KEEBLES The Legal Lessons of 2020


Catherine Wilson, Partner and Head of Employment at Yorkshire Law Firm Keebles LLP, discusses key legal lessons care home professionals have learnt over the last year whilst working through COVID-19.

experienced staff deal with temporary rises in demand. Another way could be to recruit part-time employees or make creative use of staff on a fixed-term contract if regular working hours are required.

Unfortunately, the challenges posed by COVID-19 have highlighted the need for ongoing effective line management of staff. Employers need to ensure their disciplinary and performance management procedures are fit for purpose.

The unprecedented events of 2020 have emphasised the importance to all care home operators, big or small, of a well- motivated and trained workforce.

Care homes’ historic reliance on casual and temporary staff, as well as low pay, demonstrates some financial and operational weaknesses facing the sector. Care services must be up to speed with ever-changing government guidance on specific COVID-19-related rules especially those relating to quarantine, shielding and self-isolating.

Care home operators need to ensure that employment contracts are fit for purpose. Following changes in April 2020, the provision of key employment terms has become a day- one right. It is crucial that new employees are provided with a contract of employment and that the terms and conditions meet the operational needs of the care home.

Key terms and conditions include pay, working hours, overtime, holidays, sickness, maternity, discipline, grievances and dismissals.

Many care homes employ people on zero-hour contracts to deal with the surge in demand for workers. This type of contract provides flexibility, however, because of the absence of any mutuality of obligation, they guarantee neither minimum level of hours nor pay.

This type of contract has been linked with workforce instability and the practice of nomadic workers carrying out work for a number of different care homes. This has been identified as an infection risk during the pandemic.

Whilst zero-hour contracts may seem like a good way of overcoming an initial rise in demand, employers should consider alternatives. For example, they could offer enhanced overtime to permanent members of the team to ensure

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Care home managers need to be familiar and trained with their own home’s policies and procedures. For example, vigilance must be taken with record keeping, as there could be several members of staff caring for the same resident over a period of time which may mean accountability is an issue.

Safeguarding is paramount. The health and wellbeing of residents can be improved by having clear, written records of the actions taken regarding each individual.

It is important for care home managers to listen to their staff and act on any concerns they may have.

An effective whistleblowing process is a key feature within any care home. Even in normal times, it is key that staff can report potential issues and go on record with their concerns without any fears of negative repercussions.

Staff must feel supported even if their allegations are found to be unsubstantiated. Up-to-date written policies are part of this process. Staff awareness training is also a good way to ensure all employees know what to do with any claims.

Many care homes employ overseas staff who come from within the European Union. For EU citizens already in the UK on 31st December 2020, there will be no change so long as they apply for residence documentation before 30th

June 2021.

Care home managers should ensure that each member of staff’s right to work paperwork is up to date. They should also be able to guide employees on how to apply for residence. Employers currently check any member of staff’s right to work in the UK and, up until 30th

June 2021, they can continue to

accept EU passports and ID cards as proof of right to work. Aſter 30th

checks as they currently do for non-EU citizens.

If you are an employer and need further support, contact Catherine Wilson on or call 0114 252 1414. June 2021, employers will have to carry out the same

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