It's September already and this year seems to be whizzing by. As the kids return to the classroom we look at some of the issues that employers might be facing in the next few months, including
Covid rules and regulations in the work place, Flexible working requests and how to manage holiday as we near the end of the year.
Despite us all hoping that once we were out of the last lockdown (19th July) life would return to normal it still very much feels not!
Many employees are still cautious about returning to a busy workplace and the commute; and with cases of covid expected to soar in the next few weeks due to the return of schools employers are bracing them selves for yet more staff shortages.
XpertHR have put together an excellent article which covers some of the most often asked questions and you can access that here, but do make sure you take up to date advice as the situation seems to change almost daily.
Flexible Working Requests
As we all try to muddle our way through to the 'new normal' (not heard that for a while now!) employees may want to request that temporary changes to working arrangements are made permanent. This can be just agreed between Manager and Employee (although as always, do make sure a written record is kept) or it may be that as a business you ask the employee to submit a formal flexible working request.
Flexible working is interesting as the legal right is only the right to request, there is not a right to have that request agreed, (albeit care must be taken if you decline the request, particularly if the employee requests to enable them to provide care for a child or disabled relative) but there are some strict timeframes which must be adhered to and a process to follow.
Employees have the legal right to make a flexible working request if:
they have been employed for at least 26 weeks
they’ve not made another flexible working request in the last 12 months
If your employee has the right to make a flexible working request, you should:
ask for the request in writing
consider the request fairly
discuss it with your employee
look at other options if the request is not possible
make a decision based on facts and not personal opinion
only turn down the request if there’s a valid business reason
give your employee a decision within 3 months of receiving the request
If you need more time to make a decision, you can extend the time limit if your employee agrees.
If you approve your employee’s request, this will usually change the terms of the employment contract, but you can stipulate a trail period.
As always ACAS has some excellent advice on this, or feel free to call me. ACAS also provide advice on Hybrid working, which seems to be the term now for part home/part office based working arrangements.
Managing Annual Leave
I don't know about you, but at the moment everyone I speak to seems to be planning an autumn holiday! This could lead to some difficulties if all your staff want to be off at the same time, so make sure you communicate early as to how holiday can be booked and how many people can be off at the same time etc.
If your people still aren't booking leave and you are worried that this will lead to a lot of people being off when you might be busier, you can give notice that the employee must take leave. You need to give double the notice - e.g if you want then to take a week off you must tell them 2 weeks before. I would suggest only doing this in dire straits though - its not popular! Better perhaps to advise the team they must take, for example, 5 days leave before the end of November but let them choose exactly when.
You should also update people as to whether you are going to allow any holiday to be carried over from one leave year to the next. Remember - you don't have to allow this even though you can under the relaxed Covid/annual leave rules which are still in place.
Another matter to consider is Xmas Bank holidays, Christmas day falls on a Saturday this year and Boxing day on the Sunday so the following Monday and Tuesday are deemed bank holidays in England. If you have staff that work weekends, you don't have to allow recognise all 4 days as bank holiday - only 2. But again, early communication will help prevent any issues escalating.
As always if you need any help or support do feel free to contact me. Always happy to help!