An employment law Q&A for dealing with COVID-19

Recent developments around the outbreak of COVID-19 has raised a number of employment issues for many businesses. This is a worrying time for employees and employers. We would always recommend taking specific advice in each case, but here are some frequently asked questions and answers which may be useful.

Q: What is the current position on SSP for self-isolating employees?

A: The rules on SSP have been amended to cover those who are not unwell but are self-isolating according to government guidance and cannot work from home. The guidance is that it is “good practice” to pay contractual enhanced sick pay in these circumstances. SSP for self-isolating employees now starts from day one rather than having to wait for three days.

 

Q: What will the government do to help with the extra cost?

A: For employers with fewer than 250 members of staff, the government has announced plans to reimburse SSP for the first 14 days where there is a COVID-19 related reason.

 

Q: What if there is no work for my employees to do?

A: Employers cannot lay off staff without a contractual right to do so. Even if there is a right to lay off in the contract, there are complex rules around the impact of exercising this right. They can require employees to take statutory holiday at specific times, but notice should be given and this notice must be at least twice as long as the amount of leave the employee is required to take. Some employees may agree to take an extended period of unpaid leave.

 

Q: What must I do if I need to close my business for a period of time but there is no contractual right to lay off and the employees do not agree to take unpaid leave?

A: The contracts of employment are the starting point on staff taking time off, assuming that these do comply with the minimum statutory requirements. Occasionally contracts do contain a right for the employer to lay off staff on a temporary basis. Where there is no contractual right to lay off employees temporarily, an employer may wish to consider entering into individual (and, if required, collective) consultation relating to proposed changes to working arrangements.

 

Q: How can I make sure that I take care of my employees?

A: Employers should be mindful of their general duty of care towards employees and their duties under equality, privacy and health and safety legislation. Some practical examples are: implementing and encouraging increased hygiene; protecting sensitive health information relating to affected members of staff; and making special adjustments for vulnerable employees who are self-isolating due to an underlying medical condition.

 

Q: How do I keep up to date?

A: Finally, as developments unfold, it is important to keep up to date with current government guidance on a daily basis – ACAS, BEIS and Public Health England are the recommended sources of information.

 

This post was written by Joanna Smye, an Employment Lawyer at Price Bailey. Should you require any advice in relation to employment law matters, you can contact Joanna on the form below.

 

We always recommend that you seek advice from a suitably qualified adviser before taking any action. The information in this article only serves as a guide and no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of this material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.

 

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