In Brief: Important Updates from May 2021Posted in : Supplementary Articles NI on 7 June 2021
This month's In Brief looks at a number of Covid-19 related developments, including a new guide to NI workplace vaccinations from the Labour Relations Agency.
A Practical Guide to the COVID-19 Vaccination and the Workplace
The LRA has published the above guide. This guide sets out some of the key considerations for employers regarding issues around the vaccination of staff, including how to tackle some of the ethical, legal and practical challenges. There are signposts to additional information and the guide also includes a sample COVID-19 vaccination policy.
- Employers should think carefully about compiling a 'COVID-19 vaccination in the workplace' policy document.
- Employers should approach the issue in a voluntary and encouraging perspective.
- Employers should be aware of a variety of legal issues that underpin the policy.
- Employers should always take into account fact sensitivities when applying a policy.
- Employers should strive to retain effective and harmonious employment relations regarding the implementation of a policy.
Equality Watchdog Backs Mandatory Vaccinations for Care Home Workers
Still with Covid-19 vaccinations, GB's equality watchdog has backed mandatory vaccinations of employees working at care homes.
In a submission to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said it was "reasonable to require" care home workers who work directly with older and disabled people to be vaccinated.
Responding to the DHSC's consultation on making vaccinations compulsory for older adult care home workers, the EHRC said the government was "right to prioritise protection of the right to life" when legislating for mandatory vaccination.
TUC - Employers "Massively Under-Reporting" Covid Work-Related Deaths
The number of people who have died from exposure to Covid at work is being "massively under-reported" by employers, according to a new TUC report published this week. The report highlights a huge discrepancy between Covid work-related deaths reported by employers and data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Public Health England. Between April 2020 and April 2021 the ONS reported that 15,263 people of working age died from Covid. But according to reports filed by employers just 387 (2.5 per cent) of these deaths came from workers contracting Covid at work.
Survey Shows High Level of Support for Remote Working
Lockdown and WFH have changed the way many people now think about work. South of the Border, data from the second annual national remote working survey in Ireland shows that 95% of respondents were in favour of working remotely on an on-going basis to some extent.
The overwhelming majority (95%) is a significant increase from the 83% who wanted to continue to work remotely for some or all of the time in the 2020 survey. Conversely, only 5% indicated that they did not wish to work remotely to any extent - a drop from 16% who gave that response a year ago. The number of respondents working fully remotely fell from 87% in April 2020 to 75% at the end of April 2021 as there was more of a mix of onsite and remote (20%) in the latest survey.
The survey report and analysis is available here:
Facing the Challenges of Returning to Work
The Limeade Institute conducted a global study to understand the current state of the employee experience and how companies are moving into 2021. This is an important study and will be relevant to many of us. It has the more obvious statistics about homeworking increasing - in their study from around 6% from before the pandemic to 39% during lockdown.
What is more concerning is that there was not a single employee that did not have any anxiety about returning to the office/worksite. The top selected source of anxiety was being exposed to COVID-19 (77%); though, this was followed closely by the idea of less flexibility (71%) and having to commute to work again (68.5%).
There is a lot of very interesting and useful information in this report. Highly recommended:
Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay Bill
On our one item in this edition that is not in some way Covid-related, Economy Minister Diane Dodds has introduced a Bill to the Assembly to legislate for statutory Parental Bereavement Leave and Pay in Northern Ireland.
Speaking about the Bill, the Minister said:
"The trauma of losing a child is impossible to overstate, and it is completely understandable that working parents who experience such a bereavement will need the compassion and support of a caring employer.
"Whilst many employers will make provision for paid compassionate leave, it has no statutory protection and may only cover a few days. Under my proposals employees who suffer the loss of a child under the age of eighteen, or a stillbirth after 24 weeks of pregnancy, will have a statutory entitlement to two weeks' leave and, in most cases, working parents will also be entitled to a statutory payment."
Latest on Coronavirus/Covid-19
- Weekly Review of Developments 11/6/2021
- Has the Pandemic Taught us any Important Lessons?
- Ham v ESL BBSW Ltd 
- Can Home Working Be Made Permanent Through Custom and Practice?
- Travelling to non-approved countries – can we refuse the leave?
- What should we be doing now as an organisation to prepare for hybrid working once restrictions are eased further?
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.