Coronavirus (COVID-19) for employers and employees

Coronavirus (COVID-19) for employers and employees

We are able to provide expert legal advice on matters including employment rights and contract termination during the Coronavirus crisis, if you need guidance and advice on employee rights and procedures.

To help you navigate the challenges posed by Coronavirus, whether you are an employer or employee, we have put together this short guide.

Follow Government advice

The Government’s official advice has the potential to change quickly, so to ensure that you are acting according to the latest advice from the Government, it is a good idea to visit the official guidance pages on gov.uk regularly.

Advice for individuals Guidance for employers and businesses

Employment Rights and Employee Rights

The measures that have been brought in to limit the spread of coronavirus are having a major impact on the operations of many businesses, which can crate challenges for employment relationships.

At the same time, the Government has introduced a new concept in employment law of a ‘furloughed worker’.

Our specialists can advise you on employee rights throughout the coronavirus crisis and beyond to mitigate the risk of an Employment Tribunal case being brought against you in future.

Moving an employee to Furlough

Designating a person as ‘furloughed’ is an important step in claiming financial support through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which promises to cover 80% of employment costs for an employee (capped at £2,500 per month).

Furlough is a new term used to describe the unique position that an employee will find themselves in while on the CJRS.

There remains uncertainty amongst employers about what this new term means and how a person is designated as furloughed.

To help provide some clarity we have tried to answer some common queries about the steps need to move an employee to furlough.

Read more

Sick pay for individuals in self-isolation

With the increased range of circumstances in which the Government advises that people should self-isolate, there is a greater chance that you will have to deal with self-isolation.

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

The legal provisions for those who self-isolate in accordance with public health guidance on Coronavirus to be considered incapable of work, for the purpose of claiming statutory sick pay came into effect on 13 March 2020.

This definition is a person who is “isolating himself [or herself] from other people in such a manner as to prevent infection or contamination with Coronavirus disease, in accordance with guidance published by Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland or Public Health Wales …. and [who] by reason of that isolation is unable to work”.

An employee will need a notice to self-isolate or a fit note from their GP or NHS 111 if they are following Public Health England advice to self-isolate.

The Government has also confirmed that SSP will payable from the first day that an employee is absent from work to self-isolate.

The Government has also committed to reimbursing businesses with less than 250 employees for the cost of SSP for the first 14 days of self-isolation.

Contractual Sick Pay

It may be necessary to pay additional sick pay in circumstances where this is provided for in a contract of employment, in the employee handbook, or even where it is usual practice to do so.

If you are unsure as to what to do in specific circumstances, please contact a member of our team.

Pay for individuals you have required to self-isolate

There may be circumstances in which you consider that an employee should self-isolate, even where this is not in accordance with Government advice. In these circumstances, you would have to continue to pay them their basic salary as usual.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The Chancellor has announced a scheme to reimburse up to 80 per cent of the cost of the wages of ‘furloughed workers’ up to £2,500 per employee per month.

This scheme will initially run for three months from 1 March 2020 and will be backdated. The Scheme will be administered by HMRC and all UK businesses and charities will be eligible.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has now published detailed guidance for operation of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which confirms that:

  • The scheme applies only to workers who were on the payroll on 28 February 2020;
  • Workers made redundant since 28 February 2020 can be included in the scheme, if you agree to take them back on; and
  • The scheme covers full-time and part-time employees, employees on agency contacts and employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts.

[Read the guidance for employers on the HMRC website]

[Read the guidance for employees on the HMRC website]

It may be beneficial to seek legal advice when communicating with employees when placing them on furlough. If you are placing a large workforce on furlough then it may be necessary to conduct a collective consultation.

Lay-offs owing to reduced work

It is possible that businesses, especially those in certain sectors, will see a reduced workload as a consequence of Coronavirus.

In these circumstances, and where allowed for in the contract of employment, employees can be laid off temporarily.

Employees who are laid off must be paid a guarantee payment of up to £29 a day, for five days, in a three-month period up to a maximum of £145.

After four weeks, employees may be able to request that they are made redundant.

Use of holiday

Another option that employers might wish to use is to require employees to take annual leave.

Where an employer wishes to do this, they must provide notice of at least twice the length of leave they require the employee to take. A requirement for an employee to take a week’s leave would require two weeks’ notice.

Contract termination

In some circumstances, such as where a furlough cannot be agreed, you may conclude that contract termination is necessary. In these circumstances, we can advise on the necessary process to mitigate the risk of Employment Tribunal proceedings being brought against you at a later date.

IR35

Please note that the Government has, as part of its Coronavirus response, delayed the introduction of the off-payroll working rules (IR35) until April 2021 and so the responsibility will remain with individual contractors to determine their own tax status.

Additional steps

  • Provide guidance to employees, setting out your approach to Coronavirus.
  • Assess whether any of your employees belong to vulnerable groups and who may need special provisions or employees whose presence is crucial to the functioning of your organisation.
  • Check the steps that can be taken feasibly to reduce the risk to employees If they remain within your business premises.

For further specific advice on dealing with Coronavirus in your workplace, please contact us today.

Protect your business and your employees with our Furlough Pack for employers

Coronavirus/Covid-19

We want to protect you and our staff from the spread of coronavirus.

We would kindly request, where possible, that you contact us by telephone or email in preference to attending personally at our offices.

If you are feeling unwell or have been in contact with anyone who is unwell, please do not visit our offices.

Where possible, please send correspondence and documentation to us electronically so that we are able to progress matters remotely if necessary. Thank you for your co-operation.