Employment Law and Coronavirus – FAQs

27/03/2020

To assist employers and employees alike we have produced a list of FAQ’s dealing with some of the most common questions which our Employment Team is being asked.

Q. Can I furlough an employee who is already on long term sick?

​Furlough would usually apply only if the employee is fit for work.

Q. If someone is within the 1.5 million vulnerable people and unable to do their job from home, can they be furloughed or paid SSP?

​If a person has self isolated due to being vulnerable they may be classed as absent. If there is no work available but they are ready, willing and able to work they may be able to be furlonged if they agree to this.

Q. An employee is refusing to work as they want to stay in isolation (no symptoms) can we take any action?

If the employee does not meet the criteria for self-isolation or has not been advised to go into shielding, refusal to attend work could be considered as unauthorised absence and potentially subject to disciplinary action. 

Employers and employees have been advised to “act reasonably” and so a decision would need to be made in each case as to what would be considered as reasonable.

Q. Can employees request annual leave while self isolating? Will this be paid instead of SSP or on top of SSP?

An employee may request annual leave. They would normally be paid SSP topped up to their normal pay. 

Q. How much notice do you need to give an employee to return to work who we have put on the furloughed scheme?

 There are currently no notice requirements.

Q. If a member of staff self isolates for 12 weeks as they believe they are in an at-risk group, what pay are they entitled too? 2 weeks SSP or 12 weeks SSP?

Shielding is optional and is normally done with unpaid leave.

Q. In cases where staff are expected to work from home where they have dependents also at home, what level of productivity should the employer expect? If unable to meet this required level of work, should the employee take dependency leave, or could they be declared as a furlough worker?

The level of productivity should be agreed between employer and employee within reason. Employees have the right to take unpaid time off to deal with emergencies with dependents if they cannot work for this reason.

Q. We chose to send some employees home who were originally in the ‘at risk’ category last week. Should they be paid SSP or full pay / furloughed were applicable?

If it is an employer’s decision to send employees home and they are ready, willing and able to work they should be paid their normal wages unless they agree to be furloughed.

Q. Our staff are all working from home can we request them to take their accrued annual leave whilst working from home? 

​Employees can be asked to take annual leave as long as they are given double the notice of the annual leave period e.g. 8 days notice for 4 days annual leave.

Q. If someone has had a letter from NHS stating they should be off work for 3 months should they be furloughed?

If the employee is being advised that they are unfit for work then SSP will apply

Q. If an employee has been suspended whilst an investigation is being undertaken can the process continue with investigation meeting via a virtual meeting room with the employee and the same if to continue to disciplinary hearing?

​An employer can continue an investigation – and subsequent disciplinary action – remotely.

Q. If we furlough an employee and then they resign, how this will be dealt with? 

It is likely that normal rules would apply when it comes to resignations and notice

More information

​If you would like to find out more about how the team can help you, contact our Employment Team.

The above is meant to be only advice and is correct as of the time of posting. This article was written by Alex Pearce, Senior Associate in the Employment Law Team at Pinney Talfourd LLP Solicitors. The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. Specific legal advice should be taken on each individual matter. This article is based on the law as of March 2020.

27/03/2020

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