Happy New Year from the team at Employment Law Services (ELS)

As the clock winds down on 2021, here’s hoping there are far better things ahead than any we leave behind!

Happy New Year 2022

As Bill Vaughan famously said, “an optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” Whatever you’re planning this Hogmanay, we wish you well and to all our clients and suppliers, best wishes for a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year from the team at Employment Law Services (ELS) LTD.

Christmas is as much a feeling as it is a holiday

After another challenging year enduring the continuing effects of the pandemic and the inconceivable loss it has incurred for so many people and on so many levels, many will be feeling weary and in serious need of the break the Christmas holiday provides.

As you start to wind down in preparation for the holiday, try to remember that Christmas is as much a feeling as it is a holiday.  Christmas represents the birth of a new beginning and hope. We celebrate it by giving the light of love to those that need it most and we remember the importance of being good to one another, brightening each other’s lives and spreading joy, happiness and peace.

So, as another challenging year draws to a close, take the opportunity to spend that time doing whatever you need to do to recharge, recalibrate and refocus and, most importantly, give yourself permission to do what makes you feel better or good – you deserve it!

The team at Employment Law Services (ELS) LTD wish you and your families a peaceful and enjoyable Christmas and all the very best for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

#MerryChristmas #HappyNewYear #StaySafe

Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme for SMEs Reintroduced

This afternoon, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the immediate reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Scheme for SMEs which previously ended at the end of September 2021.

Rishi Sunak
As part of a series of measures being provided by the UK Government which are intended to support UK companies being impacted by the OMICRON outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, Rishi Sunak announced today that the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme for SMEs will be reintroduced with immediate effect.

Businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be able to claim back up to 2 weeks of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) using the UK Government’s online service from mid-January 2022 but will be eligible to make a claim from now.  Further guidance will be available on the UK Government website as soon as possible.

The scheme covers all types of employment contracts, including:

  • full-time employees
  • part-time employees
  • employees on agency contracts
  • employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
  • fixed term contracts (until the date their contract ends)

Different Deemed Incapacity Rules for SSP

The SSP deemed incapacity rules have been extended to cover those who self‑isolate in accordance with government guidelines and those who are shielding in accordance with a notification. SSP can be claimed from the first day of incapacity in respect of absences and online isolation notes can be used by employees to provide evidence to their employers that they have had to self-isolate.

Last week, the UK Government provided new guidance on what will amount to evidence of sickness for SSP purposes where the absence relates to COVID-19 following the introduction of new temporary rules on providing Fit Notes.  See our previous update – New Temporary Rules on Fit Notes and Proof of Illness

Get a Homeworking Policy

With the latest working from home guidance and talk of a ‘circuit break’ after Christmas and into the New Year to try and combat the rapid spread of the OMICRON variant of COVID, many Employers will again be reviewing their approach to homeworking.


One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and the various levels of lockdown restrictions we have all had to endure is that homeworking has become the norm rather than the exception for many workers and the need for an effective homeworking policy has never been higher.  This shift in approach to homeworking is likely to become more common in the future, whether as a full-time arrangement or as part of a hybrid working pattern.

Employers requiring a more tailored approach, a specific hybrid working policy and/or supporting amendments to contracts of employment can Contact us directly to discuss their specific needs.

Other Employers looking for a straightforward homeworking policy can simply download our FREE homeworking Policy.  This policy has not been drafted to accommodate any temporary homeworking arrangements that may be in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it can be adapted if a temporary homeworking policy is required for these purposes.

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New Temporary Rules on Fit Notes and Proof of Illness

From 17 December 2021, employees will not be required to provide their employer with medical evidence of sickness absence (a Fit Note) for the first 28 days of absence.

When can an employer require evidence of sickness for SSP purposes?

For the purposes of administering SSP, employers are not allowed to insist on a doctor’s certificate for at least the 28 days of an employee’s sickness absence. After that time, they may insist on a statutory fit note or other reasonable evidence.  The Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/1453) (Medical Evidence Regulations 2021), which came into force on 17 December 2021 and modified the Medical Evidence Regulations 1985, is intended to increase GP capacity to support the COVID-19 booster programme.

Employees shall not be required to provide medical information in respect of the first 28 days of any spell of incapacity for work which either started during the period 17 December 2021 to 26 January 2022 or which commenced prior to 17 December 2021 but which had not lasted more than seven days on that date (so that the requirement to provide medical evidence had not yet arisen).  In practice this means that employees can self-certify for absences of up to 28 days during the period that the modification introduced by the Medical Evidence Regulations 2021 applies.

The HMRC guidance, Statutory Sick Pay: employee fitness to work, has been updated to reflect this change. The same amendment was made in Northern Ireland by the Statutory Sick Pay (Medical Evidence) (Modification) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021, which also came into force on 17 December 2021.

What evidence can an employer require in relation to COVID-19-related absences?

Reasonable evidence is normally a fit note from the employee’s doctor, but it can take other forms if reasonable in the circumstances.

The government confirmed that the following will amount to evidence of sickness for SSP purposes where the absence relates to COVID-19 (including where the employee is self-isolating in circumstances where SSP entitlement is triggered:

  • An isolation note from NHS 111 if they are self-isolating and cannot work because of COVID-19.
  • The notification from the NHS or public health authorities if they are self-isolating because they have come into contact with someone with COVID-19.
  • fit note as normal.
  • The NHS or GP letter telling them to stay at home (shield) for at least 12 weeks because they are at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Latest Working From Home Guidance For UK Employers

In response to the COVID-19 Omicron variant and identification of several cases of the variant across the UK, the UK Government and devolved Administrations have revised their guidance and have advised people to be cautious and do everything they can to minimise the risk of spreading infection.

COVID-19 Emergency Toolkit

Following the latest announcements on the government’s response to COVID-19 in the UK, we have updated our Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support page with the latest information and links to the government guidance.

Click here to get the latest working from home guidance for UK Employers

The situation with the OMICRON variant remains uncertain, so keep following us for updates.

Another Milestone for ELS

This week marks our anniversary of completing 13 fantastic years in business and we would like to mark the occasion by thanking all those who have helped contribute to our success!

To our all our clients, you are the reason why we are celebrating this special day in our company. Without you we would not be where we are today! We truly value your support and trust a look forward to continuing to support you in the coming year and beyond.

To our amazing team, we always appreciate your dedication and hard work.  The journey has not been easy, especially over these last 18 months but the company has reached this far all because of you. Congratulations on being part of this success.

Happy Anniversary to Us!!

Scottish First Minister Imposes New Legal Obligations on Scottish Employers

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament this afternoon, 14 December 2021, the First Minister confirmed various steps being taken by the devolved Scottish Administration to mitigate the risk posed by the Omicron variant of COVID-19, including new legal obligations for Scottish employers.

The accelerated roll out of the COVID-19 Booster Vaccine was the primary message and guidance on rapid flow testing before visiting family and friends, the need to self-isolate regardless of vaccine status and reducing household contacts and external socialising, but in addition to this advisory guidance the FM also confirmed new legal obligations will be imposed on all Scottish Employers.

New Legal Obligations for Scottish Employers

Whereas the guidance notified to the public perviously had been strictly advisory, today’s announcement confirmed that two new legal obligations were being imposed on Scottish Employers, namely:

  • Employers will now have a legal obligation to introduce home working, wherever possible to reduce mixing in workplaces.
  • Employers will now have a legal obligation to implement protective measures that are reasonable and practicable to protect their workers from the risks posed by the transmission of the OMICRON variant of COVID-19.

Today’s announcement failed to confirm when these new legal obligations will come into force and we will provide further details once the Scottish Administration clarifies its position.

Considerations for Employers Choosing to Keep Workplaces Open

Employers choosing to remain open must consider carefully their obligations and should continue to follow any sector specific guidance and where there is no sector specific guidance, they should ensure that as a minimum they take the following steps:

  • Continue to assess the risks to yourself, your employees, your suppliers and your customers.  If you employ 5 or more employees, this must be recorded in writing and if you employ 50 or more employees, you must publish your risk assessment.
  • Ensure you have in place all required infection and control measures, which could include.
  • Cleaning more often. Increasing how often surfaces are cleaned, especially those that are being touched a lot. Asking staff to use hand sanitiser and wash their hands frequently.
  • Asking customers/visitors to the workplace to wear face coverings.
  • Making sure everyone is social distancing. Make it easy for everyone to do so by putting up signs or introducing a one-way system that staff/visitors can follow.
  • Increasing ventilation by keeping doors and windows open where possible and running ventilation systems at all times.
  • Turning people with coronavirus symptoms away. If a staff member (or someone in their household) or a customer/visitor to the office has a persistent cough, a high temperature or has lost their sense of taste or smell, they should be self-isolating.

Employers should be prepared to be flexible given the likelihood that the OMICRON variant will remain a risk for the foreseeable future and a resurgence in infections may result in further lockdown restrictions.  It is important also to remember that staff may have legitimate reasons for not wanting to remain at work, such as:

  • being or living with a “clinically extremely vulnerable’ or ‘clinically vulnerable’ person.
  • having childcare issues if children are sent home from school or nurseries or being unable to rely on normal childcare arrangements.
  • feeling extremely anxious about the risk posed by COVID-19 and fearful about remaining in the office.
  • expressing concerns relating to health & safety and what they perceive to be the employer’s failure to follow government guidance and/or implement appropriate measures and controls.

Employers will need to carefully consider feedback from staff, be prepared to be flexible and act reasonably when responding to staff feedback so as to avoid the risk of possible claims at the Employment Tribunal.

Support for Employers

The COVID-19 lockdown restrictions continue to present numerous and complex challenges for Employers.

If you are an Employer and require advice and support on any employment matters, COVID related or otherwise, call us now on 0800 612 4772 or Contact us via our website and we will set out clear guidance to assist you to comply with your legal obligations.

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Christmas Chaos for UK Employers Again This Year

The recent emergence of the ‘OMICRON’ variant of COVID-19 and conflicting and ambiguous messages from politicians has done nothing but create confusion and frustration and is causing Christmas chaos for UK employers again this year!

Don’t Let This Christmas End in Tiers

This latest increase in restrictions and advice has come after the emergence of a new COVID variant from South Africa, the OMICRON variant, even though many reports from South Africa have suggested that this latest variant, whilst more transmissible, is far less virulent than the DELTA variant and they look likely to remain in place throughout the festive period and into the New Year, so what does this all mean for UK employers?

New Restrictions and Advice

A massive push of the booster vaccine is currently underway, and everyone is being strongly encouraged to ensure they are fully vaccinated to reduce the risk of contracting and transmitting COVID and the likelihood of becoming seriously ill and requiring hospitalisation.

Various compulsory restrictions have also been reintroduced in England, including compulsory wearing of face masks in various public places and vaccine passports, both of which were already compulsory in other parts of the UK, and the UK Government and devolved administrations have also advised that staff should work from home wherever possible, and that staff Christmas parties should either be scaled back, postponed, or cancelled all together, which will potentially have a significant and adverse impact on thousands of businesses, particularly those in the hospitality sector.

Advice is NOT Law

It is important to note that the latest advice on homeworking is guidance, it is not law.  This means it will not be an offence to continue to work from the office even if that work could have been carried out from home.  Employers can therefore decide whether to follow the work from home advice, or not, but in doing so they should carefully consider their underlying health and safety obligations to provide a safe working environment for all staff.  In light of the emergence of the OMICRON It would be prudent to revisit COVID-19 Risk Assessments to determine whether any changes to existing controls and measures might be required.

Party or No Party?

Battling the pandemic over the last 18+ months may have you feeling worn out and not particularly festive, but before you decide to write off Christmas and/or the annual staff Christmas Party this year, try to remember that Christmas is as much a feeling as it is a holiday.  Christmas represents the birth of a new beginning and hope. We celebrate it by giving the light of love to those that need it most and we remember the importance of being good to one another, brightening each other’s lives and spreading joy, happiness and peace.

If you decide to go ahead and gather for your annual Christmas party, you should include your Christmas Party plans into your COVID Risk Assessment to ensure that you continue to have the necessary controls and measures in place to have a safe and enjoyable event.

If, however, you decide not to go gather physically to celebrate, why not have a Virtual Christmas Party instead?

Some of the benefits of organising a virtual Christmas Party for your staff include:

  • Bringing your team together, no matter where they are
  • Maintaining good workplace well-being
  • Boosting employee engagement
  • Combating loneliness at work and/or at home
  • Improving team morale

Sure, planning any sort of a Christmas Party this year will be a challenge, but with a little bit of effort and creativity there’s no reason why it can’t be done and in making the effort you will be helping yourself and your team to let go of all the stress of the last 18+ months and to step into a brighter and happier place.

There is a plethora of ideas for celebrating Christmas with your team, in person or virtually, whether it’s escape rooms, cocktail masterclasses, a games night or a pub quiz, and Employers can easily and cost-effectively bring their teams together this Christmas to celebrate, have fun and create memories that everyone will look back on in years to come whatever they decide.

Avoid an HR Hangover

If you take the leap and do decide to hold a Christmas Party, even a virtual one, it will still be a ‘work’ event, so here are Employment Law Services (ELS)’ “’Top Tips” to help Employers avoid an HR hangover:

  • Ensure all employees are aware of the company’s standard disciplinary and grievance procedures.
  • If staff are expected to work the day after the Christmas party, make sure this has been clearly communicated to them beforehand.
  • At the party, ensure all employees are catered for regardless of their age, sex, sexual orientation, religion or disability.

Don’t Let This Christmas End in Tiers

Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a nightmare and 2021 has been another hellish year for us all, but for the sake of your own mental health and that of your team, don’t let COVID be the grinch that stole Christmas!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!