Employment Law at 11: No Jab, No Job; Changes to Furlough Scheme; ECNI Guidance on Menopause in the Workplace

Posted in : 'Any Questions' Webinar Recordings on 2 July 2021
Seamus McGranaghan
O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors
Issues covered: Covid-19; Vaccines; Menopause Policy

In this month's webinar Seamus McGranaghan, Partner at O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors is be joined by Christine Quinn, Learning & Development Officer at Legal Island, and special guest, Helen Smyth, Senior Employment Relations Manager in Advisory Services at the Labour Relations Agency.

They discuss issues around:

  • ‘no jab, no job’ here in Northern Ireland in light of the decision on care home staff in England
  • Upcoming Changes to the Covid-19 Furlough Scheme
  • The recent Equality Commission for Northern Ireland guidance on Menopause in the Workplace

Watch the webinar recording

Transcript

Christine: So good morning, everybody. Welcome to Employment Law at 11. Today we're going to be discussing the new guidance on menopause in the workplace, 'No jab, no job', and the new COVID furlough rules.

So, first things first, let me introduce our speakers today. My name is Christine Quinn. You won't know me yet. I am new. I am one of the Learning and Development officers here at Legal-Island. I'm stepping in for Scott today, who is off on his holidays in sunny Edinburgh. Lucky him.

I'm also delighted to be joined by our regular contributor Seamus McGranaghan, the director of Commercial O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors. I'm particularly glad to be working with Seamus again as we are old colleagues from many, many moons ago.

Seamus: Old colleagues?

Christine: We worked together many moons ago. I was a legal secretary back in those days. Seamus was just a B2B solicitor, just a trainee in those days. So, it's lovely to be back working with him.

And we've also got Helen Smyth here today of the Labour Relations Agency. So, we're delighted to have her on here today. She's been with the LRA for some 30 years. She's the Senior Employment Relations Manager there, and she leads a team specialising in promoting best employment practice, ensuring statutory compliance, and developing employment relation skills. So, it's great to have her here today. She's going to have some great insights for us.

So just a wee reminder of our Annual Review of Employment Law conference coming up on the 10 and 11 of November. We've got lots of great speakers lined up. We've got Mark McAllister and Gareth Walls confirmed so far and of course Seamus McGranaghan. Plenty of other speakers coming along too. Booking is open, if you book now, you get the early bird rate. So do have a look at that and come along to our website to book that: https://www.legal-island.com/event/annual-review-of-employment-law-2021/. And if you have any issues with that, do drop us an email. It would be great to see you all there.

Poll Questions and Results

84.5% said their organisation has a menopause policy

 

So, first things first. We'd like you guys to get involved. There are going to be a couple of questions posed to yet. If you could click on the voting buttons, we'll take your views on that.

"Does your organisation have a menopause policy? Yes or no?"

If you could select one of those, let us know your thoughts on that. Okay. So, everybody has voted there. 

 Helen, do you find that surprising?

Helen: No, Christine, not at all. Given the response to the poll, it's not surprising if I told you that of the 2,471 responses received in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions 2018 survey, the results reveal that a staggering 99% of respondents said that they didn't have or didn't know if they had a workplace menopause policy, with only 1% saying that they had.

Christine: Yeah. So, we're doing slightly better in the virtual room here.

Helen: Slightly better.

Christine: Seamus, are you getting many calls about "What's this menopause guidance? Do we need a policy?" and that type of thing?

Seamus: Certainly, from experience and over the years . . . I mean, I'm practising maybe coming about 20 years now. It certainly is a model that has raised its head. Maybe in and around I more so would have come across it with issues to do with performance, maybe dips in performance, maybe where there have been issues that have risen and then those matters have been raised by the employee.

But I think it's that aspect, that stigma around it. Maybe Helen has come across that just in some of the work that she has done as well where almost people are embarrassed maybe to raise it and to put it forward as a concern.

But certainly, I think the good news is, and maybe Helen will take a bit of comfort and pride in this, but since the guidance has been issued, I have had of a number of clients that have contacted me wanting to check if they need to put a policy in place. Is it recommendable? And particularly, there's a really good checklist within the guidance that is helpful.

So, I think it's important, but I think we were just talking briefly there in advance starting. I did see that the BBC's health correspondent, Marie-Louise Connolly, had tweeted during the week about some symptoms and about being up in the middle of the night and feeling exhausted and not been able to sleep and added hashtag #menopause at the end of it. So, you can certainly see that I would have thought maybe with the introduction of the guidance that there's more visibility. It's a topic out there now to be discussed, which is great.

Christine:Yeah. That's great. Thank you both there.

Let's have a look at the next poll, 

"Have you changed your recruitment policy to require all new staff to have a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment?" 

And of course, please remember that throughout the webinar, you can pose questions to the panel, which I'll be keeping an eye on. So just type in your question box if you have anything you want to raise and we'll get it covered for you.

Wow. I think that's pretty definitive. Absolutely nobody has changed their recruitment policy. Seamus, have you any insight into that? Have you been getting calls about whether people should or can? What's your view on that?

Seamus: I'm slightly surprised that it is 100%. I thought that there might've been maybe some . . . I mean, particularly in relationship to maybe the likes of care providers or nursing homes, care homes, those sorts of industries, where there's maybe a bit more of a focus in the terms of the vaccine. But I think it's fairly reflective of what the position has been in Northern Ireland as regards the forcing or the requirement to have the vaccine. So I'd certainly take comfort in relation to that.

I think that the other side of it is that we're well aware that our . . . well, certainly the statistics and the figures that we've been provided with are that the majority of the adult population has taken up the offer of the vaccine. But I am aware just that . . . I mean, I have had some calls through and queries arising in relation to. And not so much in a care setting, but more sort of working with vulnerable adults, maybe individuals that need one-on-one care but not in any kind of medical setting or anything like that where they would have concerns about their staff and maybe staff not taking the vaccine and maybe looking at amending duties and things like that.

I've had some of those calls, but yeah, I am surprised to see that it's 100%. I'm not surprised that it is at that end of the scale, but I thought maybe that there might've been some.

Christine: Yeah, I can see someone has commented that everyone in their team is still working from home. So maybe once we start to see the sneak back to the office, maybe that'll shift slightly.

Seamus: Yeah.

Christine: Brilliant. Can we have we look at the next question  Okay. So,

"Does your organisation have any staff currently on furlough? Yes or no?"

We're kind of thinking with the creak-back in the hospitality sector it might be a lower number on furlough at the moment. I think that would kind of be in keeping with what we were chatting about in relation to the hospitality sector. The crack economy, as people are calling it, is back. We've got our live music and stuff, so maybe less people are in furlough.

What are your thoughts on that, Seamus? Or Helen, if you want to jump in.

Seamus: I suppose my thoughts are . . . I mean, I was looking at some figures there and I know that in April, in Northern Ireland, there were 92,000 people still in the furlough scheme. And that had dropped by the end of May, down to 58,600. Those were the figures reported by the BBC. Look, it is definitely moving in the right direction.

And as you say, Christine, in relation to the likes of returning to live music and things like that might assist as well, although often those individuals . . . whether they would have qualified for furlough or whether they're self-employed and things like that.

But at the same time, I think that there is a wider question as well. I think a lot of businesses have reopened, but maybe haven't at this point reopened to their normal trading and their normal sort of working capacity. There maybe has been a filtering of staff back in that are doing some work and then they are also maybe still in the furlough scheme in relation to their remaining contractual orders and things like that.

So, there could be a bit of a movement again as the summer months progress. And as you know, we're all keeping our eyes open to the end of September with furlough and, in particular, what might happen across the water in England come the 19 July and really look to lifting the vast majority of the remaining restrictions.

Yeah, it's good to see. I mean, it gives comfort that things are moving in the right direction.

Christine: Brilliant. Thanks very much both for your insights there.

Let's have a look at our agenda then for today. So, we're going to kick off with the recent guidance on menopause in the workplace. Then we'll move on to 'no jab, no job' here in Northern Ireland. And we'll finish up with the changes to the COVID furlough scheme.

Menopause Guidance

So I think if we start off with the menopause guidance, for those of you who haven't seen it, it's an absolutely fabulous document. We will be sending you a link to it. But do give it a read. It's produced by the Labour Relations Agency, the Equality Commission NI, and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. It really is a really useful document. It's short and to the point. It's about 10 pages, but it covers everything. I think it's fantastic, a really good read. We're lucky enough to have Helen here today who worked on the guidance. So very welcome, Helen.

Helen: Thank you.

Christine: Helen, can I ask why has the guidance come about?

Helen: Well, Christine, with women making up nearly half of the working population in Northern Ireland and with change in pension age, it's likely that more women will be working later into life. So, employers need to consider how they can support women in the workplace when their menopause happens.

Now, this new guidance produced, as you say, in partnership with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is mainly directed at employers to help employees experiencing the menopause through what can be a difficult time.

The guidance contains some areas, which I'm just going to very briefly outline. There's a link to the results of the 2018 survey, which I alluded to after the poll this morning, which was conducted by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. There is a useful checklist there to enable employers to assess the extent to which their current policies and procedures meet the needs of women with menopausal symptoms. There are some case law decisions, which I know Seamus will pick up on in a little bit more detail, and a couple of great practice examples from Northern Ireland employers.

I have to say that the reaction of employers and HR practitioners to date following the launch of this guidance has really shown us that there's real appetite to learn about this, de-stigmatise the menopause discussion, and change workplace practices so that women going through the menopause can be accommodated. So that in itself is really positive.

Christine: Yeah, I think there's been a big change in people's ability to talk about it, and it is kind of being driven by celebrities. As Seamus said, Marie-Louise Connolly's comments. I thought there was a fantastic documentary by Davina McCall on Channel 4 about a month ago. And then you had mentioned the one show was talking about it last night. So, it seems the taboo has kind of been broken about, which is fantastic.

Helen, why should employers consider menopause in the workplace? Why is it important for them to do that?

Helen: This is about more than complying with the law, Christine. I suppose from an employer's point of view, you'll already understand the importance of listening to your employees and understanding and seeking to accommodate their needs and experiences and priorities.

Employers should provide practical support and create, I suppose, an open culture for those experiencing symptoms. And this is likely to result in staff loyalty, less absenteeism, better motivation and productivity.

I suppose for those employees considering leaving work because of the severity of symptoms, there's a huge risk for the business in terms of loss of talent, knowledge, and experience.

I suppose one of the difficulties with managing menopause at work is that whilst most women experience it between the ages of 45 and 55, the menopause can happen much earlier for some women.

There's also a range of symptoms and wide variations of women's experiences. That doesn't mean that employers have to be experts in women's health issues. It just means that there needs to be a policy in place, training and support in how to help women, and how and when to implement it.

Christine: Yeah. I've actually got a good question here, Helen, from a listener. So, does the policy or do you advise that any in-house policy should cover menopause and perimenopause? Do you think it would include both?

Helen: It can do. Some employers may not need to develop a specific menopause policy if you have a commitment to support women through the menopause and other policies. For an example, an equality policy, a harassment policy, and a reasonable adjustment policy.

But at the end of the day, you need to make it clear that if an employee needs to talk about menopause, they will be listened to and taken seriously.

Christine: Yeah. And what are those kinds of practical steps that an employer could take on the day-to-day basis to help employees?

Helen: Again, this is to all employers, both large and small. You may find that a few simple changes to the working environment can make a huge difference. And by that, I would suggest that it may be needed just to help an employee get through a difficult patch. And that may be as simple as a seat by a window, an extra uniform or a particular piece of clothing of a corporate uniform, access to cold water, or a fan on her desk.

Christine: Yeah. Brilliant. Thank you very much for that. I know you've been talking about the practicalities and the moral side of this, but are there any legal duties imposed on employers in relation to menopause in the workplace?

Helen:  Well, employers have a duty of care to ensure the health, safety, and welfare at work of employees and make workplaces suitable for individuals who work in them. So, risk assessments should be carried out and action taken to prevent exposure to risks.

And when carrying out risk assessments, as a matter of course, employers should look at issues such as temperature and ventilation, the materials used in any uniform or corporate clothing, again, access to cold drinking water, and access to toilet facilities. But in terms of making adjustments, those should always be tailored to an individual's specific needs.

Christine: Brilliant. Thanks very much, Helen.

I think the tail end of specific needs really brings us quite neatly into . . . the back of the guidance has as a few key cases, and one that I found particularly interesting was the Merchant v BT case. And in that, a manager is confronted with someone under-performing who was saying menopausal symptoms were contributing to that. He decided his best approach was to look at his wife's menopausal symptoms and decide whether the employee was justified or not.

Unsurprisingly, the tribunal didn't take too kindly to that, and it was held that BT had directly discriminated against that particular employee on the basis of her sex. They did investigate further non-female-related conditions. So, I think that really goes down to, "Let's treat everyone like individuals. We can't just make assumptions about a big group of people".

I know, Seamus, you have some insights into the other bits of case law at the back of the guidance there.

Seamus: Well, just in relation to the Merchant case, by way of background, this was a situation where the claimant, Mrs Merchant, was dismissed from her employment on the basis that she had already received previous warnings and she had a final written warning in relation to her performance at work.

What she had done was she had approached her manager and had said that she was having . . . as Helen put it very well there, it was a difficult patch in relation to her work, and that was down to the fact that she was going through the menopause, and specifically she said about it affecting her concentration levels and things like that.

I suppose if we break it down very simply there, Christine, just in relation to what . . . the interesting point in the case is around the manager saying, "Well, look, I looked at my wife's situation and talked about that". But you really wouldn't take those steps in relation to if you had a member of your family with a certain disability and somebody else in your workplace had that disability. You wouldn't compare the two. It wouldn't be an appropriate comparison to make.

Individuals need to be treated individually when it comes to these matters. They're affected differently and they have different outcomes for people. So, it's important from an employer's perspective that the employee just isn't left to feel that they are being put into one box and treated in that way.

I thought it was interesting as well that within the guidance, it did talk about the inclusivity, a welcome working environment, understanding the employees' needs, how they are affected. Just that aspect of when people are included, the rewards of that are you do tend to get . . . and the guidance specifically talks about greater staff loyalty, lower rates of absenteeism, and higher rates of productivity. So it does come back to those important issues.

But there is the Merchant case. I struggled. A client of mine contacted me and wanted sight of the case, and I did struggle to find it. But I managed to get a copy of it. I can pass that on to you at Legal-Island. You can maybe send a link up in relation to it, because it is an interesting read.

The guidance also talks about a 2008 case of Mrs Davies against the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service. And specifically, whenever we're looking at menopause, the issue that could arise around equality and discrimination would be on the basis of gender, disability, and age. Those would be the three main heads that I would see issues arising.

And this one specifically in the Davies case was around disability discrimination. The finding was that . . . and certainly you would not say that every woman or every person that suffers . . . well, not suffers. But everyone that is going through the menopause are suffering from a disability. That wouldn't be correct. But in this case, they said that if the symptoms are sufficiently long-term and substantial, it could be deemed to fall within the term of disability. And that's always subject to medical advice might say and what one tribunal finds.

There was a more recent 2020 case of A v Bonmarche Ltd. This was an anonymised case. And again, I think it's important to think around the sensitivities of these cases and, again, the sensitivities and working. We hope that the bringing to light of these issues will lessen that.

But this was about comments being made in work in relation to menopause and a view that those comments could result in harassment on the grounds of sex and age.

So, we know over the webinars that we've done that we can see that there has been a general expansion of equality laws, and certainly the manner in which the tribunals and the courts are considering it, it is broadening. And this is one that we certainly help to be alive to.

Christine: Yeah. I think the take home points from those cases are "Don't treat menopause as a taboo subject". Maybe if that male manager had been less embarrassed, he would have actually consulted his employee about her symptoms. "Treat people as individuals" is a big take home as well. And it just needs to be something that's talked about.

But in summary, this guidance is a fantastic guide. Please do have a read of it. We will send you the link to it. There's some good practice guidance at the back. We've got some links to the PSNI's approach to the menopause in their organisation, and also one of the Belfast Trust's as well. So, it is really worth a read, and I highly recommend it.

No Jab, No Job

But just getting conscious of the time here, I think we should move on to our next topic. So 'no jab, no job' is kind of the tabloid expression used for compulsory vaccinations in the workplace. It's kind of been lingering in the background since the vaccinations came to us. But last week, it was confirmed that care homes in England would be making it a compulsory for all their staff to be vaccinated. They would be required by law to do that.

So, initially I suppose the thoughts are, "Well, they're in a medical environment. Maybe that is appropriate". But it is starting to creep into other industries. We've got Bank of America in London saying their staff can't come into the London office if they're not jabbed. We've got Bloomsbury Publishers, famous for the "Harry Potter" series, of course, saying you can't come in unless you're jabbed. And then we've got Pimlico Plumbers, who are always up for a test case, who have been quite [chavvy 00:26:03] about this particular area since vaccines came about. They're advertising jobs which stipulate you must be jabbed.

So, Seamus, is this coming our way? Is it crossing the Irish Sea do you think?

Seamus: I mean, it is interesting to see the various ways that employers are tackling the issue. Definitely over the webinars that we've done over the past 12 months, or maybe longer than that when we were hopeful of a vaccine, and now that we have it, certainly the attention is turning to whether or not they should be compulsory or not.

On our last webinar, we talked about the position of the Human Rights Commission in England and the recommendation that it would be fair to bring in the compulsory vaccination for those working within a care setting. I don't expect that we're going to have a situation like that that will arise in Northern Ireland. And I do think that the temperature of that might change if we end up in another surge and if there are issues that arise in relation to hospital admissions and things like that. I know that we're all keeping a close eye on how that is all working across the water.

But the important point, I suppose, is that we know that Robin Swann, our health minister, has said that he wouldn't be in favour of bringing in compulsory vaccinations within Northern Ireland. He talks about Northern Ireland being in a different place to that in England.

So at this moment in time, it certainly doesn't seem that we would have that situation arise. But I do think that could change in the future, and I think it's something that we'll need to keep our eyes open to.

But I think that it will be in and around looking at maybe if there's a rise in cases in care homes and things like that. And there are interesting figures about care homes and the requirement to have at least 90% of residents vaccinated for there to be proper efficacy of the vaccine, and about the staff as well.

Look, it's that aspect of compulsory element and it's just not that all people are going to be willing or that all people are going to be able to get the vaccine. There has been a position in England to say that if you are medically exempt, you won't be affected. But what they're saying is that there will be a 16-week lead-in period for anybody that hasn't had their jab to have it, or they face being redeployed away from frontline care or possibly losing their job.

So serious ramifications arising from this compulsory aspect. Hopefully, we won't have to cross that bridge, but we'll have to wait and see.

Christine: Yeah. I see a few questions coming in on this, and hopefully this will feed in. So, somebody is asking about health conditions and philosophical beliefs. I suppose that the question is, "What are the legal pitfalls for an employer in insisting that staff are vaccinated?"

Seamus: I do think that there are circumstances where there will be a perfectly reasonable and rational reason for someone that doesn't take the vaccine. And it could be down to the fact of some religious reasons in relation to the contents of the vaccine. It depends. There is that philosophical belief and we know that that has been broadened out recently as well in relation to case law.

Look, the pitfalls are going to be that if someone is dismissed in relation to their failure to take the vaccine, you could be looking at potential for constructive dismissal claims. You could also look at potential discrimination issues that may arise around for the likes of pregnant employees. There seems to be specific guidance in relation to if somebody has a pre-existing medical condition or down to their religious belief.

And the sort of side note issues as well in relation to that is that we've spoken before about employers requiring information from their employees about the vaccine, wanting to know what their attitude is, if they've had the vaccine, and on those data protection issues that arise in relation to that information, about asking it and about retaining information as well in relationships to the employees. Ultimately, that is private medical information.  But there is certainly the potential of legal pitfalls.

Helpfully, and I think Helen maybe had some involvement in this as well, the Labour Relations Agency have put together another excellent guide just released in May relating to the position in and around vaccines and what employers can and can't do. It's entitled "COVID-19: Working Through This Together. A Practical Guide to the COVID 19 Vaccination and the Workplace".

And in particular, the really great thing about the guidance is that there is a draft vaccination policy contained within it. For me, I think that's a starting point for employers.

Christine: Yeah. We'll include a wee link to that document as well in the follow-up email that we send out.

Another great question has come in. Do you think we can draw a distinction for making the vaccine compulsory to new staff versus making it compulsory for current stuff?

Seamus: Well, I suppose that will really come down to . . . the background to that question is really about the contract. I have come across situations and I have given it thought about what could a contract say in relation to the requirement to have a vaccine. Those sorts of things will come down to the justification and the reason for requiring a vaccine. You could still be very much looking at the same issues.

It was one of the matters that Pimlico had said, that any new staff that they were taking on, they wouldn't take any new staff without them having the vaccine.

Again, you're still going to be faced with those same issues, I think, when it comes to . . . maybe not the unfair constructive dismissal aspect if they're not yet working for the organisation, but still those potential discriminatory issues relating to their religious belief, their philosophical belief, if they have pre-existing medical conditions and all those sorts of issues are still going to be in the round.

My advice is that you'd need to tread carefully, and really, you'd be looking at "What is the justification? What is the requirement here?" I think if you were sitting in an industrial tribunal here, that's where your mind would go to. Is this a reasonable step by the employer?

Christine: Yeah. I can see someone has asked, "Can we ask staff to declare reasons they won't take a vaccine?" I mean, my first thought would be that would be your data protection point. So, you can certainly ask the question, but you couldn't compel people to answer it. What would you think, Seamus?

Seamus: Yeah, I agree. Look, at the same time, we're all entitled to our privacy and we're not obliged to provide carte blanche to an employer in relation to all of our thoughts and opinions and beliefs.

I mean, the question could be asked. But I know of individuals that I've been approached by who have said that the employer is not leaning on but is encouraging and is keen for everyone to get the vaccine and, "I'm not keen to take it and I want time to give consideration. I want time to pass because I'm concerned in relation to allergies that I have".

I think those are tough discussions to have with an employer, and an employee might feel very alienated on the basis that they haven't taken their vaccine. They may feel strongly of their right not to take it, but they may feel awkward and maybe just concerned about notifying people that they haven't had it.

Christine: Yeah. So, what sort of practical steps could an employer take to kind of smooth the way or encourage in a softly-softly approach, I would say? What would you advise?

Seamus: Well, Helen could probably pick up a bit better than I could on that. But certainly, the guidance that does talk about this aspect of the production of a policy, the ability for an employee to be referred to a policy within the organisation.

Again, same as the menopause point. Employers do have a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work Order in Northern Ireland to make workplaces safe and eliminate risks to health, and that does provide a justification for the encouragement of people to be vaccinated.

Certainly, as it stands here at the minute, I can think that there is no legal insistence to say that somebody has to have the vaccine, that it has to be compulsory.

But just those steps in terms of having good communication with staff in relation to the vaccine. You can encourage it. And maybe lift as well some of those borders for people, if people are concerned about having to take time off traveling. Those more practical aspects, what can the employer do to assist in relation to facilitating vaccines?

I suppose the other aspect is having references within the policies to good sources of information where clarity can be provided. And the guidance talks specifically about those myths being lifted by sound, credible medical information also.

Christine:  I was going to say, would it be a bridge too far to email around or distribute information from scientific sources? Would that be too pushy, do you think? Or do you think that's a reasonable approach to take?

Seamus: I think depending on how it's presented. But I do think that that is a prudent step certainly in the middle of a pandemic, or hopefully coming out of a pandemic, and given your health and safety requirements at work. I would see it as a prudent step.

Christine: Yeah. Brilliant. I'm just checking to see. I think we've covered most of the questions here. Brilliant. Thank you very much for that.

Changes to the Furlough Scheme

Let's move on to our final topic, the changes to the COVID-19 furlough scheme. So, the furlough scheme is due to disappear in its entirety come the end of September, but a few changes came through yesterday, 1 July. Seamus, do you want to talk us through what those changes are or what we can expect from that?

Seamus: Yeah. Look, furlough has been in now from March 2020. I think we're all fairly clear and up to date on it. It is due to come to an end on 30 September. And I think both Boris Johnson and the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said that they want to end it at that time. But we've been there before. You would be worried about maybe coming back in towards the end of September when it was due to end last year also, and then it was extended. Hopefully we don't have to go down that road.

But as and from 1 July, so as and from yesterday, there is a tapering off and, as some of the outlets have called it, a winding down of the furlough scheme. I think even the use of that sort of language of winding down maybe sets the scene for where things might be on a government basis.

But from 1 July, the government will only pay 70% of a worker's salary and the employer is required to pay the remaining 10%. And that remains up to the usual monthly limit of £2,500. So that reduces the cap from the government contribution to £2,187.50.

And then at the end of July, so only four weeks away, in August and September, it reduces again down to 60% of the worker's salary from the government, and the employer then having to make up the remaining 20%. And again, the same limit will apply of the £2,500 a month. I mean, employers . . .

Christine: Sorry, Seamus. We just lost the sign there slightly on your last point, if you wouldn't mind just reiterating that.

Seamus: Yeah. Sorry. From August and September, the government will pay 60% of a worker's salary, and the employer will have to make up the 20% to the same limit £2,500.

And as we know, employers have always had to pay pension and National Insurance contributions for their workers in addition to that, in any event.

So the idea behind that would really be where the government would be almost encouraging employers to start to move employees back, off furlough and back to work again, with the increase then that the employer has to make to the scheme.

Those are the two changes at the minute, and we'll just need to wait to see as to if there are any developments in relation to that come late August and end of September time.

Christine: I suppose that's the thing. We are dealing with quite a lot of guesswork at the minute. Furlough has been extended and extended. The lockdowns have come and gone and come back again. So, we are kind of keeping our eye on the Delta variant, and Delta Plus I heard talked about yesterday worryingly. So I suppose it's quite a lot of guesswork a lot of the time. We're kind of hopeful that this is the end, but fingers crossed it is.

So, I think that kind of brings us to the end of our discussion, everybody, unless anyone has anything else to add to that.

Seamus: Well, the only other thing that I was going to maybe mention, Christine, was just in relation to when we get to the end of September at the end of the furlough scheme and will that result in employers having to make decisions in and around bringing employees back or making them redundant.

I did read that I think there's a small increase in unemployment that is expected, but it just might be interesting for any of the listeners that what was forecasted whenever the pandemic started was that 1 in 10 workers would become unemployed. And instead, that unemployment rate is currently less than 1 in 20.

So, you can really see the benefit of the furlough scheme and as to what it's done. I mean, it has saved . . . again, the total was 11.5 million jobs have been supported since March 2020. So it has been great.

While that tails off and while it winds down, those sorts of issues and concerns will be on every employer's mind, I would have thought.

Christine: Yeah. I suppose just kind of watch this space. But we hope that it's not going to lead to big levels of redundancy. I suppose business have been struggling and it may well lead to that. We can only hope really.

Brilliant. Thank you very much, Seamus and Helen, for your insights today. It's been great talking to you. And thanks for being on my first ever webinar with me. It's been great.

Seamus: Thank you. It was excellent. Thank you.

Helen: Thank you, Christine.

Christine: And thanks everybody for joining us. Employment Law at 11 will be back 6 August. It would be great to see a good lot of you here again. Thank you very much for joining us. We'll see you again soon. Thanks very much. Bye-bye.

This article is correct at 02/07/2021
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Seamus McGranaghan
O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors

The main content of this article was provided by Seamus McGranaghan. Contact telephone number is 028 9032 1000 or email seamus.mcgranaghan@oreillystewart.com

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