Do your contracts need updating post lockdown?
30 March 2021
As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, it is a good time to consider whether your current employment contracts reflect your organisation’s ‘new normal’, whatever that may be! This article outlines some reasons why your contracts may need updating, and why you may wish to do this to avoid what could be costly mistakes.
Has the place of work or hours of work changed?
Some of your employees may wish to return to work following lockdown on altered terms of employment. A change in hours may be requested by the employee, or proposed by you, to meet changes in childcare arrangements, address work-life balance, or to meet business needs. You may receive a formal flexible working request, or you may agree to change an employee’s location of work or agree for the employee to work from home for some of the time. It is necessary to have a clear, recorded understanding of contractual changes, to avoid misunderstandings that could lead to grievances being raised or potential Employment Tribunal claims.
Evolving job roles
Where some employees have left or retired, other employees may have agreed to widen their job roles or take promotions to accommodate new responsibilities. The change in responsibilities should be recorded clearly and consideration should be given to other clauses such as working hours and pay, which may be affected.
Statement of terms updates
Whilst dealing with pandemic employment issues last year, you might not have updated your employment contracts to take account of new changes to the law which came into effect from 6 April 2020. The requirements for what must go into the main document of a statement of terms (usually the employment contract) have changed. The new rules for the statement of terms apply to all workers (not just employees) from day one of their employment (see our previous article).
Although the requirements do not mean you necessarily have to issue new documents to employees who were employed with you before 6 April 2020, they do have the right to request a written statement from you that complies with the new requirements. Also, where there is a change in any of the employment terms which are required to be given under the new rules, an employer must give existing employees a written statement containing details of the change.
Following the above legal change, workers and employees need to be informed in their contract, of the terms which relate to absence due to incapacity, and sick pay. It would be useful to check your current clauses to ensure that they are still relevant and up to date. You may, for example, wish to request that absences that are due to Covid-19 symptoms, be reported as soon as possible, to a particular seniority of manager, and that reports should come with details of when symptoms started and who the employee had been in close proximity with at work. Your provisions can clearly explain sick pay entitlements, including when employees are off with Covid-19 symptoms, isolating, shielding or had been furloughed.
Where roles change/evolve within your organisation or where you have new starters, you are likely to need to consider training requirements. Refresher training may also be useful for staff returning to the workplace, particularly on issues such as health and safety and Equal Opportunities. Our recent article highlights the importance of not allowing training to become ‘stale’. Employment contracts are now required to detail the type of training that workplaces provide, especially where it is mandatory training or not paid for by the employer.
If the changes you wish to make involve significant alterations to the employment contract, are not already permissible in the contract, are detrimental to the employee, or are not agreed with the employee, it is a good idea to take advice first on how to proceed. An example would be where proposed role changes lead to the expectation of redundancies. A formal procedure may need to be followed in order to minimise the risk of claims. We can also assist you in these situations.
Contact us for a review and update of your contracts, to ensure they still meet your business needs and requirements, or for advice on any post-lockdown employment law issue that is concerning you.
If you are an employer who you would like to discuss making updates to your employment contracts or work policies, then we can help. Please call us on 01243 836840 for a no obligation chat, or email us at [email protected].