Parents and carers can be furloughed

Guidance on the furlough scheme has been updated again. Generally, you can only claim from the scheme if your business is facing reduced demand or has been forced to close due to coronavirus restrictions. The government have now clarified that this doesn't apply in relation to furloughing certain groups. If you have staff who can't work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from COVID-19 (e.g. parents dealing with school closures or those looking after vulnerable household relatives), you can furlough them regardless of whether or not your business faces reduced demand. The same applies to those who can't work due to being extremely clinically vulnerable or at the highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

No appeal from government over High Court health and safety ruling

In our December bulletin, we reported that the government lost a High Court judicial review over its failure to extend employee health and safety protections to those with 'worker' status. We now know that the government won't appeal the decision, meaning that it must amend UK legislation to protect workers as well as employees. However, this is unlikely to happen soon – in the meantime, the High Court decision must be applied to any new or existing Employment Tribunal claims, but only those made by public sector workers. Private-sector employers will only be affected once the legislation is amended. However, employers who continue to treat workers differently with regards to health and safety concerns could put themselves at risk of reputational damage. In particular, if you're providing PPE to your employees, you should now consider providing it to your workers as well.

HSE COVID inspections to increase

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced that it will increase its calls and visits to businesses to ensure that COVID-secure measures are in place and being followed. They will also continue to carry out spot checks and inspections on all types of businesses and workplaces. If a business is found to be falling short, HSE can issue enforcement notices that will stop certain work practices until they're made safe. Non-compliance can lead to prosecutions. HSE offer a range of guidance and tools to ensure you're meeting your obligations.