Covid-19 HR and Employment Law: Learning Points for EmployersPosted in : HR Updates on 31 January 2022
HR in normal circumstances can be a minefield, but Covid 19 has complicated even the most straightforward of HR processes. Case law is slowly beginning to emerge relating to tribunal cases taken due to Covid-19. It is important that employers stay up to date with emerging case law to ensure they are adhering to requirements and avoid pitfalls of other employers. This article considers some practical aspects of HR and how covid 19 has impacted working life in Northern Ireland.
SSP is payable in Northern Ireland from the fourth day of absence providing that the employee meets the Lower Earnings Level (LEL). However, if the absence is in relation to Covid 19 then SSP is payable from the first day of absence. It is necessary to have at least four days of absence to be eligible for payment from day one. Employees are entitled to receive SSP if they are isolating or have received a positive test result.
From the 10th of December 2021 to 26th January 2022, there has been a modification made to the timeframes in which an employee can self-certify their own absence. This has been increased from 7 days to 28 days to alleviate some pressure from GPs to allow them to focus on the vaccination booster programme.
Whilst this is a temporary amendment, there is the provision that it can be extended if required. The rules on self-certifying absence apply to all nature of absence and are not required to specifically be related to covid.
Effective from 14th January 2022, the Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Funding of Employers’ Liabilities) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/5) enables certain eligible small and medium-sized employers to reclaim some of their Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) costs from HMRC. This new scheme differs from the previous provision that stopped on 30th September 2021 for all employers to reclaim two weeks of SSP for Covid related absences.
Eligible employers are those who, on the 30th of November 2021 had fewer than 250 employees enrolled in all PAYE schemes operated by the employer and, on 31 December 2019, was not “already in difficulty”.
To be eligible, the payment must have been made for a covid related absence and, any day of incapacity must have occurred on or after 21st December 2021.
Health and Safety
The Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a huge emphasis on health and safety in the workplace and in general. Companies that before had no need for PPE, have been required as part of the pandemic to provide PPE in the form of face coverings and hand sanitiser. All Companies have faced additional requirements in terms of risk assessments of the working environment. From 27th December 2021, the Northern Ireland executive placed further responsibilities on companies that required their employees to attend the workplace. Employers are required to complete a mandatory risk assessment for staff attending the office and must implement a two-metre social distancing.
Policies and Procedures
It is important that employers update their policies and procedures with any relevant changes. Employers that want to implement specific requirements perhaps to wear face coverings at certain times should ensure to update their policy and issue a notice to staff to ensure they are aware. It is essential that employers draft any policy amendments in line with current regulations.
Employers should ensure that they are keeping up to date with changes to government advice and that this is updated where appropriate in their relevant policies and procedures. Where employees raise concerns that can be linked to covid 19, employers should take time to think through the next steps and consult any emerging caselaw. It is likely that 2022 will continue to see many changes and as such legislation and case law are continuously evolving.This article is correct at 31/01/2022
The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.