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There can be no denying the effect that COVID-19 is having on all of our daily lives and the work which each of us does.
The effect COVID-19 is unprecedented for both employers and employees. The Government has taken drastic action to limit the damage on employers and employees. We have a brief look at some of those steps below.
Statutory Sick Pay
If an employee is self-isolating because of coronavirus (COVID-19), they will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from the first day. An employer can claim back the costs of 14 days SSP from the Government.
In order for an employee to be entitled they must be staying at home to isolate in line with Public Health England's advice. If an employee is shielding this is normally with unpaid leave.
If an employee has been told to self-isolate because of coronavirus and that they can't work from home, then they will need to obtain a note for their employer. Isolation notes are available from the NHS website.
This service is only for people who:
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
The government has now issued official guidance for employers on claiming for wage costs through the scheme and there is separate guidance for employees.
Any large or small employer can apply to put an employee on temporary leave or "furloughed" status. The government will then pay them cash grants of 80 per cent of their wages up to a cap of £2,500, providing they keep the worker employed. They will receive the grant from HMRC.
All UK organisations can self-certify that it has furloughed employees.
Furloughed employees must have been on your PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020, and can be on any type of contract, including:
Individuals will pay Income Tax and National Insurance on any payments received through this scheme as they are replacement for income in line with normal practise for benefits or grants that replace income.
The government aims to get the scheme up and running before the end of April 2020.
Employees taken on after 28 February 2020 are excluded from the scheme.
Employers can re-employ people who have been made redundant since 28 February 2020, and then furlough them.
To qualify for the payment, an employee must be furloughed for a minimum of three weeks. They can then come off furlough. This means that employers cannot rotate staff weekly between furlough and non-furlough.
Employees on furlough leave can do volunteering or training, providing it does not generate any money for their employer.
Employers should note that an employee needs to consent to be furloughed. If an employer doesn't agree to be furloughed then an employer will need to consider redundancy or lay off / short time working if the contract permits.
There are no time limits for an employee to agree or not to agree to be furloughed
If an employer needs to reduce employees doing work of a particular kind, a matrix selection criteria should be used to determine who should be furloughed to reduce the risks of a claim for discrimination.
Employers should be aware that, collective consultation still applies if you're making 20 or more employees redundant within any 90-day period at a single establishment. An employer may however be able to rely upon the 'special circumstances' defence. Employers should also take note the election of employee representatives are still required.
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.