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HR Policies and procedures book

It is time to refresh HR policies and practices for 2021

13th January 2021 by Robin Watson

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2020 was a tumultuous year with employers having to respond rapidly to the challenges of the pandemic. Culturally the world has shifted too, with the Black Lives Matter movement bringing momentum to improving equality and diversity at work. The end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020 means an end to free movement and has implications for UK employment law.

With this in mind, now is a good time to review and refresh HR policies and practices after a fast-paced 2020 and to get ready for the challenges of the New Year ahead.

Below, Laceys look into some of the areas you may want to focus on;

Working from home

Is your working from home policy fit for purpose? Does it adequately deal with homeworking as the norm for staff, rather than the occasional day at home to let a plumber in? Does it address the detail of the arrangements, such as who provides equipment; who is responsible for damage to equipment; insurance; and any contribution to homeworking costs (not forgetting any tax breaks that may be available)?

The health and safety of employees working from home remains the employer’s responsibility. If the homeworking arrangement looks like it will be permanent, have you taken steps to ensure your employees have a suitable set up at home? It may be necessary to carry out display screen equipment assessments. The Health and Safety Executive has a checklist for employees to use.

Do not forget that the employer is still responsible for the safety of any equipment they provide. Does your policy give you the right to come to the employee’s house to check it or to require the employee to bring the equipment to work?

Employers also have responsibilities for their employees’ mental health. Are your managers aware of this? Do they need training on practical steps to take to support employees?

Equalities and diversity

Is there more your business could do to remove barriers for workers from ethnic minorities? Monitoring the ethnicity of applicants can help you understand who your business attracts and who is successful.

Consider finding out if there is any pay gap or stay gap amongst your workforce.

We can advise you on a whole host of steps you can take to level the playing field. Positive action can be a useful tool but is only permitted in particular circumstances, so seek advice about how to deploy this.

It is worth checking your equalities policy to ensure it includes action you are taking and that it is robust.

Data protection

Increases in homeworking and employees using their own laptops have implications for employees handling confidential information and data protection. The Information Commissioner’s Office’s tips for employees on working securely from home are a useful starting point when looking at these implications. Do your data protection and homeworking policies need updating to address these?

If you have introduced remote employee monitoring systems, you need to make sure that your privacy notices and data protection policy covers this.

In October 2020, the Information Commissioner’s Office published new detailed guidance on subject access requests. We recommend reviewing your policy and practice in light of this guidance.

Policies may also need to be updated in regard to sensitive information on ethnicity or health.

Right to work in the UK

Freedom of movement ends on 31 December 2020, other than for Irish nationals. Make sure you remind any employees who are EU nationals that they have until 30 June 2021 to apply to remain in the UK under the EU Settlement Scheme.

New immigration rules for non-EU nationals came into force on 1 December 2020. These rules will apply to EU nationals from 1 January 2021. If your business already has a sponsor licence, this will still be valid. If your business relies on recruiting from the EU, you may need to apply for a licence to sponsor skilled workers to apply under the new points-based system. Remember to factor in the costs of the immigration skills charge.

In terms of checking someone’s right to work, employers can still rely on a passport or ID card until 30 June 2021 for EEA nationals. After 30 June 2021, employers will need to also check the individual’s immigration status.

Extension of IR35 to the private sector

Businesses which engage individuals to work for them through an intermediary company will need to be ready for rule changes in April 2021. We can audit your existing arrangements with contractors and advise you on the likelihood that the new tax rules would apply with appropriate referrals to specialist tax advisors.

If you would like further advice please contact Robin Watson in confidence on 01202 755204 or email r.watson@laceyssolicitors.co.uk

Robin Watson

Partner — Employment and Immigration

Direct dial: 01202 755202

Email

“Cocowai is a wholesale and online retail cashmere company. We recently contacted Robin Watson at Laceys Solicitors to help and advise us with producing an employment contract, and subsequently for advice on other employment issues. Robin has been extremely helpful and efficient throughout the whole - from our initial meeting, through to further telephone conversations and subsequent emails. I have been impressed by Robin's consideration of our "type" and "size" of company, whilst advising on what kind of contract we needed for our business. ”

Frances Macaulay, COCOWAI

Robin studied law at the University of Southampton before achieving Distinction in a postgraduate law diploma at Bournemouth University in 2011 and being awarded the Dorset Magistrates’ Association Excellence in Advocacy Award.

Robin qualified as a solicitor with Laceys in 2011, and is now one of Laceys partners, specialising in employment law advising employers, HR Directors and managers on all aspects of complex employment law and day-to-day HR issues.

In addition, Robin completed a demanding course and examination process and qualified as a Solicitor-Advocate early on in his career. This entitles Robin to appear in all civil courts and enhances the service he can provide to clients.

Robin is able to bring his previous experience in management outside of the law and also, understands the real demands and issues involved in HR. Robin takes responsibility for the HR of Laceys which includes circa. 100 employees and so has experienced what it is really like to deal with frontline HR issues and his clients genuinely benefit from that. It enables Robin to give practical and clear advice based on real experience, as well as utilising his legal knowledge and experience.

Robin has advised and represented a national hotel and restaurant group concerning multiple redundancies and general ongoing employment law/HR support and also recently advised and represented a financial services organisation in a High Court contractual dispute.

Robin has previously advised a local charity regarding potential pay claims and represented a senior charity executive.

As part of his service Robin likes to provide training to his clients and their HR teams.

Away from work Robin enjoys cycling, cooking and eating. Lately, Robin has (again) started sketching and is trying to convince himself that he has a talent!

To find out more about Robin becoming Partner and why he chose to specialise in Employment law click here;

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