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26-03-2020

Coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQ - Employment in the UK

coronavirus-faq

NB: Please note that due to the rapidly changing situation advice may change

Statutory Sick Pay

New SSP rules will apply with retrospective effect from 13 March in relation to coronavirus absences.  

SSP of £94.25 per week will be payable where an employee is unable to work from home and they are either ill with coronavirus symptoms, or are self-isolating in accordance with government or medical advice.  It will be payable from day 1.

 

To claim SSP -

  • The individual must be an employee
  • The must have been absent due to illness/self-isolation for at least 4 days
  • Earn at least £118 per week
  • Notify their employer within its deadline or within 7 days if there isn’t one.
  • Not have already been paid 28 weeks sick pay

Employees can self-certify for first 7 days and thereafter can get at fit note online from a doctor or NHS 111.

Employers can reclaim a maximum of 2 weeks SSP per employee in relation to coronavirus absences if they employ fewer than 250 employees.  It is therefore advisable for employers to keep clear records in respect of each absent employee, including symptoms. 

An employee is not entitled to SSP by virtue of the fact they live with someone who is high risk if neither have symptoms.

 

Working from home

Currently all staff who are able to work from home should do so, but this is not mandatory and employees can be required to attend work where working from home is not possible regardless of whether or not they are a ‘key worker’.

Employers need to consider practical matters such as health and safety risk assessments and GDPR for employees who are working remotely.

 

Redundancies

Employers should consider alternatives to redundancy such as furloughing employees (see below) or lay-offs (both of which will require employee consent if there is no contractual right).  Employers might also want to consider other measures such as reduced hours or salary, asking employees to take their paid holiday leave now etc.

If redundancies are unavoidable then it is important to remember that normal redundancy and unfair dismissal rules still apply.  Whilst a redundancy is a potentially fair reason for dismissal, if an employer gets things wrong an employee may still bring various claims.

In particular, an employer is obligated to consult with individual employees about any potential redundancies and depending on the number of proposed redundancies there may be an obligation to collectively consult as well. 

Redundant employees will be entitled to as a minimum

  • Statutory redundancy pay if they have worked for their employer for two years or more.
  • Notice pay based on contractual notice or statutory minimum notice, whichever is the greater (or the employee may be required to work their notice).

 

Furloughing Employees

Employers will be able to claim up to 80 per cent of the cost of an employee up to a maximum of £2,500 per month in respect of any employee put on furlough.  Any employer can claim the only criteria is that they have employees who are placed on furlough leave.

The scheme will last for 3 months backdated to 1 March 2020, but may be extended if necessary.

An employee cannot carry out work whilst on furlough leave and can refuse any if asked to undertake tasks. Unless an employee’s contract allows for furlough leave (which is unlikely) they will have to agree to been put on furlough.

 

About the author:

Sarah Rushton is a Partner at Moon Beever LLP.

If you have any questions regarding the article or would like some advice, please contact Sarah on srushton@moonbeever.com.  

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