Employment Law Coffee Break | What do the new tiers mean for employers; our international workplace predictions for 2021; and new rules on ACAS conciliation

Written on 3 Dec 2020

Welcome to our Employment Law Coffee Break where we highlight the latest developments and issues impacting UK employers.

What do the new tiers mean for employers?

2 December 2020 marked the start of the next phase in the fight against Covid-19, with England exiting national lockdown to a tiered approach to restrictions depending on the Covid-19 risk in different regions – Tier 1 for areas of "medium" risk, Tier 2 for areas of "high" risk and Tier 3 for areas of "very high risk". Employers must now understand which tier applies in each region they operate in and comply accordingly: businesses operating across regions may find that different restrictions apply in different locations.

The prime minister made it clear in his announcement that employers should encourage a greater degree of homeworking but with the move from lockdown to tiers, many businesses have been looking again at what steps can now be taken to bring those employees who are able to work from home back into the workplace. With Christmas looming, employers should set clear guidelines on employees (and customers and clients) coming together, as well as looking ahead to what the government's five day Christmas rules may mean in terms of increased risk come January. Read more here.

Our international workplace predictions for 2021

At our recent virtual conference where we welcomed clients and Osborne Clarke lawyers from across Europe and beyond, we looked at the challenges facing employers as we head into 2021 and how to tackle them. This week we talk to Julian Hemming, Co-chair of our international employment practice on the key messages for businesses coming out of our panel discussion on the future workplace.

Listen to our podcast here.

New rules on ACAS conciliation

Employment tribunals have not escaped the impact of Covid-19, having to accommodate at speed remote hearings and social distancing for in person hearings (see the latest Practice Direction on remote hearings and open justice and Presidential Guidance on remote and in person hearings). The government has also introduced a number of changes to the statutory rules to try and remove delays, including allowing legal officers (who are not legally qualified) to carry out certain tasks, such as considering applications for extending time, amending claims/responses.

From 1 December, to ensure sufficient time is available for Acas to notify an employer of a potential claim and for some form of early conciliation to take place, the Acas early conciliation rules are extended to allow for a fixed six week early conciliation process in all cases (at present a one month period applies with the potential to extend it by a further 14 days with agreement). This six week period cannot be extended. Employers should also be aware that Acas conciliators are now permitted during the six week period to correct any errors in the early conciliation form, as well as to obtain any missing information.