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18 Jun 2020
Nicky Silver HR – Employees returning to work during COVID measures

Following our Q&A sessions last week with Adam Wade from AW Safety Management and Nicky Silver of Nicky Silver HR Services, we have made the recordings of their sessions available for all to view to provide as much support as we can to all local businesses.

Nicky Silver advises businesses around areas of employment issues that you need to look out for when bringing staff back to the workplace.

Take a look at the video below.

 

Following the session Nicky Silver took the time to answer questions from the attendees. See below for the questions and the answers given:

Office staff are still being encouraged to work at home where possible, can employees state this as a reason not to return to work?

No they can’t, is the simple answer. The government guidelines do say work at home if you can, but if a business needs an employee back in the workplace and can demonstrate that a COVID-19 risk assessment has been completed and the relevant safety measures have been put in place, then it is reasonable to expect them to return.

If an employee is still appearing reluctant to return to work, then there may be more to the situation eg they might be worried about using public transport, they may be anxious about going out and about again, may have suffered a bereavement due to COVID-19 etc. In this situation:

– Explain the position the company is in and why you would like them to return to the workplace.

– Provide information about the safety measures and procedures you have put in place to protect your staff

– Ask what it is in particular that is stopping them from returning

– Ask what you can do to make them feel able to return

If you feel the reasons provided are not valid, then ask them to put it in writing to you so that you can investigate and provide a formal response (as you would if someone raised a grievance).

As a last resort, you could begin the disciplinary process for failure to follow a reasonable instruction and / or being AWOL, but please take advice before doing this as we are in unprecedented times and all existing employment rights and laws still apply.

More detailed guidance can be found here. 

 

When I calculate holiday pay, there is a big differential between the furlough pay and the holiday pay which I expected to be 20%.  This is because holiday pay is calculated on days worked, whereas furlough is calculated using calendar days.  What do you suggest?

My advice would be to speak to an accountant or payroll provider who will help you work through it, if you are still not happy get a second opinion.

I work with children who are under five years old.  A member of staff does not want to return because she considers that her daughter is extremely clinically vulnerable.  Her condition does not feature on the governments list of vulnerable or extremely clinically vulnerable and they do not have a letter.  We cannot socially distance from the children as they are so young.  How do I handle asking her to return to work and the other staff member’s feelings about her reluctance to return?

If your employee’s daughter is extremely clinically vulnerable, then they would have received a letter telling her to shield for 12 weeks. 

The government’s shielding guidelines guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19 state: 

You are not clinically extremely vulnerable if:

  • you do not have any of the conditions that make you clinically extremely vulnerable
  • you have not been told by your GP or specialist that you are clinically extremely vulnerable or received a letter

As they don’t have a letter, then tell the employee to speak to her GP or Consultant for advice and then provide you with an update.

If the GP or Consultant does not provide a letter saying that the daughter needs to shield, then you can expect the employee to return to work – follow the guidance provided under Q1 above.

Additional guidance regarding protective measures in education and childcare, including living with a shielded or clinically vulnerable person can be found at:  implementing-protective-measures-in-education-and-childcare-settings

 

I have an employee who has a partner that would be classed at risk. Can I ask her to return to work or are there guidelines on this?

You can ask your employee to return to work. Whether their partner is classed as at risk or they have been identified as “extremely vulnerable” and told to shield does not prevent an employee returning to work. The guidelines say that the family of someone who is shielding do not need to shield themselves but should stay alert and safe and follow social distancing guidelines.

The government’s guidance on shielding can be found via the link below and includes a section that specifically explains what those who are living with someone who is shielding can do (see section called Living with other people).

  guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

If the employee is still reluctant to return, follow the guidance provided under Q1 above.

 

Staff who were originally advised to shield for the 12 weeks, do they need wait for confirmation to go back to work? or can go come back as long as they have self-isolated for the initial 12 weeks? 

My understanding is that if an employee needs to continue to shield after their initial 12 weeks is up, then they will have received either another letter or text message to say so. Otherwise, they are free to return to work, assuming that the company has completed a COVID-19 risk assessment and put relevant safety measures in place.

If the employee has concerns and feels they should still be shielding, then they should speak to their GP or Consultant to ask for a further shielding letter, which will be provided if the medical practitioner deems it appropriate.

 

If I give some of the staff holidays during this furlough period, am I just topping it up by 20% or do I have to pay the full 100%?

If you are claiming the 80% furlough grant while the employee is on holiday, you can just top it up by 20%

 

I have an employee who is due to go on maternity leave mid-September is there anything else I have to put in place extra?

From a HR perspective, all statutory, existing maternity leave procedures and employment rights still apply. The only thing to bear in mind is that someone on maternity leave cannot receive a furlough payment at the same time. Please refer to the Health & Safety (H&S) Q&As for additional guidance, however, for guidance specific to your business you may wish to speak to a H&S specialist who will be able to support you in completing a risk assessment.

 

If you would like to get in touch to discuss your needs further with Nicky then please get in touch here

 

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