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Positive Steps with Nicola Wallbank, Partner at Julian Taylor Solicitors

1. Providing prompt and sound guidance to employees
The world of employment law was shaken up this year by the introduction of a brand new concept – furlough. As a team we responded immediately to ensure we were fully on top of the new regime and could quickly advise our clients on how to navigate and implement the furlough rules. Many businesses were facing extreme pressure from having to shut up shop, so having quick and straightforward advice they could count on was essential. Employers have also been facing a myriad of other relatively novel issues – health and safety concerns from staff over attending or travelling to work, new laws on sick pay for those self-isolating, handling staff who started to display Covid symptoms and dealing with a much increased home based workforce. We have been here throughout to help our clients deal with these issues, and will continue to support them to deal with what lies ahead.

2. Keeping our clients and contacts up to date
In addition to responding to queries, we have taken a proactive stance to keeping our clients and contacts up to date with legal developments. The government guidance on the furlough scheme has been released in numerous waves (often just before a weekend) and not always in a clear and easily understood manner. We appreciate that it has been difficult for employers to stay on top of this, and so have taken the effort out of this by sending out regular and prompt email updates on matters like furlough / the Information Commissioner’s guidance for employers on managing covid related health data etc not only explaining developments but also providing links to where information can be obtained. We know our clients have found these updates useful when they are short on time but need to keep up with the latest.

3. Supporting employees
We act for both employers and employees – so we see both sides. The covid crisis has seen an unfortunate rise in redundancies and we are here to help individuals understand their entitlements during employment, on furlough and at the point of termination. We have supported many concerned employees through their dismissal, and frequently advise on settlement agreements, in many cases improving the exit terms being offered to our clients so that they have an acceptable cushion to see them through to getting a new role. We know that redundancy is a difficult time for people, and having a trusted and expert adviser in your corner can help redress the balance.

4. Keeping in touch
With laptops, mobiles and a largely paperless office we were really well geared up to working from home when the need arose. However, after several months of seeing each other only by video call members of the team at Julian Taylors were pleased to meet up for real last week, with a socially distanced picnic. It was a great morale boost, and gave us all a chance to escape our desks. We have decided that this should be a regular event, and so are planning our next outing!

5. A return to the office
With the team working effectively from home there is no pressing need to get everyone back to the office. Indeed we understand that for some, concerns about returning or having to juggle additional childcare responsibilities will make that difficult for some time, and we are operating flexibly to meet people’s needs. However, we do want to make sure that people have the option, and that our office is a safe space so that people can make the transition back to work when they feel ready and able to do so. We are very lucky that our offices in Weston-on-the-Green provide an airy environment where social distancing is possible, and with extra precautions (like screens for our reception and meeting areas, a cleaning protocol, and plenty of hand sanitiser etc) we are confident we can give staff and visitors a safe experience. Having gone through this planning has helped us when advising our clients on their approach to facilitating the return to into the workplace for their staff too.