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.