Employment advice during the Coronavirus pandemic
The Coronavirus outbreak has lead to significant focus on HR and people policies in the workplace. Many employers are facing significant operational and finanical challenges.
The advice below is a snapshot of what needs to be considered. We highly recommend speaking to one of our employment team about your specific sitation, or downloading the Coronavirus Employer Support Pack put togther specially by our team.
Can I make employees come to work?
This is a question many employers are asking following recent encouragement from the Government for employees to go back to work. Current advice is that if your employees can work from home, they should do so. If they can’t work from home and you ask employees to come to work, you should still consider the following:
- You are under a duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of your employees. You should ensure those who do come in are social distancing and following appropriate procedures such as regularly washing hands.
- Many employees will be deeply reluctant to go to work and may refuse an instruction to do so. The question is then whether an instruction to attend work is reasonable (it might not be).
- If you try to make employees attend work where it is not absolutely necessary, you risk undermining the duty of trust of confidence.
- You should ensure you comply with government guidance and the laws which relate to providing a safe working environment. This includes taking a number of steps such as carrying out a risk assessment and consulting with employees. These can be complex and easy to get wrong; do get in touch if you feel you need help.
Do I need to pay staff who are self-isolating?
Employees who have been advised to self-isolate will be entitled to SSP from the first day of sickness absence (if they meet qualifying conditions, such as a minimum level of earnings). Employers with fewer than 250 employees will be able to reclaim SSP paid in respect of the first 14 days of COVID-19-related sickness absence. Do ensure your sickness recording processes distinguish between absences related to COVID-19 and absences for other reasons.
Can I reduce my employee’s pay or introduce short time working?
Only if your employment contracts allow you to do this or your employees agree.
For more information read our latest insight on how to prepare your business for life after furlough.
What is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and how do I access this?
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is a grant available to all UK employers to enable you to continue paying part of your employees’ salary for those employees who would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis. The idea is to encourage employers to keep employees on, rather than make them redundant. The CJRS will be administered by HMRC and you can claim a grant of up to 80% of an employee’s wage up to a cap of £2,500 per month.
The key points are:
▪ Furloughed employees are still on the payroll so are available when things pick up
▪ They are not allowed to do any work at all
▪ You can claim a grant of up to 80% of an employee’s regular wage up to a monthly cap of £2,500. Non-discretionary overtime, fees, commissions and bonuses are all included.
▪ You can choose to top-up pay, either for the unfunded 20% of pay or the amount above £2,500 for higher earners. You don’t have to do so though.
▪ Furlough must be taken in minimum blocks of three weeks to be eligible for funding and employers can only claim once every three weeks
To implement the CJRS you will need to seek affected employees’ agreement to become ‘furloughed workers’ and submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal.
There are plenty of complexities in relation to how the scheme fits in with general employment law. Many of these will depend on your individual circumstances e.g. how you deal with sickness, how holiday works, rotating staff on furlough and whether you need to collectively consult with employees. Our employment team is happy to help you work out the best plan for your business and to support you implement it smoothly.
Can I make redundancies?
It is your choice whether to make redundancies or whether to furlough employees, although the availability of furlough may be one factor that is considered if an unfair dismissal challenge is brought. You should therefore ensure that you have a good reason for dismissing an employee (which might e.g. be a reasoned assessment that your requirement for this role will have ceased / diminished for an extended period, not just on a temporary basis) and follow a fair process. You will also need to pay statutory redundancy pay to those employees with more than 2 years’ service who are made redundant. The process is considerably more complex if 20 or more employees are at risk of losing their jobs in the same place and you should consider seeking legal advice.
At Tozers our Employment Team have put together a fixed fee Employer Redundancy Pack to help you if you may be thinking about making redundancies.
How can Tozers Help?
Tozers employment team have developed a fixed fee Coronavirus Employer Support Pack which is aimed at addressing your common questions through guidance notes and regular updates as well as providing a suite of documents to use in your communications. This along with our Employer Redundancy Pack are available to download on our resources page.
Last updated on 03/06/2020