Many employees have found work has changed beyond recognition in recent months, from working different hours or working from home whilst home-schooling or caring for children, increased hours for keyworkers or reduced hours and redundancies for some; many people are having to adjust and cope with changes at work as a result of the pandemic.
The employment law team at Hegarty Solicitors have helped support employers, employees and workers with a range of work-related problems over the past few months and can offer advice to ensure you know your rights and entitlements at work.
I would like to request a change to my working hours, what are my rights?
As many people have adjusted to new ways of working during the coronavirus pandemic, this has prompted some to think about making a flexible working request to their employer as we exit lockdown. You can make a flexible working request for several different reasons such as; reducing hours to work part-time, changing start or finish times, working from home, compressing hours over fewer days or job-sharing.
It is important to understand your rights in respect of flexible working requests.
You are entitled to make a flexible working request if:
- You are legally classed as an employee
- You have worked for your employer for at least 26 weeks
- You have not made another flexible working request in the last 12 months
The change requested does not have to be permanent and could be for a limited time, for example 6 months or only during term-time. Employees can also ask for changes to apply to all working days or just specific days or shifts only. You employer must deal with such requests reasonably and within 3 months and can only turn down a flexible working request if there’s a valid business reason.
I am due to return to work next week after being furloughed, I am nervous about returning. What are my rights?
October sees the end of the Government furlough scheme, with many workers returning to work. But what are your rights?
ACAS advises that employees and workers should be ready to return to work at short notice, but employers should be flexible where possible. Employers must make the workplace ‘COVID-secure’ and as safe as possible for staff and customers. Some employees may feel worried or anxious about returning to work and employers should listen to any staff concerns and take steps to reassure and protect staff. If an employee still does not want to return to work, they may be able to arrange with their employer to take some time off as holiday or unpaid leave, but the employer does not have to agree to this. If an employee refuses to attend work without a valid reason, it could result in disciplinary action.
Some employers who are struggling financially may be unable to take employees back full time when furlough ends. In this case, employers may consider consulting with employees to create new employment terms such as reduced hours or pay. If there are any proposed changes that affect the written terms of someone’s contract, the employer must consult with the employee, worker or their representative, for example their trade union representative. If you are faced with a change to your employment contract you should seek advice to ensure the changes are fair and within the law.
I have been furloughed but my employer is now making my job redundant. What process should they be following?
Despite government support for businesses, increasing numbers of employees are faced with redundancy. If you are being made redundant and are worried about your rights it is always best to seek advice from an experienced employment lawyer from the outset to ensure the process is being carried out correctly and fairly.
Employees with more than 2 years’ continuous service who are made redundant are usually entitled to a statutory redundancy payment that is based on length of service, age and pay, up to a statutory maximum.
For furloughed workers made redundant, the government introduced the Employment Rights Act 1996 (Coronavirus, Calculation of a Week’s Pay) Regulations 2020 to ensure furloughed employees receive redundancy payments at 100% of their normal pay, rather than the reduced furlough rate.
Under the new legislation, for employees who have normal working hours that do not vary, employers must treat any weeks an employee spent on furlough over the 12-week reference period as if they were working, and on full (100%) pay. The weekly cap of £538 per week still applies.
For employees furloughed who do not have normal working hours under their contract of employment, the weeks wage for redundancy will be calculated as the amount that would have been payable to the employee in accordance with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme i.e. the actual income on the furlough scheme.
The legislation also covers other employment rights that rely on average weekly pay, including notice pay, unfair dismissal, and short-time working.
I have been given a Settlement Agreement. What do I do now?
Some employees may be offered a settlement agreement to bring their employment to an end.
A Settlement Agreement is a legally binding arrangement between the employer and employee setting out the terms and conditions agreed upon by the employer and employee to end an employment relationship or resolve a workplace issue.
If you are presented with a settlement agreement you will need a solicitor to review the terms. Our team of employment lawyers can assist with this and your employer will usually pay our costs. We can ensure you are protected and that the terms of the agreement are valid.
The Hegarty Solicitors employment law team are experienced in dealing with all types of employment issues, including redundancies, settlement agreements, unfair dismissal and discrimination claims. Whatever your situation, we can help.Contact us