Over the last six weeks we have had it reinforced to us that we must remain alert and follow strict lockdown and social isolating guidelines in order to protect ourselves against contracting COVID-19.
As we now head into the next stage of our COVID business recovery the need to remain alert is still as important. However, it may be a different form of ‘virus’ that we need to be aware of.
As they say, major events can bring out the best, and the worst, in people.
Within the last few weeks we have seen many employees who have willingly accepted reduced hours or reduced incomes in order to assist their employers in keeping the business afloat. Some employees have offered to take a 20% reduction in their incomes but have insisted that they still want to keep working 100% of their usual hours in order to support this recovery in the best way they can. These people are often referred to as the ‘givers’.
However, we have also become increasingly aware of the employees who are more commonly known as the ‘takers’. These staff have adopted the principle of doing as little as possible for the company who has continued to pay them during the lockdown or who engage representation to demand a continuation of their ‘lawful rights’ to receiving full pay despite not being required to work their usual hours.
Unfortunately, we have seen a significant willingness from employee representatives and advocates to support these ‘takers’ in their claims. In many cases, employees have agreed to take a reduction in their wages only for them to now be raising personal grievances claiming that they were forced into agreement, that their agreement was subject to duress, or they were not advised of their rights to support and representation when being asked to agree to the reduction.
Within situations of genuine redundancy, where a thorough consultation process has been adopted, we are already receiving personal grievance claims from our clients where the employee, supported by their representative or advocate, is claiming the redundancy is unnecessary, is predetermined or is based on speculation not fact. In most cases we are seeing that the representative acknowledges the need for the business to makes changes however their objective is to raise a dispute that can be settled with payments of greater than the amount of the employees notice period. In many cases this may even take the form of seeking a tax-free lump sum payment equal to the value of notice period in order to benefit the employee to the tune of the PAYE.
As these representatives and advocates also have businesses to rebuild in a post-COVID environment we expect to see a significant proliferation of these types of claims over the next weeks and months.
Therefore, remain alert for the ‘takers’ and the actions of their representative and advocates who are out to create situations were ‘gold-digging’ can occur.
If you have any concerns about these forms of actions please feel free to give us a call prior to providing any response to the employee, their representative or their advocate as it may save you a lot of money in the long run.