2020 End of Year Employment Tips

2020 End of Year Employment Tips

It has been a tough year for businesses, with many being forced to make difficult decisions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It appears that questions around ongoing commercial viability and possible redundancies will be continuing into the next year. Turner Hopkins’ employment team can assist with a range of employment issues businesses face, including navigating the redundancy process.

As we approach the end of the year, it is also a good time for businesses to take stock of their legal obligations to employees and plan for the next year. We have put together a list of things you may wish to consider:

Sick leave

The government plan to introduce a law in 2021 which will double sick leave entitlements from 5 to 10 days per year. Employers should be aware that full sick leave entitlements apply to certain part-time and casual employees. This can place a large burden on small businesses who employ part-time workers such as students.

Do you have an employee on extended medical or sick leave? Even if this is unpaid, an employee who remains in employment will still accrue their annual holiday entitlements.

We can provide advice on sick leave entitlements, and we can assist with any difficult issues arising with employees seeking additional sick leave.

Annual leave

If you have an annual closedown period, you can require employees to take leave during this period but you must give them at least 14 days’ notice. Businesses should be advising employees of the Christmas closedown period now. Some employees will have used a lot of their annual leave this year because of the special circumstances around COVID-19. If your employee doesn’t have enough annual leave for the closedown, we recommend you discuss with them in advance how this period will be treated.

It is a good idea for employers to actively manage the accrual of leave entitlements, to avoid having to potentially make a large exit payment on short notice when an employee resigns. The end of the year is a good time to encourage employees who have accrued leave to take it. You can require an employee to take leave if you can’t reach agreement.

Having a robust leave policy can help resolve a number of annual leave ‘headaches’; we can assist with drafting leave policies, or reviewing and updating them if they are already in place.

Public Holidays

This year, Boxing Day and the day after New Year’s Day are ‘Mondayised’ public holidays. Employers should ensure that they are giving employees their correct holiday entitlements over the Christmas period. Contact us if you would like advice around this.

Paid parental leave extended

From July 2020, paid parental leave has increased from 22 weeks to 26 weeks. Navigating the Employment Protection and Parental Leave Act can be tricky for employers; we provide advice on the notification requirements and what decisions an employer is permitted to make under the Act.

Independent contractor vs employee

In May this year, the Employment Court ruled that a courier driver at Parcel Express was in fact an employee - despite having an independent contractor agreement. While the Court was careful to note that the decision was limited to this particular worker, it has created some uncertainty in this area, and we can expect to see further cases of contractors disputing their status. The government is also considering a range of measures around this, including the introduction of penalties for employers who misrepresent an employment relationship as an independent contractor relationship.

Businesses who use independent contractors might wish to keep this in mind, as incorrect characterisation of a worker’s status can lead to a business having to pay out large sums of accrued employment entitlements. We can provide advice on the legal issues regarding the status of a worker and can assist in dealing with any disputes around this.

Health and safety

The end of the year provides an opportunity for employers to update health and safety policies and procedures for the coming year. The obligations on companies under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 are onerous and extend to when employees are working in their own home. The national lockdown saw a notable rise in working from home, and many employees have continued flexible work arrangements since then. We recommend employers develop a working from home policy which makes each party’s obligations clear and considers employees’ physical and mental health risks. We can assist in developing suitable policies for your business.

If you have any other employment queries or problems, feel free to contact our employment law team who will be happy to assist.

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