On 18 June, employment partner Ed Cotton joined a panel of experts to discuss the key issues for hospitality businesses as the government’s coronavirus restrictions ease.

He spoke alongside Sean Wheeler, people and culture consultant at The Grand Hotel Birmingham, and John Guthrie, employment policy adviser at UKHospitality, chaired by Lisa Jenkins. 

The panel discussed: 

  • Changing people’s working arrangements
  • The knock-on effects of long-term increased remote working
  • ‘No jab no job’ policies 
  • Long Covid and disability discrimination claims 
  • Alternatives to redundancy 

Changing people’s working arrangements

As businesses move through the various stages of the easing of lockdown and any local restrictions, they may need to employ people on a different basis to before the pandemic or even the last eighteen months, for example changing duties, working hours and pay. 

Ed recommends having open, honest and transparent conversations with staff about what you are proposing and, crucially, why. If people understand your financial or operational situation, for example, they are more likely to buy into and agree to the changes. 

There might be clauses on flexibility written into your contracts, which you could rely on, but it is important to bear in mind that there is an implied duty to act reasonably as an employer. 

If a member of staff does not agree to the proposed changes, there is a process called ‘dismissal and re-engagement’ that you could use, whereby you terminate the employment and offer to re-engage them under new terms. However, this should be used with caution, as businesses cannot afford to lose their best members of staff, in particular, in the hospitality sector where there is now staff shortages.

Read our short guide to dismissal and re-engagement

The knock-on effects of long-term increased remote working and employee monitoring

Reports suggest that employees are actually more productive when working from home if their role allows it. However, a large number of managers are struggling with the effective management of people working remotely. Some workers are feeling untrusted and micromanaged by their managers. There needs to be a balance between supporting and effectively managing employees. 

If systems for employee monitoring are introduced, it is important to communicate with employees what the systems are and why they are needed. Employee monitoring could be used as an indicator of wellbeing. If an employer can see that an employee is working very late into the evening, for example, then this could be a bit of a red flag for a manager to check up on. 

Employee monitoring may also be needed for governance and security reasons, for example, to spot illegal and/or reputationally damaging behaviour.

Listen to our podcast episode on employee monitoring

‘No jab no job’ policies

Venues may be tempted to ask their staff to get a vaccine in order to keep them safe and reduce the risk of staff shortages, especially given that a lot of people working in hospitality are too young to have been offered the vaccine yet and are therefore at higher risk. 

However, the government has not made the vaccine mandatory, and as a general rule, it would be risky for employers to insist on vaccination in the majority of cases.  

If you feel that vaccination is necessary for someone to do their job and they refuse, this could result in disciplinary action in some cases. Read our Q&A on employee vaccinations

Long Covid and disability discrimination claims

According to the latest ONS data, over the four-week period ending 6 March 2021, an estimated 1.1 million people in private households in the UK reported experiencing long Covid. 

Under the Equality Act 2010, you are disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to carry out normal daily activities.

Long Covid could therefore be classed as a disability under the Act. 

Employers should obtain an occupational health report for any employees suffering with long Covid so that they can fulfil their legal duty to make any reasonable adjustments to support them in their role. 

Alternatives to redundancy 

Redundancy may not be an appropriate solution for employers in the hospitality sector, at this stage, in particular where there are difficulties in recruiting. 

Watch Ed’s video on alternatives to redundancy, which considers reducing headcount, temporary stoppages, reducing hours, reducing costs and government schemes. These might deliver a more favourable outcome, especially if you’re looking for a more short-term solution.

Explore our interviews with hospitality leaders on how they are transforming their business in response to the pandemic, and how Covid trends are reshaping the leisure, food & drink industry.  

This publication is intended for general guidance and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at June 2021. Specific advice should be sought for specific cases. For more information see our terms & conditions.

Date published

02 June 2021

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