Employer Advice & FAQs
We would like to reassure all our clients and contacts that we are here to help – and will remain committed to providing you with the best possible service at this challenging time.
PJH Law is following government advice. Our business contingency plan is operational, tried and tested, Lexcel compliant and robust. We are open for business and are able to advise on your situation. Our working practices are flexible and allow easy engagement on a non-face-to-face basis.
Our teams are working and remain fully accessible by telephone, email and appointments can be made via the phone, Skype, or Zoom. Your choice. We will continue to support you in a dedicated and proactive way.
What should employers be doing in the current situation?
COVID-19, is creating an unprecedented challenge for many employers. The details below addresses some of the most frequent questions that we have been asked about COVID-19 and an employer’s obligations to its workforce.
In these times, there are three types of absence or leave that might be considered. These options are normally implemented to avoid redundancies.
1. Short Time
Short time is working for and getting paid for less than 50% of a week. The right to put an employee on short time may or may not be included in an employee’s contract, if it is not, then agreement is required from the employee prior to implementation.
A lay off is where there is no work and no pay in any full week. Sending employees home temporarily until there is sufficient work. When an employer lays off employees it does not provide them with work, and it does not pay them. However, an employer can only lay off staff if it has an express contractual right to do so or had further agreement from the employee to do so.
Initially COVID-19 caused a significant number of employees to be laid off, prior to the announcement of the furlough scheme. During a layoff, an employee is entitled to receive a statutory guarantee payment. This is limited to just £29 per day for 5 days in any three-month period. If an employer does not have the right to lay off an employee, it must seek the employee’s agreement. Because of the challenging situation, some employees are agreeing to layoffs or unpaid leave to avoid redundancy. However, employers should not seek to impose layoffs if they do not have the right to do so. Employers who do this could be liable for claims of unlawful deductions of wages or constructive unfair dismissal (if the relevant employee has over two years’ continuous service).
This is when employers lay off their employees for a minimum period of 3 weeks. In this instance the government has advised it will pay 80% of the all PAYE employees pay, capped at £2,500 per month. HMRC have guidance on Furlough leaved and have published advice here. The Guidance makes clear collective consultation may apply if 20 or more employees are being furloughed. Our principal Solicitor and author Phil Hyland has also published a recent article covering the issue of Furlough for employers and in particular collective consultation.
Other Key Areas
In some cases, employers may need to consider making redundancies. While times are difficult, employers should bear in mind that they still have a duty to consult with their employees and to look for alternatives to redundancy. Making redundancies in haste could lead to potential claims for e.g. unfair dismissal, particular where the furloigh scheme is avaialable at no cost to the employer.
It is important to consider, that in the event that an employer seeks to make more than 20 redundancies within 90 days at one establishment, collective consultation is also required. This is in addition to other employment claims that the affected employees may have. Unlike unfair dismissal, employees or their appropriate representitives can claim this protective award regardless of their length of service.
Employers can avoid collective consultation in special circumstances (something the COVID-19 outbreak could potentially constitute). However, there is a high bar for this, and we would strongly recommend seeking legal advice before making any large scale redundancies.
Employment law can be an involved and complex area to navigate, and even more with complex issues COVID-19 may bring. PJH Law can help you find a practical solution to COVID-19 and all employment law workplace issues.
We have significant experience and success rates managing Employment Tribunal, County Court, and appeals to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
We are quick, efficient and no-nonsense. For expert please complete our enquiry form, request a callback or call our employment solicitors and expert legal team on 01780 757 589.
More Key Areas of Consideration
Statutory Sick Pay (“SSP”)
Employees who are self-isolating due to COVID-19 are entitled to SSP. Traditionally, SSP has been reserved for people who are unable to work due to incapacity.
However, updated government guidance states that an employee is treated as being unable to work due to incapacity if they are complying with advice from Public Health England, NHS National Services Scotland or Public Health Wales. Therefore employees self-isolating due to mild symptoms are entitled to SSP, even though they would ordinarily be able to attend work.
SSP is currently £94.25 a week. Usually, an employee is unable to receive SSP until they have been ill for four or more days in a row. However, as of 13 March 2020, an employee affected by COVID-19 has the right to receive SSP immediately.
Working from home
Employees who are able to work from home should continue to receive full pay. To minimise exposure to the Coronavirus and help with social distancing, it is unlikely to be considered unreasonable to request that an employee work from home where possible. Many employees may already have mobility clauses in their contracts.
The Government has announced a £multi billion stimulus package to assist businesses with COVID 19. The Government also intends to introduce additional specific employment measures. It is unclear what these will be and the employment team at PJH Law is keeping up to date with these measures and will provide updates as they are announced.
HR basics to follow if your business is still open
- Make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date.
- Make sure all staff are aware of the latest government advice, your response as an employer and what you are doing to protect people’s health and reduce the risk of infection spreading.
- Continue to communicate as the situation changes.
- Make sure managers are clear on any relevant policies and processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and your homeworking policy.
Protect your workforce
- Keep your workforce well-informed with ongoing developments and official advice from the Government and National Health Service and promote resources that are available.
- Advise employees to take precautions. This includes working from home where possible and avoiding non-essential social contact (in line with the latest government advice). CIPD’s has a series on remote working for tips on getting the most from remote working.
- If your business remains open – under the latest government measures, it’s important yo help reduce the spread of infection by providing soap and hand sanitiser gels with alcohol, especially in communal areas like kitchens and coffee areas.
- Increase the frequency and intensity of office cleaning; frequently wipe down communal spaces such as kitchens, handrails on stairs, lift buttons, door handles, etc.
- Employers should use discretion around the need for medical evidence for a period of absence where an employee is advised to self-isolate.
- Employees can currently self-certify for the first seven days. Employees can now apply for an isolation note through a new online service. There is more information is available on the government website.
Above all keep well and take care:
PJH Law’s employment law team try to do things differently. We operate a relaxed, informal, friendly and personal service. We are specialists in getting the best outcomes we can for our clients. These are unique times and we have over 35 years of combined experience that can help you with any employment law issue covering COVID-19.
We have a large firm experience, but being a niche firm offer a more friendly personal service.
For expert advice on employnment law issues arising out of COVID 19, or any kind of employment law dispute and funding options; including employment protection insurance, please complete our enquiry form, request a callback or call our employment lawyers and expert legal team on 01780 757 589.