News & Updates

Broadcast July 2020

This month our HR Advisor, Joanne Fearon, gives the answers to the many questions we have received regarding holiday leave during the pandemic.

Then Natalie Hurdwell, our Compliance Manager, introduces SK Compliance (and PAT Test UK) and discusses how this new addition to Stallard Kane can help streamline your safety requirements.

Paul Kent, our Senior Health & Safety Advisor, discusses several issues, including why thermal imaging equipment shouldn’t be used to help in the diagnosis of COVID-19, as well as guidance on who should wear face masks, and when and which relaxations of restrictions have been temporarily postponed.

And finally, there’s the chance to register for our latest webinar – ‘Back in Business – now what?‘, where our team will cover lots of issues you may not have considered and answer all of your questions.

As ever, should you have any questions surrounding any of the issues raised, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01427 678 660 or email admin@skaltd.co.uk , and one of the team will be happy to help.

HR UPDATE: Annual Leave during the Coronavirus Pandemic

It is a challenging time in the workplace right now, with the ongoing pandemic situation and the uncertainty of when normality will resume. Consequentlywe have been receiving a high volume of queries on annual leave and furlough, which we know can be a real headache.

We have summarised here some of the guidance we have given in response to the queries we have received.

Holiday entitlement whilst on furlough

Employees are still accruing holidays as normal whilst furloughed. This means that despite the fact that furloughed employees are not undertaking any work, they are still entitled to their normal annual holiday allowance. 

Employees on furlough can request, following the company’s normal holiday procedure, paid time off work. Employers can either accept or refuse the request and respond in the Company’s normal manner. Should employees take holiday whilst on furlough, the Company can claim for the furlough payment, however the employee should be paid at full pay for the holiday period, rather than just furlough and therefore the Company should top up the difference. 

Some companies may be happy for employees who are on furlough to be allowed to book time off later in the year when they are no longer on furlough. However, employers may wish to consider enforcing a period of holiday during the furlough period. Whatever the case, the following considerations should be taken into account:

  • The company can claim the rate that’s in effect at the time of the leave from the retention scheme, but must pay the additional top up pay, giving the employee 100% pay for their holiday period 
  • How will it affect the company if employees start requesting time off work after returning from furlough, with their full holiday entitlement still intact? 
  • Employers can force employees to take holidays whilst on furlough or any time by giving the correct notice of the requirement to take holiday, which is twice the length of the holiday proposed. So, if the Company required an employee to take two days holiday they would have to give four days’ notice. 

Employees cancelling previously booked holidays 

An employee may no longer wish to take time off for a previously booked holiday due to holidays or hotel cancellations. An employee can request that their holiday is cancelled, but the employer can insist the employee still takes this time off. However, it is best practise to try and come to some agreement. 

Pre-booked holidays and quarantine

As travel advice is ever-changing, the following guidance is based on the current Government guidelines at the time of writing. 

If an employee is returning from a country which requires them to quarantine for 14 days (may be subject to change), what are the options for the Employer and Employee?

The options available:

  • If the employee has outstanding annual leave remaining in their allowance, they may book this time as annual leave. The Company will consider this request and accommodate if possible 
  • If the employee does not have any outstanding holidays available, or the request for additional holidays cannot be accommodated, the time they spend in quarantine will be classed as unpaid leave. Employees are not entitled to be paid SSP for this period unless presenting symptoms 

Future holiday requests – can the employer refuse?

If an employee puts in a new holiday request and they are intending to go abroad to a country which is on the quarantine list, the company can refuse the holiday request. If the employee decides to take the time anyway, formal disciplinary action may be taken upon their return. 

What can the employer do if employees are struggling to fit in leave during the company’s holiday year?

At the other end of the spectrum, there may be those who would want to take holiday but are unable to do so because of the demands created by the pandemic.

In recognition of this, new regulations came into force in March allowing the four weeks of the Working Time Directive (20 days) to be rolled over for up to two leave years, with the remaining eight days being rolled over for a year.

Any employee will qualify for a roll over if they have been unable to take holiday because of the impact of the coronavirus either on them or their family.

Overall, the advice is to try and be as flexible as possible, communicate with employees about plans, concerns, why holidays may have to be forced or cancelled. Listen to ideas and suggestions to reach a compromise where possible, and remember, it’s a difficult time for both employers and employees. 

COMPLIANCE UPDATE: A new way to manage your regular services

SK Compliance is a new service that has been launched by Stallard Kane, to complement our Health & Safety, HR, Employment Law and Training services, with the aim of offering our clients a comprehensive solution to assist them with keeping their businesses safe and compliant. It is a bespoke service that is able to work for every type of organisation.

SK Compliance offers a wide range of checks, surveys and assessments which can be provided as individual services or as part of a package. From PAT Testing, to Electrical Inspections, to Fire Extinguisher Servicing, we can help you to keep your regular, annual services cost-effective and easily managed. Instead of using lots of different contractors, all of your services can be managed centrally through the Online Members’ Area. For example, if you need a specialist service such as an Asbestos Management Survey or Workplace Exposure Monitoring, we are able to provide you with an experienced, vetted consultant. 

Following our purchase of PAT Test UK Ltd earlier this year, the SK Compliance team is growing in number and will soon be able to provide a wide range of services through our in-house engineers. For everything else we work with a network of approved contractors, allowing us to provide your business with the best service at the best price. 

What should you do if you are getting your workforce back into the office? 

The last thing anyone wants are issues caused by re-opening a vacant building. We have previously released guidance regarding the Legionella risk, and are covering the subject more fully in our upcoming webinar, but if there are any other concerns you have regarding the infrastructure of your building, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Compliance team who will be happy to advise. 

H&S UPDATE: Why you shouldn’t use thermal cameras to diagnose COVID-19 and a re-cap of face mask use and business opening guidance 

Thermal imaging cameras not adequate for diagnosing COVID-19

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is telling manufacturers and suppliers of thermal cameras that they should not make claims which directly relate to COVID-19 diagnosis and is reminding businesses to follow Government advice on safe working during COVID-19.

Graeme Tunbridge, MHRA Director of Devices, said: 

“Many thermal cameras and temperature screening products were originally designed for non-medical purposes, such as for building or site security. Businesses and organisations need to know that using these products for temperature screening could put people’s health at risk.

“These products should only be used in line with the manufacturer’s original intended use, and not to screen people for COVID-19 symptoms. They do not perform to the level required to accurately support a medical diagnosis.

“We are reminding anyone selling these products not to make claims which directly relate to COVID-19 diagnosis. If they fail to comply, we will take formal enforcement action.”

Products which the manufacturer claims are intended for screening for COVID-19, or fever-like symptoms, would be regarded as medical devices and regulated by the MHRA.

There is little scientific evidence to support temperature screening as a reliable method for detection of COVID-19 or other febrile illness, especially if used as the main method of testing.

Temperature readings from temperature screening systems will measure skin temperature rather than core body temperature. In either case, natural fluctuations in temperature can occur among healthy individuals. These readings are therefore an unreliable measure for detection of COVID-19 or other diseases which may cause fever. Furthermore, infected people who do not develop a fever or who do not show any symptoms would not be detected by a temperature reading and could be more likely to unknowingly spread the virus.

The MHRA recommends that businesses and workplaces follow the government advice on safe working during COVID-19, as well as implementing scientifically reliable methods of testing for COVID-19.

Health Minister Lord Bethell said:

“As pubs and restaurants begin to reopen, it’s important businesses do not rely on temperature screening tools and other products which do not work.

“The best way to protect customers and minimise the risk of catching the virus is to always follow social distancing guidelines, wearing a face mask on public transport and enclosed public spaces, and regularly washing your hands.”

The current rules around the wearing of face coverings

The government is adding museums, galleries, cinemas and places of worship to the list of places where face coverings should be worn in England.

It is currently a recommendation, but will become law on 8 August. It has been compulsory to wear them in shops since 24 July.

Mr Hancock told the Commons: “Sadly, sales assistants, cashiers and security guards have suffered disproportionately in this crisis.

“The death rate of sales and retail assistants is 75% higher amongst men and 60% higher amongst women than in the general population.”

Face coverings must be worn in enclosed public spaces in England – this includes shops, supermarkets, shopping centres, banks, building societies and post offices. It extends to railway and bus stations and airports. 

Customers must wear a face covering before entering any shop and keep it on until they leave. 

Those who fail to do so could be fined up to £100, or £50 if they pay within 14 days. The rules will be enforced by the police, not shop workers, and only ”as a last resort”. 

Shop workers do not have to wear coverings.

However, many retailers and establishments have their own rules regarding the wearing of face coverings, with many saying that they will not force customers to wear them.

In Scotland, it’s been a requirement to wear face coverings in shops since 10 July. Anyone not wearing one can be fined £60 (reduced to £30 if paid within 28 days) for a first offence. People with certain medical conditions or disabilities are exempt, along with children under five.

How about restaurants and takeaways?

In England, face coverings do not have to be worn where it would be ”impractical” to do so – that includes restaurants, pubs and gyms.

They must be worn in a shop or café when buying food and drink to take away, but can be removed if you sit down to eat and drink.

They are also optional in: 

  • Hairdressers and beauty salons
  • Dentists and opticians

In Wales and Northern Ireland you do not currently have to wear a face covering in shops, or takeaways. In Scotland, they are compulsory in shops and libraries, but the rules do not apply in takeaways, cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, pubs or in banks and building societies.

Who doesn’t have to wear a face covering?

Some people do not have to wear a face covering. They include:

  • Children under 11
  • Those unable to put on or wear a face covering because of a physical or mental illness or disability
  • People for whom wearing or removing a face covering will cause severe distress
  • Anyone assisting someone who relies on lip reading to communicate

You can take off your mask if:

  • You need to eat, drink, or take medication
  • A police officer or other official asks you to or if shop staff need to verify your age
  • You are entering a shop to avoid harm, if you do not have a mask on you

Children under three should not wear face masks as they could cause choking and suffocation, Public Health England says.

What are the face covering rules on public transport?

  • Since 15 June, anyone travelling by bus, train, ferry or plane in England must wear a face covering, if they are not exempted.
  • If it is “reasonably necessary” for you to eat or drink, you can remove the face covering to do so.
  • People can be refused travel if they don’t follow the rules, and can be fined as a last resort.
  • Public transport excludes cruise ships, school transport, taxis and private hire vehicles.

In Scotland, it is compulsory to wear face coverings on all public transport. This is also the case in Wales. These coverings should be three layers thick. The wearing of face coverings on most buses, trains and ferries became mandatory in Northern Ireland on 10 July.

Relaxation of rules postponed

The government has ‘put the brakes on’ as far as relaxing the rules on business closures and social distancing is concerned. More businesses were going to be allowed to re-open on 1 August, but this has been put back until 15 August, for now, although this date is still susceptible to change.

The changes also include weddings – ceremonies of up to 30 people had been allowed again in England, but receptions can now only be attended by six people outside or two households inside.

In summary, the following will not be able to take place until 15 August, at the earliest:

  • the reopening of casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and remaining close contact services
  • indoor performances
  • pilots of larger gatherings in sports venues and conference centres
  • the expansion of wedding receptions to allow up to 30 people 
  • beauty treatments that involve the face, such as eyelash, eyebrow and threading treatments

(Sources: GOV.UK and BBC)

Register today for our latest webinar – ‘COVID-19: Back in Business – now what?’

Our latest webinar looks at issues you may not have considered or were unaware of, drawn from our team’s knowledge and recent experiences when visiting clients. 

For example, is your training up to date and do you have cover for First Aiders if someone’s still on furlough leave? Do you know who should be wearing what PPE? Is all of your PAT Testing up to date? (Remember, many of the government’s extended guidelines for testing and training have now expired). And, what do you do if someone refuses to return to work?

Presented by members of our Health & Safety, HR, Training and Compliance teams, this webinar will prove invaluable in helping you get back to work in the best way possible and avoid any pitfalls along the way.

You can register here