Employment Law Update In Relation To Coronavirus

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Tuesday 31st March, 2020

Employment Law Update in Relation to Coronavirus

The following is knowledge known to the public, which at time of writing is up to date. However, the Coronavirus crisis is a rapidly ever changing situation, therefore employment law and many other regulations are being updated regularly.

When should I self isolate?

Self isolation is necessary when:

  • You develop symptoms of the virus (high temperature, consistent cough)
  • You share a house hold with someone showing symptoms
  • You have been instructed to self isolate by your doctor or the 111 service

If someone in your household has symptoms all of those living in the household have to self isolate for 14 days.

Employees should inform their employer as soon as possible of their absence and indicate how long they will be absent from work.

Absence due to coronavirus and rights to pay

  • Employees who are self isolating and working at home should be paid as normal. This includes those that are stuck abroad but able to work.
  • Employees who are told to stay at home by their employer despite being able to work and willing to work, are in effect being suspended and therefore paid as normal.
  • Voluntary self isolation (not under Government guidance) is more likely to be unpaid
  • Statutory Sick Pay following Regulations announced by the Chancellor on 11 March is payable to:
    - Individuals who have the virus
    - Individuals who have symptoms related to the virus
    - Individuals who have to self-isolate because someone in their home has symptoms of the virus
    - Individuals who have been told to self-isolate by NHS 111 or their GP
  • There is no statutory right at this stage for paid time off to look after a third-party. Therefore parents or people caring for other dependent relatives can only request unpaid leave for an unexpected event or emergency. The amount of time has to be reasonable and it might be that additional time is allowed as part of their holiday allowance.
  • Government advice issued on 12 March was that those self-isolating with minor symptoms should not call their GP or NHS 111. They will therefore not be able to provide evidence for the first week of absence. Employers cannot request evidence for this first week of absence.
  • Regulations are anticipated which will allow SSP to be paid from the first day of absence.
  • Company Sick Pay policies usually require medical evidence. Due to the above, employees may struggle to obtain this and we suggest employers are flexible in their policies for evidential requirements.
  • The self-employed are not entitled to SSP and will not be entitled to receive payments from their contracting businesses if they are required to self-isolate or become ill from the virus.

Work closure

The current advice is that there is no need to close any work place unless advised to by the relevant Public Health Authority (PHA) but if a work place does have to close:

  • Staff should work from home where possible and companies should begin planning for this now
  • Paperwork tasks can be available for those that do not need to access a laptop

Lay offs and short time working

Some employment contracts for some businesses include lay off provisions. Unless this is specifically set out in their contract, employers have the right to work and therefore should be paid for this time.

There are two separate provisions to look for: the right to lay-off or reduce hours and, separately, arrangements for pay in these circumstances.

If this looks like an option, employers should consult with staff before taking any steps. We strongly recommend employers take specific legal advice before implementing lay-offs or short-time working.

Holiday

Employers are able to ask employees to use their holiday at certain times, but there are notice requirements for this.

Staff should be told in advance by at least twice the number of proposed days. For example if you ask your staff to take off 5 days they should be told 10 days in advance.

Staff can be asked to voluntarily use their holiday at this time however.

Becoming unwell in the workplace

If someone becomes unwell in the workplace they should:

  • get at least 2 metres (7 feet) away from other people
  • go to a room or area behind a closed door, such as a sick bay or staff office
  • avoid touching anything
  • cough or sneeze into a tissue and put it in a bin, or if they do not have tissues, cough and sneeze into the crook of their elbow
  • use a separate bathroom from others, if possible

The unwell person should either:

  • use the NHS 111 online coronavirus service
  • call 111, for NHS advice
  • call 999, if they're seriously ill or injured or their life is at risk

It's best for the unwell person to use their own mobile phone or computer to access these services.

Future business planning

Businesses will go through great difficulty within the next few months and it will be difficult for employees too. At the moment, there is no prediction as to how bad Coronavirus will affect the economy.

We strongly recommend that businesses keep themselves up to date with the latest Government updates via the Government site, to see how this may affect your business.

Government site

Please contact CP Law if you have any questions regarding the above information.