Paying staff on jury service

If you have staff that have been called up to serve on a jury, then you must allow them the necessary time off. You can ask them to request to delay their jury service if their absence would seriously harm your business. Your employee would need to agree to this request and would need to provide written evidence explaining why a delay has been requested. The request to delay jury service can only be made once in a 12-month period, and the employee must say on the jury summons when they will be available.

Whilst employers must provide time off to allow for jury service, there is no legal requirement to pay employees whilst they are serving.

However, the employee can continue to be paid as normal. If this is the case, the employer cannot reclaim money paid to the employee or that the business has lost during the jury service.

If an employer does not pay their employee, then they can claim a loss of earnings allowance from the court. The employer will need to prepare a certificate of loss of earnings for their employee. This form comes together with the jury service letter. 

Employers can also decide to top up the ‘loss of earnings allowance’ by subtracting the court allowance from their employee’s usual take-home pay.

SMP, SAP, SPP, ShPP, SPBP and SSP to rise from April 2022

According to proposals set out in a government policy paper, the revised rates for statutory maternity pay (SMP), statutory adoption pay (SAP), statutory paternity pay (SPP), statutory shared parental pay (ShPP), statutory parental bereavement pay (SPBP) and statutory sick pay (SSP) for tax year 2022/23 are to be as follows:

  • the standard weekly rates of SMP, SAP, SPP, ShPP and SPBP will increase from £151.97 to £156.66 (or 90% of the employee’s weekly earnings if that amount is lower than the statutory rate) – it is assumed this will be for payment weeks commencing on or after Sunday, 3 April 2022
  • the prescribed weekly rate of maternity allowance (MA) will increase from £151.97 to £156.66 (or 90% of the individual’s weekly earnings if that amount is lower than the statutory rate)
  • the weekly rate of SSP will increase from £96.35 to £99.35 from 6 April 2022.

In addition, the amount of the earnings threshold, below which employees do not qualify for SMP, SAP, SPP, ShPP, SPBP and SSP, is to rise from £120 to £123 per week.

Mandatory vaccination for frontline health and social care worker

The government has published its response to its consultation on making COVID-19 vaccination a condition of deployment for frontline workers in health and social care settings in England and has confirmed that it will now bring forward regulations to implement a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination requirement. The regulations will cover all those who have direct, face-to-face contact with service users, including doctors, nurses, dentists, domiciliary care workers, porters, receptionists, cleaners, volunteers, agency workers and trainees (unless they are exempt). The requirement will apply across the Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulated health and social care sector, whether they are publicly or privately funded.

This means health and social care workers will need to have received a full course of COVID-19 vaccination in order to continue to be deployed. Some individuals will be exempt from the regulations:

  • those under the age of 18
  • those who are clinically exempt from COVID-19 vaccination
  • those who have taken part or are currently taking part in a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine
  • those who do not have direct, face to face contact with a service user, for example, those providing care remotely, such as through triage or telephone consultations, or managerial staff working in sites apart from patient areas
  • those providing care as part of a shared lives agreement.

The requirement will come into force in the spring, subject to the passage of the regulations through Parliament. There will be a 12-week grace period between the regulations being made and coming into force to allow those who have not yet been vaccinated to have both doses. Enforcement would begin from 1 April 2022, subject to Parliamentary approval.

The requirement will only cover COVID-19 vaccinations, not flu vaccinations.

Improvements to the apprenticeship system

As part of the Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021, the government has confirmed that it will continue to meet 95% of the apprenticeship training costs for employers who do not pay the Apprenticeship Levy and it will deliver several apprenticeship system improvements for all employers. These include:

  • an enhanced recruitment service by May 2022 for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), helping them hire new apprentices 
  • supporting flexible apprenticeship training models to ensure that apprenticeship training continues to meet the needs of employers. By April 2022, the government will consider changes to the provider payment profiles aimed at giving employers more choice over how the apprenticeship training is delivered, and explore the streamlining of existing additional employer support payments so that they go directly to employers
  • introducing a return-on-investment tool in October 2022 to ensure employers can see the benefits apprentices create in their business.

The government has also confirmed the extension of the £3,000 apprentice hiring incentive payment for employers until 31 January 2022.

Government confirms plans for all tips to go to workers

The government has published its response to its 2016 consultation on tipping, gratuities, cover and service charges and has confirmed its intention to bring forward legislative measures to ensure tips, gratuities and service charges go to workers in full. The legislative measures will include:

  • requirements for employers in all sectors to not make any deductions from tips received by their staff, including admin charges, other than those required by tax law
  • requirements for employers to distribute tips in a way that is fair and transparent, with a written policy on tips, and a record of how tips have been dealt with. Employers will be able to distribute tips via a tronc, and a tip must be dealt with by no later than the end of the month following the month in which it was paid by the customer
  • provisions to allow workers to make a request for information relating to an employer’s tipping record. Employers will have flexibility in how to design and communicate a tipping record, but they should respond within four weeks
  • requirements for employers to have regard to a new statutory Code of Practice on Tipping which will support the legislation.

Where employers fail to comply with the new measures, workers will be able to bring employment tribunal claims.

The provisions will be included in the upcoming Employment Bill which will be brought forward when parliamentary time allows.

Gender pay gap reporting to commence from 5 October

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) confirmed in February 2021 that enforcement action against employers for failing to report their gender pay gap data for the last reporting year (2020/21) would be suspended for six months and so would not begin until 5 October 2021.

This additional six-month period is almost at an end and so, if they have not already done so, private sector employers with 250 or more staff must now submit their 2020/21 gender pay gap reports, using the snapshot date of 5 April 2020, by no later than 5 October 2021. Employees who were furloughed on reduced pay under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme as at 5 April 2020 should not be included when calculating the hourly pay figures; where this gives a misleading impression, employers may want to explain this in a voluntary supporting narrative accompanying their report.  
 

COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for care homes staff

The Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 have now been approved by both House of Parliament and will come into force on 11 November 2021. The regulations effectively require staff working in registered care homes in England to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they’re medically exempt.

The regulations provide that the care home must secure that people do not enter the care home premises (excluding any surrounding grounds) unless they fall into one of the specified exceptions. Those exceptions include that:

  • they’re a resident of the care home
  • they’ve provided evidence of their full COVID-19 vaccination status, or evidence that for clinical reasons they cannot be vaccinated
  • it’s reasonably necessary for them to provide emergency assistance in the premises, or urgent maintenance assistance with respect to the premises, e.g. an emergency plumber
  • they’re attending the premises in the execution of their duties as a member of the emergency services
  • they’re a friend or relative of the resident, or they’re visiting a resident who it’s believed is dying
  • it’s reasonably necessary for them to provide comfort or support to a resident in relation to their bereavement following the death of a friend or relative
  • they’re under the age of 18.

The regulations are to be reviewed by the government, and a report published, within one year after the date on which they come into force and within every year after that.

Reforming statutory sick pay

Following its summer 2019 consultation entitled “Health is everyone’s business: proposals for reducing ill health-related job loss”, the government has now published its response which takes into account the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on work and health. The response confirms that the government:

  • will not be proceeding with the consultation proposal to introduce a new right for non-disabled employees to request work or workplace modifications on health grounds – note that the existing duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled staff under the Equality Act 2010 will remain in place
  • will be taking forward its manifesto commitment to encourage flexible working and to consult on making it the default unless employers have good reasons not to – that consultation will be published “in due course”
  • will develop a national information and advice service for employers on health, work and disability, with material designed to help manage common health and disability events in the workplace
  • has asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to work on developing non-statutory guidance to support disabled people and those with long-term health conditions to remain in work (and the HSE will also explore introducing statutory guidance in this area)
  • will not be implementing the range of measures proposed to reform statutory sick pay (SSP) at this stage because “now is not the right time to introduce changes to the sick pay system”. However, the government does acknowledge that several important questions posed in the consultation on the future of SSP require further consideration, so reform in this area is still possible in the future
  • is exploring extending fit note certification to a wider group of healthcare professionals
  • intends to introduce digital certifying of fit notes (to remove the current requirement for them to be signed in ink) and create a new interactive version of the fit note which will provide advice and support for suggested workplace adaptations/modifications to encourage work and health discussions between patients and employers
  • will test a subsidy scheme to enable SMEs and self-employed people to access quality occupational health (OH) support and will work with key stakeholder organisations to explore how it may be able to support innovative ideas that increase the purchasing of OH by SMEs and the self-employed
  • will continue to promote and raise awareness of the Access to Work programme.

Continuous employment defined

When a new employee is added to the payroll it is the employers' responsibility to ensure they meet the employees’ rights. One of the issues that must be considered is the employees’ length of continuous employment. Continuous employment is calculated from the first day of work without a break.

The length of continuous employment gives certain rights to employees, including maternity pay, flexible working requests and redundancy pay.

Infrequent breaks in normal employment still count towards a continuous employment period. These are:

  • sickness, maternity, paternity, parental or adoption leave
  • annual leave
  • employment overseas with the same company
  • time between unfair dismissal and an employee being reinstated
  • when an employee moves between associated employers
  • military service, for example with a reserve force
  • temporary layoffs
  • employer lockouts
  • when a business is transferred from one employer to another
  • when a corporate body gets taken over by another because of a legal change

Any days that an employee is on strike do not count towards continuous employment, but the days are not treated as a break.

National Minimum Wage reminder for summer staff

We would like to remind any students and seasonal staff that work part time, for example in a summer job, to ensure they are being paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW). All workers are legally entitled to be paid the NMW. This includes temporary seasonal staff, who often work short-term contracts in bars, hotels, shops and warehouses over the summer. 

HMRC helped some 155,000 people recover more than £16 million in pay which was due to them. HMRC is reminding workers to check their hourly rate of pay, and to also check any deductions or unpaid working time. The most common causes of minimum wage underpayment are deductions and unpaid working time such as travelling time between work locations and training time.

The current National Minimum Wage (NMW) and National Living Wage (NLW) rates came into effect on 1 April 2021. The NLW is the minimum hourly rate that must be paid to those aged 23 or over. The hourly rate of the NMW (for 21-22 year olds) is £8.36. The rates for 18-20 year olds is £6.56 and the rate for workers above the school leaving age but under 18 is £4.62. 

Employees that are not being paid correctly can make an official complaint through GOV.UK or contact the ACAS Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0300 123 1100.