3 Employment Practices Liability scenarios your business should plan for.

As businesses across various sectors slowly start to resume service after an extended period of closure, many have concerns about different aspects of returning to the workplace in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the key issues our clients have expressed concern about is Employment Practices Liability (EPL), an insurance policy that provides cover for employers regarding certain wrongful acts arising during the employment period. Cover is typically in respect of defence costs and settlement arising from claims in relation to discrimination, unfair/constructive dismissal, misconduct, harassment and retaliation. There is no standard EPL policy, and coverage terms, conditions and exclusions vary within the EPL market.

With the changing nature of employment during the lockdown period and with the lockdown now easing, we asked one of our EPL brokers, Graham Meskell, to discuss the benefits of EPL insurance policies and key potential scenarios your organisation should consider.

What are the benefits of an EPL policy?

EPL insurance policies can be extremely valuable and may provide cover for anticipated COVID-19 claims that solicitors are already planning for. Many policies provide pre-claim legal advice from highly qualified employment counsel at no additional cost to their policy holders and can assist in quickly deploying policies and procedures to address this issue in your workplace. This upfront support may prevent a claim being made in the first instance and helps to establish effective policies and procedures in your workplace.

Who needs an EPL policy?

All businesses would benefit from an EPL policy as employers of all sizes are sued by employees. Large corporations typically have substantial employment practices insurance coverage in place and are prepared to deal with just about any employment lawsuit. However, small or new businesses are often the most vulnerable to employment claims as they usually do not have a legal department or employee handbook detailing the policies and procedures that guide hiring, disciplining or terminating employees.

Three potential scenarios for your organisation to consider.

Below we discuss three scenarios that are expected to result in claims made due to COVID-19.

Working from Home

Following the announcement of the lockdown period, many employees had to make the transition to working from home. Although in some cases employees have now returned to the workplace following the easing of lockdown, they may wish to continue working from home. There may be potential claims in the event that requests are refused or if the company reduces office space and instructs employees to work from home

Communication

When working from home there is a natural feeling of communication being less formal and a relaxation in people’s attitudes. This can result in management communication being misinterpreted that leads to employees feeling discriminated against and treated unfairly. A further issue with relaxed communication on video calls is that employees may feel harassed should inappropriate comments be made, or inappropriate clothing be worn.

Furlough / Redundancies 

The 100% furlough coverage provided by the government is due to come to an end on 1st August, which may result in companies looking to lay employees off. This will likely lead to a spike in claims for unfair dismissal, discrimination and redundancy payments.

The above list is not exhaustive, and should you have any EPL queries, please speak to your broker and they will be happy to assist. If you are undertaking any employment related actions, we would recommend that you review your decisions with your employment legal counsel, as well as utilising the free HR/Legal helpline provided under your Employment Practices Liability policy.

We are always interested to hear your views so if you have any questions or comments on this article, please get in touch with your dedicated insurance broker at Griffiths & Armour or alternatively, contact Graham Meskell below: