Marsha Robinson, solicitor and director at law firm Paladin, which covers Essex from its office just outside Colchester, reflects on how COVID-19 has changed our working world.
For many people, Covid-19 was difficult personally. Even without getting the virus itself, it has for many led to isolation from friends and family, an anxiety about the future, and a lot of time at home.
Now the world (or at least the UK) is trying to get moving again, there are still many changes to contend with; and of course, we need to ‘stay alert’! What follows are a few of the scenarios we have seen with our clients recently and a summary of some of the ways we help.
Home working or social distancing in the Office?
Perhaps you are continuing to work from home, either from necessity or desire? Or perhaps, as someone running a business, you have realised you can cut overheads by encouraging home working amongst your staff? As a company we already understand the benefits of homeworking, as it is what we have always done (although we must admit that having the children home at the same time has added an extra dimension to proceedings).
Many of our clients are now joining us in realising the benefits of homeworking. However, there are issues to consider:
- Equipment – provision of and responsibility for.
- Confidentiality and data protection, including use of company systems/networks.
- Health and safety risk assessments.
- How to manage communications and meetings.
We recommend a well thought out homeworking policy to deal with the above and more.
If staff are coming into the office, we recommend a policy setting out expectations for such things as distancing, hygiene, masks and policies on bringing in/storing food and drink etc. It is likely a risk assessment will be appropriate, and you should check your insurance requirements.
Furlough Scheme (CJRS) and redundancies
I suspect we have all had enough of hearing about the CJRS, but it is worth a short note just to mention how employers can make the most of it. Ideally the CJRS will be utilised to keep employees in employment. However, if redundancies are unavoidable notice periods can be worked out by employees whilst still furloughed, meaning either some or all of the notice pay is covered by the CJRS. Redundancy pay is not paid by the CJRS. Employers can also ask employees to take any accrued holiday during the notice period (subject to topping up to full salary and giving the required notice), again saving the cost of paying it in a lump sum on termination. This is a reasonably complex area so advice should be sought, and as always, a fair redundancy procedure followed.
Whether it is clients expanding their businesses to be more creative with their offerings or individuals who have lost their jobs starting brand new ventures, we are definitely seeing an upturn. We assist with such things as terms and conditions for websites, advising on structures and everything for a new company (shareholders agreement, articles, service agreements etc.).
We look forward to helping businesses build up again as soon as possible.