May HR round-up

Amy Owens

Written By Hayley Saunders, Technical HR Consultant

24th May 2022

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This month, we look ahead to the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and the potential issues this may cause for employers with regards to the additional bank holiday. We will also discuss what the Queen’s speech, which was delivered this month, means for the long-awaited Employment Bill, and what the relaxation of Covid rules looks like for HSE and ICO guidance.

Queen’s Platinum Jubilee holiday

This year, the late May Bank Holiday has been moved to Thursday 2nd June with an additional bank holiday on Friday 3rd June creating a four-day weekend to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

What does the additional bank holiday mean for employers?

Whether employees are entitled to the extra bank holiday or not depends on the wording in an employee’s contract of employment. You will need to check whether the contract lists the bank holidays that employees are entitled to, whether it states they are entitled to the eight bank holidays or it states they are entitled to the usual or standard bank holidays. If it does, there is no right for an employee to be entitles to the additional bank holiday.

If the contract states that holiday entitlement includes bank holidays, and does not include an explicit list of these bank holidays, the employee would be entitled to the extra day off as this extra day is recognised as a bank holiday.

What happens if employees are not entitled to the additional bank holiday?

  • Employees could request to take the day as unpaid leave
  • They could use their holiday entitlement to have the day off (if the business is remaining open)
  • As an employer, you could decide to allow the employees the extra day off as a gesture of goodwill
  • If you are choosing to close for the day, you could request employees take one of their annual leave days for this day, as you would do for specific shutdowns. Be mindful however, this would have to be communicated in advance of them being required to take the time off
  • Finally, there is the option to meet half-way and allow employees to make up 50% of their daily hours to have the day off and give paid time off for the remaining 50%

In addition to the contractual wording, employers should also consider what has been done in previous years as employees may consider the additional day of holiday as an implied term of their contract. Consideration should also be given to part-time employees who should be treated in the same way as their full-time colleagues, with entitlements pro-rated to reflect their working hours.

The Queen’s Speech 2022 and the Employment Bill

The Queen’s speech, delivered for the first time by the Prince of Wales, sets out the government’s legislative agenda for the next parliamentary year. This year’s speech highlighted some of the 38 laws that ministers intend to pass in the coming year, but what was most interesting is that the long- anticipated Employment Bill was not mentioned and there were only two provisions that touched on employment rights at all.

The Employment Bill was due to cover the following reforms:

  • Making flexible working the default
  • Extending redundancy protection for pregnancy and maternity
  • Leave for neonatal care
  • Leave for unpaid carers
  • Tips to go to workers in full
  • The right to request a more predictable contract
  • A single enforcement body

In a press release issued by the Government this month they confirmed the ban on ‘exclusivity clauses’ in contracts for low-paid workers which applies to those whose guaranteed income is at or below the lower earnings limit of £123 per week. The government says that this will allow approximately 1.5 million workers to boost their income by working for multiple employers.

The two provisions that were announced included the Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill which will empower ports to surcharge or refuse access to ferry services that do not pay an equivalent to the national minimum wage to seafarers while in UK waters. This is a specific response to the P&O ferries controversy. Although an important issue, this will not affect the vast majority of UK employees.

The other announcement was the Modern Slavery Bill which will strengthen the requirements on companies with an annual turnover of over £36 million to publish an annual statement on the steps they are taking to prevent modern slavery. This is an expected expansion of the existing requirements, which will require reporting on specific areas on a government-run registry and introduce financial penalties for breaches.

Unions and industry groups have expressed their disappointment that the Employment Bill was not mentioned meaning we may not see as much progress with employment related legislation during 2022 as we had been initially hoping for.   

P&O to face civil and criminal investigations

Further to the Harbours (Seafarers’ Remuneration) Bill which was announced in response to P&O Ferries dismissal of 800 members of its shipping staff, some of whom were dismissed via a video call or text message, the Insolvency Service also announced that it has initiated formal criminal and civil investigations.

HSE update Covid-19 advice for workplaces

Covid-19 will remain a public health issue but with the relaxation of restrictions across the UK, the Health and Safety Executive (“HSE”) is replacing workplace guidance with public health advice.  The HSE no longer requires every business to consider Covid-19 in their risk assessments or have specific measure in place, however, employers may still choose to continue to cover Covid-19 in their risk assessments. There is a requirement to protect those who will come into contact with the virus due to their work activity. There is additional guidance on protecting those who may be at a higher risk from Covid-19 and on vaccinations.  The guidance will be regularly reviewed.

ICO publish new guidance following relaxation of Covid-19 rules

The Information Commissioners Office (“ICO”) has set out some key considerations around the use of personal data following the relaxation of rules related to Covid-19. The firs consideration should be, is it still necessary to either collect or retain this type of data? To answer this, organisations need to be asking themselves the following questions:

  • How will collecting extra personal information help to keep your workplace safe?
  • Do you still need the information previously collected?
  • Could you achieve your desired result without collecting personal information?

With regard to retaining any additional information collected during the pandemic, this needs to be assessed and anything that is no longer required needs to be securely disposed of.

If you are continuing to collect vaccination information, you must be clear about what you are trying to achieve and how asking people for their vaccination status helps to achieve this. Your use of this data must be fair, relevant and necessary for a specific purpose.

Managing positive Covid-19 cases in the workforce

Data protection law doesn’t prevent you from keeping staff informed about potential or confirmed Covid-19 cases among your colleagues but you should avoid naming individuals wherever possible and you should not provide more information than is necessary.

Note: The above guidance was correct at the time of writing this article on 13/05/22. This does not constitute legal advice and is for information purposes only.
If you have any questions regarding the content of this update or would like more information to support your business with the changes, please get in touch.

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