A cynic’s guide to the new Job Support Scheme (UK)

A cynic’s guide to the new Job Support SchemeStung by the greatly lower take-up for the Job Support Scheme than expected, surely a surprise to no-one who had actually read it, the government has moved this week to address two of its key shortcomings – first, the JSS required there to be work enough available to justify at least a third of the employees’ normal working hours, and second, it cost employers more to use the Scheme than not and more to retain people than to make them redundant.  As a job preservation scheme, JSS v.1 therefore had its limitations.

V.2, or “JSS Open” (because it covers businesses that are not compulsorily closed) is much nearer to what it should have been first time around.

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New DSAR guidance from ICO – handle with care (UK)

Data RequestBack in March we posted here an explanation of why the “manifestly unfounded” exception to an employer’s DSAR obligations was perhaps less helpful than the ICO’s then guidance suggested.

Now there is some new ICO guidance out this week which probably does move the needle slightly more usefully in favour of the employer.

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Remember Vacations? Considerations for Employers When Addressing Employees’ Personal Travel During COVID-19 (US)

Two Exotic Cocktails At The BeachIt’s been more than six months since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the United States, and during this period, most of us have remained either in, or very close to, our homes. Although a second wave of infections now appears to be starting, the colder temperatures of winter, the approaching holiday season, or the desire for a change in scenery or to see much-missed loved ones may lead people to finally venture away from home. As a result, many employers have questions about how to handle their employees’ personal travel plans during this pandemic and how to respond to the potential safety risks employee personal travel poses to their workforce. Like everything else COVID-related, these issues are constantly evolving and many of the answers to these questions hinge on state-specific requirements, but there are some universal best practices employers should consider when addressing their employees’ personal travel plans. Continue Reading

Post-lockdown flexible working, Part 6 – when childcare goes bad (UK)

Flexible WorkingTime to answer another interesting question which came up at our Managing Working Parents webinar a couple of weeks ago:

Where the employee is unable to come into work for childcare reasons, what are my duties to provide him with work suitable to be done from home? 

This was a question which we might have hoped would be largely in the past by now, but which has unfortunately taken on new significance through the second wave of COVID-19 and renewed school closures.

The starting point answer is that as a matter of black-and-white law, there are no such duties.  Put bluntly, the employee’s domestic position and the tension which that may create with his work is for him to resolve.

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People at the Centre: hard decisions in hard times but some thoughts and reassurance for HR (UK)

Social Distancing in an OfficeA recent Acas survey has reported that over a third of employers (37%) are likely to make staff redundancies in the next 3 months (see here). That is a statistic which can be a surprise to no one, except possibly that it is not higher.

Often in redundancy situations, the majority of the “sympathy” quite rightly lies with the impacted employees. There is no doubt that losing one’s job and the consequences arising from that can be pretty grim. That said, our experience from working with our clients is that it is very rare for those having to make those difficult decisions to relish doing so. Far from it. Acas guidance from a number of years ago made it clear that it was not just OK but actively healthy for the manager carrying out the redundancies (excruciatingly dubbed the “downsizing envoy”) to become distressed, anxious and drained by the whole business.

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New Developments in Spanish Equal Pay and Equality Plans

Wanted: Equal WagesThe government in Spain has adopted two new Royal Decrees to address the gender wage gap and ensure the effectiveness of equality plans. These regulations implement two key employer obligations: (i) to guarantee equal pay for men and women, and; (ii) to draw up and register equality plans.

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A Timely Redux: Walking The Tightrope: Dealing With Employees’ Different Viewpoints On COVID-19, Racial Justice, and Partisan Politics (US)

In June 2020, we added a post to Employment Law Worldview addressing the complicated situation employers are in when employees express – sometime respectfully, sometimes not – different, and indeed, opposite views on COVID-19 issues (e.g., legitimate public health emergency versus hoax or “plandemic”), racial justice (“Black Lives Matter” versus “All Lives Matter”), and politics (“Make America Great Again” versus Antifa/the “radical left”).

With 2020 being what it is, it’s probably not surprising that not only have the sensitivities to these issues not abated, but they in fact have gotten even more acute. With the general election just weeks away and political acrimony and social upheaval at a level not seen since perhaps the 1960s, and further inflamed by the confirmation hearing of conservative Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett to replace the recently-departed liberal bastion of the Court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, coupled with the risk of what portends to be a messy aftermath of the election on November 3, it’s no exaggeration to say that the opportunity for political-based conflict among employees is approaching the proverbial redline.

We’re therefore re-posting our blog post from this summer as a timely reminder to employers and employees of their respective rights and obligations as we head into what promises to be a tumultuous few months.

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Post-lockdown flexible working, Part 5 – handling requests sooner or later (UK)

Flexible WorkingHere is another question which came up more than once at last week’s webinar on Managing Working Parents but which I was unable to get to at the time.

If you receive a flexible working application now, can you “park” it until things settle down and you have a clearer picture of what your post-pandemic needs for office-based staff will actually be?

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EEOC Releases Proposed Rule Aimed At Improving Pre-Suit Conciliation Process (US)

On Friday, October 9, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a proposed rule aimed at modifying the conciliation process that the agency employs prior to filing suit.

When the EEOC finds reasonable cause to believe that allegations in a complainant’s charge have merit, the EEOC has the option of pursuing litigation on the complainant’s behalf. But before doing so, the agency is statutorily required, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-5(b); (f), to invite the employer-respondent to participate in conciliation, which is an informal and confidential process by which the EEOC attempts to secure voluntary compliance by the employer, with any resulting settlement ordinarily providing some form of victim-specific relief. The EEOC may only commence litigation against an employer-respondent if the agency “has been unable to secure from the respondent a conciliation agreement acceptable to the Commission.” Id. Continue Reading

Voting Leave: What US Employers Need To Know As Election Day 2020 Approaches

With Election Day just a few weeks away, it’s an appropriate time to refresh our understanding of state voting leave laws and the obligations imposed on private sector employers by those laws.

Although absentee voting by mail and universal mail voting have become more common since the last presidential election in 2016, many voters undoubtedly intend to cast their ballots in person on November 3rd, particularly in light of various claims being made regarding the security and integrity of voting by mail. Thus, employers should anticipate that some and perhaps a significant number of employees will request time off of work in order to perform their civic duty.

Thirty (30) states have some form of voting leave laws.[1] Generally, state voting leave laws grant eligible employees time off work, when needed, in order to vote, in most cases, without experiencing loss of pay. An employee who has sufficient hours to vote outside his or her working hours is generally not eligible to take time off work to vote without experiencing loss of pay. Some states may fine employers who violate an employee’s statutory right to take time off work to vote.

Below is a summary of states’ voting leave laws. Continue Reading