible and keep the workplace clean and well ventilated.
- Vaccines: Only care home staff (unless exempt) must be vaccinated by law at present. However, the government proposes to extend this to those working in CQC-regulated health or social care workplaces from April. Other employers who wish to make vaccines compulsory amongst staff should consult with a view to reaching agreement first. If agreement can’t be reached, professional advice should be sought before proceeding to impose compulsory vaccination.
As organisations continue to grapple with the ongoing impact of COVID, EML will keep on providing updates and free resources to ensure that employers are kept informed on the employment-related aspects of the pandemic. However, for bespoke advice and support that tailored to the specific circumstances of your business, please contact us on 01942 727200 or at email@example.com.