• Is the workplace safe?

A concern flagged up at the start of the pandemic was whether employees who were fearful of going into the workplace as a result of the pandemic would try to seek the protection of section 100 of the Employment Rights Act which provides protection to employees who are dismissed in the context of health and safety.

In the case of Rodgers v Leeds Laser Cutting Ltd, a claim on this basis did not succeed.  The employer had implemented all the safety measures recommended by the government and also did not help Mr Rodgers was that he had driven his friend to the hospital at the height of the pandemic.  The tribunal found that Mr Rodgers could not have reasonably believed that there was a serious risk to his health and safety.

  • Changing terms and conditions as a result of the pandemic

As a result of the impact of the pandemic, many businesses have had to change the terms and conditions of employment of their employees.  A lot of these changes were as a result of utilising the furlough scheme.

In one case, a firm of solicitors advised its employees that they would be placed on furlough and unilaterally reduced their hours and pay.  The employees were told this was non-negotiable.  They were also told that if they did not accept, they would be dismissed.

One employee was dismissed and brought a claim for unfair dismissal.  Whilst the employer had a potentially fair reason to dismiss, the total lack of consultation and the fact that no alternatives to dismissal were considered meant that the dismissal was unfair.

Employers must always show a good business reason and combine this with meaningful consultation.

  • Childcare disparity 

The EAT has held that a tribunal should consider the fact that women, due to their childcare responsibilities, were less likely to be able to manage certain working patterns.

The comments were as a result of a case brought by a community nurse who was dismissed because she could not work to a new flexible working pattern which included weekends.  She had three children and two were disabled.

This decision will be of particular interest to all employers who may be looking at more flexible working patterns as a result of COVID 19.

  • Furlough changes

Remember that from July 2021, employers will now need to contribute 10% to furlough pay for unworked hours.

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