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With lockdown restrictions set to ease from  19 July, it’s important that businesses make sure they’re set up for a post-Covid world and aren’t putting themselves at risk of being taken to court.

Here Tom Moyes, a Partner in the Employment team at Blacks Solicitors, discusses everything that business owners should be aware of as restrictions are lifted and employees begin to return to the office.

Compulsory vaccinations

The Government has previously confirmed that employers insisting their employees get the vaccine could be considered discriminatory as some employees may not be able to have it due to health concerns or their religion. 

Unless directly advised by the Government, as with the social care sector, employers considering to introduce compulsory vaccination clauses into their contracts should ensure their practices don’t unlawfully discriminate against employees and don’t breach other employment law principles. 

Employers should also bear in mind the potential data protection implications of holding information about whether employees are vaccinated, as this is medical data which is considered ‘special category’ data under the Data Protection Act 2018.  This should therefore be dealt with in accordance with the guidelines set out in the Act. 

Travelling abroad

The Government has introduced a three tier system when it comes to travelling abroad; red, amber and green. According to Government guidance, employees should not travel to red list countries at all. Returning from an amber list country requires a 10 day quarantine period starting from the day of return, along with routine day two and day eight testing. Green list countries don’t require quarantine and return can largely be managed with routine day two Covid testing before and after arrival in the UK.

If an employee has travelled to a red or amber country, it’s important that they travel straight home on return and remain there to quarantine. They should not be encouraged or required to return to the workplace during that period. When it comes to payment during periods of quarantine, much depends on the reason for travel and the employee’s ability to work from home. Desk based employees may well be able to work during quarantine and therefore be paid their salary or for hours worked.

Changes to furlough

From 01 July, the amount the Government contributes towards unworked hours for workers on furlough has changed, reducing from 80% to 70%. It will then reduce again in August to 60%. 

Employers will need to top up the 10% and 20% respectively to ensure any workers who are furloughed receive at least 80% of their normal pay. Subject to contractual arrangements to the contrary, it’s up to the employer to decide if they’d like to cover the full difference. This will remain the case until furlough ends on 30 September 2021.

Looking ahead

With Covid-19 continuing to have a significant impact on society and the UK’s workforce, even as restrictions are lifted, employers and employees should be up-to-date on employment law and any issues that the pandemic may highlight. 

Employers and their staff should work together to ensure the return to work is as smooth as possible and the post-Covid workforce adheres to various guidance and legislation.

For more information on creating a workplace suitable for a post-Covid workforce, or for queries relating to any other employment law matter, please contact the Blacks’ Employment Team at [email protected]