We round up the latest employment news.
Government updates its ‘working safely during coronavirus’ guides
Following the government’s change in emphasis to ask people to work from home if they can, it’s updated nine of its 14 guides on working safely during coronavirus.
These relate to:
Close contact services
Construction and other outdoor work
Plants and warehouses
Labs and research facilities
Offices and contact centres
Other people’s homes
Restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services
Shops and branches
New fines for employers breaching self-isolation rules
Employers in England can now be fined up to £10,000 if they allow staff to return to their workplace before the end of any period of self-isolation. Staff can continue to work from home though – provided they’re well enough to do so.
Employees who test positive or are told to self-isolate (by the Test and Trace Service or public health officials) must tell their employer of the date they started their self-isolation and when they expect it to end. They have to do this ‘as soon as is reasonably practicable,’ and no later than they’re due to start work. The only exception is where they’re already working from home.
The rules also cover job agencies and agency workers.
More information is available here. Christmas cancelled – the ‘rule of six’ limits work social gatherings
On Monday 13 September, new rules came into force preventing people in England from meeting in groups of more than six (both indoors and outdoors). There’s an exception for work and social gatherings associated with work. But the rules are complicated. People have to stay in a ‘qualifying group’ of six people or less, and that group isn’t allowed to mingle with other qualifying groups. If you’re still planning a work social, please
read this advice to make sure that your event is safe and lawful. Coronavirus – testing guidance for employers
The government has published
guidance to help employers understand the regulations and legal obligations that apply if they wish to introduce their own testing programmes outside the NHS Test and Trace service (which is struggling to cope with demand in many areas). It provides advice on:
Virus and antibody testing
The steps you need to think about before deciding to establish a testing programme
Informing staff and complying with GDPR requirements
Selecting and obtaining appropriate test kits
Collecting and handling samples
Finding appropriate laboratory facilities
Data collection and individual rights
Communicating the results to staff
What an employer can and can’t do with the results.
It also provides a very helpful list of the relevant legal issues, and provides links to relevant legislation.
Furlough – up to £3.5 billion could have been wrongly paid out (so far)
HMRC chief executive Jim Harra recently gave evidence to the
Public Accounts Committee about 'tackling the tax gap.’ Responding to a question about the furlough scheme, he said that HMRC were working on the assumption that the error and fraud rate could be between 5% and 10%. On current figures, this means that somewhere between £1.75bn and £3.5bn could have been wrongly claimed. And those figures are likely to increase as the scheme doesn’t end until Saturday 31 October 2020.
Mr Harra said that HMRC would concentrate its efforts on finding those businesses that have deliberately over-claimed. He didn’t say how much he thinks the government has lost to fraud, rather than to mistake.
As we reported, businesses are now expected to check their records to make sure their claims are accurate. You have up to 90 days or until Tuesday 20 October to notify HMRC if you’ve claimed more than you should have. If you fail to do so and are caught, you can be fined and named and shamed in a public register. Home Office updates guidance on the renewal of a sponsor licence
The Home Office updated its guidance ‘
Points-based system sponsor licensing: renewals’ on Friday 18 September 2020 to include details on the streamlined renewal process. If you’re a sponsor who has successfully renewed your sponsor licence twice, and there are no compliance concerns, you may be eligible for a streamlined consideration process when you apply to renew your licence. If your application is streamlined, the Home Office won’t conduct as many checks. Government responds to consultation on the Gender Recognition Act 2004
Minister for women and equalities Elizabeth Truss MP has outlined the government’s
response to the consultation on the Gender Recognition Act 2004. The government has concluded that current provisions within the Act allow individuals to change their sex legally in a safe and fair manner.
Essentially, the requirements to change gender legally will remain unchanged. But the process of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate will be modernised, and will be digitised on the government website. The application fee will also be significantly so that it’s more ‘user-friendly’ and so the cost doesn’t act as a barrier to anyone. Lastly, the government is taking action to make sure transgender people can access the healthcare they need.
Government proposes new changes to criminal records to help support ex-offenders into work
The Ministry of Justice has
announced new criminal record legislation which would reduce the time it takes for certain convictions to become spent so they don’t need to be disclosed on employment checks. The aim is to remove barriers to employment and reduce reoffending. If the proposals come into force:
Custodial sentences of up to one year will become spent after 12 months without reoffending
Convictions between one and four years will become spent after four crime-free years
Sentences of over four years won’t need to be automatically disclosed to employers where there’s been a seven-year period of rehabilitation
If an individual re-offends during their rehabilitation period, they’ll need to disclose both the original and subsequent offences to potential employers, ‘for the duration of whichever rehabilitation period is longer.’
The rules won’t apply to anyone who has committed serious sexual, violent, or terrorist offences, and those working in sensitive roles such as teaching or nursing.
These proposals follow
secondary legislation laid by the government in June 2020. In most cases, this will remove the requirement for automatic disclosure and self-disclosure of youth cautions, reprimands and warnings. It will also remove the multiple conviction rule, which requires the disclosure of all convictions where a person has more than one conviction, regardless of the nature of their offence or sentence.
Read more – September 2020
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