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Employment law updates - June 2022

27 Jun 2022

Please see the latest in employment law news and updates below –

  • An Employment Tribunal has recently found that an employee with long COVID was disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act. This was despite vagueness within initial fit notes, fluctuating symptoms and Occupational Health reports which suggested that the employee was unlikely to be disabled. In the circumstances, it was held that the employee did have a physical impairment which had a substantial and long term adverse effect on his ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. He could not undertake household activities (e.g. cooking, ironing and shopping) and experienced joint pain, loss of appetite, reduced ability to concentrate and difficulties sleeping. Of course, each case will need to be considered on its facts but employers should be aware of the possibility that an employee with long COVID may have a disability. This is particularly in light of a recent ONS report, which refers to 1.4 million people having long COVID symptoms which adversely affect their day-to-day activities.
  • The Employment Appeal Tribunal has upheld a decision that an employee was not automatically unfairly dismissed for leaving his workplace and refusing to return when he was concerned about catching COVID and passing it to his vulnerable children. It was held, based on various factors, that the employee did not hold a reasonable belief in serious and imminent danger. The factors included the availability of masks (and the fact that the employee did not ask for one), that he could generally maintain social distancing, that he had driven his friend to hospital when he was supposed to be isolating and that he had worked in a pub during the pandemic. Therefore, while COVID was capable, in principle, of giving rise to circumstances of serious and imminent danger, it did not do so in this case.
  • The Government has announced that it intends to introduce legislation ‘in the coming weeks’ to enable employment businesses to supply temporary workers during industrial action. It has also announced that it will significantly raise the maximum damages that can be awarded in any action against a Trade Union arising out of unlawful industrial action. For the biggest unions, the maximum award will rise from £250,000 to £1 million.
HR Update, Employment Law
  • The Menopause Experts Group has reported a 44% increase in menopause-related Employment Tribunal cases over the last year. This is perhaps not surprising when considering the recent findings of the Fawcett Society report that one in ten women have left a job due to their symptoms and 41% of women reported that the menopause or symptoms had been treated as a joke by colleagues. The Menopause Experts Group has recommended that employers should offer their workforce training and implement a menopause policy or code of conduct. Many employers are of course already taking such action and if we can support you with this please let us know.
  • Finally, employers can expect to start to receive fit notes signed by registered nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists and physiotherapists (as well as GPs) from 1st July 2022 as a result of new regulations.

If you have any question about the above, or any other employment matters, please do not hesitate to get in touch with the team.