Dorset and Hants law firm Ellis Jones Solicitors has urged businesses to start talking to employees about returning to the office to defuse any HR bombshells later on.
Government guidance for office staff to ‘work from home if they can’ will be lifted at stage four of the roadmap out of lockdown – potentially on Monday 21 June.
Kate Brooks, partner and head of employment at Ellis Jones, is warning bosses to put plans in place now and cautioned that in most cases they cannot insist employees have a vaccination before returning.
Ellis Jones, a full-service law firm with more than 150 staff and 18 partners, has offices in Bournemouth, Poole, Swanage, Wimborne and Ringwood as well as London.
Brooks, who has been recognised for her expertise in The Legal 500 and The Times Top 200 Law Firms guides, said: “There could be less than a month until the vast majority of restrictions lift in June.
“Employees should generally be ready to return to work when required. However, employers should be discussing a return to the workplace with their people to ensure that they are given the opportunity to raise any issues or concerns. It is also an opportunity for businesses to provide reassurance that the employee’s safety is being taken seriously.
“There are complexities surrounding health and safety, flexible work requests and the potential for constructive dismissal claims. Planning and consultation will help avoid any HR bombshells exploding later on and smooth the path forward for both the business and its people.”
Brooks added: “Many of our clients have asked about vaccinations. The simple answer is that employers cannot insist a staff member has the vaccine. If an employee has refused a vaccine, the employer must consider the reasons for this against the business requirement for vaccinated staff and the risk to vulnerable people. They can then decide the action to take, which could include a reasonable instruction to the employee or dismissal as long as it is carried out fairly.”
Brooks is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association.