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‘In Demand Sectors’

Whilst many sectors have been hard hit by the measures the government has put in place to fight Coronavirus, there are some organisations which have seen an increase in demand for their products/services.

If your organisation is one of these, we take a look below at some employment law matters you may find it helpful to be aware of.

1. Recruitment

If you are recruiting it may not be possible to follow your organisations usual recruitment practices at the moment, either because of the social distancing rules and/or the need to recruit quickly. However, it’s still important to remember that your recruitment practices need to be fair to avoid claims such as those for discrimination.

A key part of demonstrating fairness is keeping appropriate records you can use to evidence your recruitment decisions at each stage of the process. With the amount of pressure on management time in some sectors at the moment it can be easy to overlook recruitment record keeping, but it really can help you to protect your business should your recruitment decisions be challenged.

2.Employment Contract Options

 There are a variety of different types of employment contracts employers can use, from fixed term contracts, permanent contracts (on full or part time hours) to zero hours contracts for flexibility. If you are looking to recruit additional employees and you are unsure which type of employment contract would best meet your needs, or you would like further information on different types of employment contracts, please contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to discuss your situation.

3.New Requirements for Contracts of Employment and Timing

It’s important to be aware that there are new rules coming into force for employees whose employment commences on or after 6th April 2020. The changes affect the timing of when you need to provide a contract of employment to employees and the basic information this needs to contain.

In short, such new starters will need to be given a more detailed contract of employment on or before their employment starts. This may mean that you need to adjust your recruitment process to take into account the new timing. You can find further information about the changes in our earlier Legal Update  contracts changes ahead. Whilst the changes may sound daunting, and in some cases time consuming, remember Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd are here to help you. We can support you with the changes by providing a new template job offer letter and assisting you with changes to your contracts of employment where needed. If you would like help, please contact your Employment Law Specialist.

One other change that will be worth noting if you are only planning to recruit an employee for a short period is that the exemption which meant that you did not have to provide an employee with a contract of employment if they were going to be employed by you for less than one month is being abolished. Employees who are starting employment from 6th April 2020 must be given a contract of employment – no matter how short you intend their period of employment to be.

4.Working Time

If your organisation is particularly busy, you may be asking employees to work additional hours. If so, it’s important to be aware of the rules on working time and rest breaks but also to consider whether there is anything in the Working Time Regulations that could be used to help your organisation.

As a reminder, the rules for most adult workers under the Working Time Regulations are outlined below (you may give your employees better rights in their employment contracts). There are different rules for young workers, if you require information regarding this please contact your Employment Law Specialist.

Adult workers:

  • Maximum weekly working hours – 48 hours (including overtime) averaged over a 17 week reference period.
  • Daily rest break – 20 minutes if the employee will work more than 6 hours.
  • Daily rest period – 11 consecutive hours rest in each 24 hour period.
  • Minimum weekly rest period – 24 uninterrupted hours of rest in every seven day period or you can determine that an employee’s weekly rest period can consist of either two uninterrupted 24 hour rests in one week or one uninterrupted 48 hour rest in every 14 day period.
  • Maximum length of a night workers shift (non-hazardous work) – average length of 8 hours in any 24 hour period
  • Maximum length of a night workers shift (hazardous work) – maximum individual shift length of 8 hours in any 24 hour period

It is worth bearing in mind that there are some provisions in the Working Time Regulations that can be helpful for employers. The most common one being ‘opt-out agreements’.

As you will have seen from the above, most adult employees are protected from being required to work more than an average 48 hour week. That said, they can ‘opt out’ of this protection either for a fixed period or indefinitely by signing what is called an opt-out agreement.  If an employee opts out this means the average 48 hour weekly working limit does not apply to them and they can work longer hours. Whilst this can be very useful for employers, there are a few things to bear in mind when it comes to opt-out agreements, these include:

  • Opting-out is voluntary for employees – they shouldn’t be dismissed or subjected to any detriment if they don’t want to opt-out. They can also give notice to ‘opt back in again’.
  • You would still need to be mindful about the amount of hours any opted-out employee is working. You cannot require such an employee to work excessively long hours if this could foreseeably place their or other workers health and safety at risk.
  • Opted-out employees would still be entitled to the same breaks and rest periods they usually would under the Working Time Regulations and the rules regarding night shifts would still apply (unless an exemption/special case also applies to the employee).

If you would like an opt-out agreement for use in your organisation, please contact your Employment Law Specialist who can provide one for you.

Another point to bear in mind is that there can be occasions where there is an exemption or a special situation which can mean that one or more of the usual rules under the Working Time Regulations don’t apply. This area can be tricky, so if you would like further information regarding this, please contact your Employment Law Specialist.

If you have an employment  law matter you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.