Our most recent micebook talks session covered the legal implications of the end of furlough, going back to work, what the 1st October date means for #eventprofs and what can we do from now until then….
Our expert panel featured:
Nick Parkinson, Associate, Travlaw
Ami Naru, Head of Employment, Travlaw
Sarah Threlfall, Events & Safety Consultant, BrightSpace Events
Leigh Cowlishaw, managing partner at Black Box Partnerships, HBAA Non-Executive Board Director
We share some of the key takeaways below, or you can listen to the full recording via our Voice forum here.
Ami Naru kicked off by covering off some of the HR issues…
– If an employee wasn’t furloughed under the old scheme for at least 3 weeks before the 1 July, you won’t be able to put them on furlough under the new scheme
– the maximum number of employees you have on furlough at any one time, can’t be higher than the maximum number you had under the old scheme
– You can now ask employees to work part time. You’ll need to pay their usual salary to them while they are working, and you can claim back a proportion of their salary back for the time they are on furlough.
– Don’t forget that staff are accruing holiday when they are on furlough. If they haven’t taken any and are furloughed from March to October, that’s a lot of holiday they will have accrued and need to take before the end of the year.
– You can get staff to take leave during furlough but have to give them an equal amount of notice as the length of the holiday eg, one weeks’ notice for one weeks’ holiday. But you have to top up their salary to 100% for the period they are on holiday.
– Anyone over two years’ service has rights to unfair dismissal and statutory redundancy pay
– It’s really important that you get the process right with redundancy. You must make sure there is a fair reason for dismissal ie, redundancy, and for redundancy to occur there has to be a diminished requirement for work.
– There has to be a fair procedure followed that involves consultancy and includes looking for alternatives because redundancy should be a last resort. For example, could they take unpaid leave for a few months until business has picked up and you are able to get them back into the workplace. Or job shares, reduced hours or reduced pay. Unfortunately in some cases there will be no other alternatives and you’ll have to make redundancies.
– To calculate statutory pay, you can go onto the government website to do that.
– If you are making 20 or more redundancies, you have to enter into a 30-day consultation period and if you are making 100 or more redundancies, that consultation period has to be a minimum of 45 days.
Returning to the workplace
– From August, businesses can start getting people back into the office. Before you do that, you have to undertake a COVID-19 workplace risk assessment, that involves identifying the risks and demonstrating what measures you are taking to protect your employees and who they interact with in the workplace.
– Once that has been done, you may have to take into account categories of staff with different circumstances. For example, people with children at home to care for, pregnant members of staff that may not want to come into the workplace, staff with physical underlying health issues, and those with mental health issues that may be anxious about coming back into the workplace. Think about what adjustments you can make in respect for them.
– There were several questions around what rights employees have, for example if they don’t want to come into the office, or if they don’t want to travel overseas. Naru said that essentially they have no rights as working from home was only a temporary measure and their contract is to work from the official workplace. If they want to request home working, they will have to put in a flexible working request. Again, when it comes to travel, if their job requires travel then they have no rights not to travel. But employers need to be sensitive, talk through any concerns and discuss what measures are being put in place to protect employees.
Live events – what can we do and when according to government guidelines?
– From 1 October, it is expected that events of all types (e.g. trade shows, consumer shows, exhibitions, conferences) will be allowed at a capacity allowing for compliance with social distancing of 2m, or 1m with mitigation (approximately equivalent to a density of 10㎡ per person). Where such events involve people speaking loudly for prolonged periods of time any mitigation must include particular attention to the ventilation of the spaces. This will be subject to the latest public health advice.
– Our panel agreed that it wasn’t 100% clear which venues can hold events from August, and which have to wait until October. We worked through the guidance and came up our interpretation here.
– Even with the guidance, local authorities will be in charge of what goes on in their area and can step in and close events down for various reasons, for example local lockdowns.
– It was suggested that if you are planning to hold an event, it could be worth involving the local authorities during the planning process.
– Risk assessment is going to be even more crucial than ever, and planners need to be proactive and plan for Covid-specific scenarios such as a delegate or staff member testing positive on site and having to isolate in the hotel. What would happen and who would be liable for the additional costs?
– Planners also need to plan for the risk that any member of the team could be asked to isolate at any time due to being in contact with someone who has tested positive. The last thing you want is the entire team having to isolate just as an event is about to go live. Sarah Threlfall suggested reducing this risk by trying to avoid all the team being on site or in the office at the same time. The same goes for the venue team, and speakers, who should not rehearse together. “There is a real practical aspect of delivering events that can be impacted by self-isolation – so this has to be part of the plan along with everything else.”