Changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme Beginning 1 July 2021: What UK Employers Need to Know

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (also known as the “furlough scheme”) has been in operation since April 2020, as part of the United Kingdom government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The scheme has enabled employers across the UK to retain their employees and protect jobs preventing unemployment and mass redundancies or reductions in force.

UK Tribunal Rules—‘Stale’ Standalone Training Proves Insufficient Defence to Race Harassment Claim

Under section 109(1) of the Equality Act 2010 (EA 2010), an employer is liable for acts of discrimination, harassment, and victimisation carried out by its employees in the course of employment: “[a]nything done by a person (A) in the course of A’s employment must be treated as also done by the employer.” Section 109 further states that “[i]t does not matter whether that thing is done with the employer’s … knowledge or approval.” However, under section 109(4) EA 2010, an employer has a defence if it can demonstrate that it “took all reasonable steps” to prevent the employee from carrying out the act of discrimination. When considering an employer’s defence that it took all reasonable steps to prevent an employee from discriminating against another employee, a tribunal will examine how effective the steps were likely to be when they were taken and how effective they proved to be in practice. The decision of Allay (UK) Ltd v Mr S Gehlen looks at the scope of this defence.

UK Publishes Updated Guidances on Gender Pay Gap Reporting Requirements

As the 4 April 2021, gender pay gap reporting deadline approaches, the UK government has published an updated set of guidance for employers on the gender pay gap reporting requirements. Although the reporting requirements have not changed, the guidance has been updated to include information for employers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular relating to furlough leave and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

England Enters Third National Lockdown—What Are the New Rules?

On 4 January 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a third national lockdown in England. The regulations allow the lockdown to continue until 31 March 2021, although the restrictions are expected to be reviewed in mid-February to allow for the possible reopening of schools. All of the United Kingdom is now under strict measures to curb the spread of the new fast-spreading COVID-19 variant—with Wales, Northern Ireland and most of Scotland also in lockdown (although these countries are governed by separate rules).

UK Government’s New Guidance on Job Retention Bonus Related to CJRS

As part of its Plan for Jobs 2020, the UK Government announced in July 2020 that it would pay a bonus to employers that brought furloughed employees back to work and kept such employees continuously employed until 31 January 2021. Further guidance has now been published, in addition to a Treasury Direction, which states that the Job Retention Bonus is intended to “enhance and consolidate” the purpose of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which is to preserve the jobs of furloughed employees.

New Legal Duty for Employers and Employees Regarding Self-Isolation in England Comes Into Force

The UK Government has enacted The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Self-Isolation) (England) Regulations 2020, which came into force in England on 28 September 2020. Failure to comply with these regulations is a criminal offence, the penalty for which includes a fine of £1,000 for a first offence, with fines increasing up to £10,000 for subsequent breaches.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Pay Equality in the UK Workplace

In May 2020, the United Kingdom welcomed the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act 1970, which was enacted to ensure the equal treatment of men and women in terms of pay and the conditions of employment. However, in recent months, research has revealed that women have suffered a larger fall in earnings in the United Kingdom and are losing their jobs in greater numbers than men during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Redundancy and the UK’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: Key Consultation Deadlines

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will gradually be tapered over the coming months until October 31, 2020, when it will no longer be effective. The CJRS has been a great support to many employers and their employees, however, as businesses begin to reopen and the UK government support decreases, many employers are now faced with difficult workforce decisions—some of which may include redundancies (i.e., reductions in force).

Mental Health in the UK Workplace During the Coronavirus Pandemic

On 18 May 2020, at the start of Mental Health Awareness Week in the United Kingdom, the UK government’s Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) published “Coronavirus and mental health at work,” a guide to how individuals can look after their mental health and how employers can “support employees’ health, safety, and well-being” while managing workplace mental health issues. The overriding message from the guidance is that good communication is key during this challenging time. The guidance also emphasises that employers should be aware of the signs of mental health concerns in the workplace and encourage openness between colleagues to support those who may be suffering.

Updated Guidance Related to the United Kingdom’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

On April 4, April 9, and April 15, 2020, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) updated the guidance for employers on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). The updates aimed to clarify issues and answer questions asked since the initial guidance was published on March 26, 2020. In addition, on April 15, 2020, Her Majesty’s Treasury (HM Treasury) issued a Direction to HMRC under powers conferred by the Coronavirus Act 2020, containing the legal framework and instructions for making payments under the CJRS. This is likely to be the definitive guidance on how the CJRS works. However, despite the recent updates, there are issues that remain unclear.

COVID-19: FAQs for Global, Multinational, and Non-U.S. Operations

As a complement to our frequently asked questions (FAQ) for U.S. employers, below are some answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the latest developments on the virus, guidance from applicable public health authorities outside the United States, and managing COVID-19 responses across multiple jurisdictions worldwide. For terminology purposes, these FAQs use the term “COVID-19” generally to refer to the illness that is the subject of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) pandemic declaration.

Gender Pay Gap Reporting—Happy Anniversary?

April 4, 2019 will mark the first anniversary of mandatory private-sector gender pay gap reporting in the United Kingdom. One year in, and organizations appear to be in the same last-minute position they were in during the first reporting year, submitting their data just before the deadline. Regardless of timing, the key question is: has the last 12 months had any impact on the issue of addressing the gender pay gap generally?

Ontario Employers – Get Ready to Tell the Government What You Pay Employees . . . or Else

The Ontario government recently introduced Bill 203, the Pay Transparency Act, 2018. The goal of this legislation is to increase transparency in pay practices in the hopes of closing the pay gap between male and female employees. The draft legislation also empowers the Ministry of Labour to impose fines on employers that do not comply with the legislation.