Business HR Under The Spotlight – Your 3 Minute February Roundup  

“Welcome to Spotlight HR’s monthly ‘bite-size’ look at the latest HR news and important

legal changes affecting small to medium-sized businesses across the UK today.” 

March 2022. By Kimberly Bradshaw (CEO, Spotlight HR.)

Living with Covid – What does this mean for small businesses?

Boris announced the end of England’s Covid restrictions from Thursday, February 24th onwards, but what HR implications does ‘Living with Covid’ have on small business owners and what are the rules now?

  • Employees are no longer legally required to self-isolate if they test positive. Instead, they now are asked to stay at home for 5 days. However, from April 1st, this advice is due to change again, with those displaying Covid symptoms to “exercise personal responsibility.”
  • Boris has also scrapped support packages to help those self-isolating, including the £500 payments to low-income individuals who test positive for Covid.
  • There is no more Contact Tracing, so workers have no requirement to inform employers if they get Covid or need to self-isolate.
  • From March 24th, employees with Covid are no longer eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day one of their illness – only from the fourth consecutive day of illness – which represents a welcome cost saving for businesses.
  • The government funded, Universal Free Testing ends in England from April 1st, so Covid will no longer be mandatory in employers’ risk assessments – more about this next.

Through the HR lens – How do small businesses go about implementing Covid workplace policies while ‘Living with Covid’? 

This really is the million-dollar question in HR right now, and the answer is worth a bit of consideration. As an employer, it is your role to decide what Covid policies and guidance to put in place at your workplace. We would urge caution to those who see the ‘Living with Covid’ as the All Clear to rush their employees back to the pre-covid work setting, as this could lead to tribunal claims.

Maintaining good ventilation, thorough cleaning regimes, and sanitation stations remain best practice. After all, these measures will reduce staff illnesses/absences from Covid and many other airborne and surface bugs. These procedures may also reassure any staff still concerned about returning to work, who maybe have vulnerabilities.

Also, moving forward, do you want employees with Covid to stay home? If so, you’ll need a sound business case to explain why such an isolation policy is necessary. With reasons clearly outlined: for example, to protect vulnerable staff members or clients perhaps.

HR Top Tips to avoid tribunals: 

  • Open dialogue: maintain an ‘open dialogue’ with your staff and listen to and respect their concerns about returning to work.
  • Plan ahead: whilst we all want Covid to be over, we can’t rule out future variants being problematic. Get a plan in place now for future outbreaks.
  • Risk assessments: to cover you from tribunal risks, we advise you to carry out risk assessments to identify infection and transmission risks in your workplace and document the steps you take to reduce those risks.

Employment Tribunal in focus – Ruling to pay back historic holiday pay 

The tribunal I have selected this month is a BIG one. It’s a landmark case, which all small business owners need to know about, concerning plumber Gary Smith, who disputed taking unpaid holidays and won.

Mr Smith’s 2005 contract refers to him as an ’employee’ at Pimlico Plumbers. Still, the employers maintained he was a self-employed contractor and therefore not entitled to holiday pay. During his time there, Mr Smith took unpaid holidays instead. Following his suspension in May 2011, Mr Smith began a tribunal seeking to claim back his unpaid leave as their ’employee’. His case has been in and out of court for many years, even getting to the Supreme Court.

Last month, in a shock turnaround, the Court of Appeal overturned all previous rulings and ordered Pimlico Plumbing to back pay Mr Smith his historic statutory holiday pay from his 5+ years with them. Including any unused holiday allowance.

This ruling could be particularly alarming to ‘gig economy’ employers who have not offered their workers statutory holiday pay. You need airtight employment contracts. Get in touch if you need advice.


If you’re affected by any of these issues, get in touch for dependable HR advice that you can trust. We are here to help.