Return to the office...at home
The Prime Minister’s recent announcement regarding the new restrictions to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic has come as a blow to many businesses, particularly in the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors. The call for office workers who can work effectively from home to do so over the winter (confirmed in revised Guidance) represents a clear shift in the Government’s position from just a few weeks ago, when it was encouraging people to return to the workplace.
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a new Job Support Scheme designed to protect the UK economy through what he described as a “difficult winter" ahead. As opposed to extending the current furlough scheme beyond 31 October, the government’s new Job Support Scheme will run for six months from 1 November 2020.
It was reported last week that the Employment Tribunals have an increasing backlog of cases (approximately 45,000 by 23 August 2020) due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are faced with an even greater crisis given the expected spike in claims in the coming months as the furlough scheme comes to an end, redundancies bite and disgruntled employees seek to challenge their employers.
With the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“Furlough Scheme”) coming to an end in October, children returning to school this month and the Government’s new “rule of six” imposing stricter social measures in order to keep businesses open, many employees are now making a return to the workplace. Whilst this is generally a positive development for the economy at large, it will inevitably open up a number of challenges for employers. We consider below some of the key practical considerations for businesses and suggest steps they can take in order to minimise their exposure to legal risks.
As recent events have shown, race discrimination and lack of diversity in many professions and workplaces is still very much a reality, even in today’s world. Tackling this issue in the workplace is not easy and, until recently, some employers might have perhaps have tried to avoid doing so unless faced with an obvious issue or complaint. However, this state of affairs can no longer be the case; employers and managers must now be prepared to take action against racism and encourage others to speak up.
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