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Covid-19: Summary guidance for employees

View profile for Julie Temple
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Covid-19: Summary guidance for employees

Entitlement to pay and sick pay

If you are ready, willing and able to work but for whatever reason are not provided with work or are sent home you are, in principle, entitled to full pay.

If you are unwell you will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and in some instances contractual sick pay.

Amended regulations provide that a person is incapable of work for the purposes of SSP because they are self-isolating to prevent infection from COVID-19, if they:

  • have symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, and are staying at home for seven days, beginning with the day on which the symptoms started (day 1).
  • live with someone who is self-isolating (as above) and are staying at home for 14 days, beginning with day 1.
  • are already self-isolating in accordance with the second bullet (above), develop the symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, and are staying at home for seven days, beginning with the day the symptoms started.

This removes the grey area that has existed about whether 'vulnerable' employees advised to 'social distance' are entitled to SSP. They are not.

Right to lay-off and short-time working

An employer can ask you to stay at home or take unpaid leave if there’s not enough work and they have the contractual right to do so. There is no limit to how long you can be laid off for or put on short-time working. You may, however, be entitled to a guarantee payment or to apply for redundancy and claim redundancy pay if the period is:

  • 4 weeks in a row
  • 6 weeks in a 13-week period

Furlough under Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

UK based employers will be reimbursed 80% of furloughed workers wage costs up to £2,500 per month.

More information can be found on the Governments website - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Summary of the Coronaviris Job Retention Scheme

  • open to all UK employers who had created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on 28 February 2020
  • for at least three months from 1 March 2020
  • reimburse 80% of furloughed employees’ usual monthly wage costs, up to £2,500 a month
  • plus minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contributions on the subsidised wage
  • on PAYE payroll on 28 February 2020 (employees hired after 28 February 2020 cannot be reimbursed under the scheme)
  • covers employees made redundant since 28 February 2020 provided they are rehired
  • employees cannot work during a period of furlough (but can work for another employer, including work starting after 28 February)
  • volunteer work or training, as long as it does not provide services to or generate revenue for, is ok
  • 3 weeks minimum period of furlough and be placed on furlough multiple times
  • not apply to employees on unpaid leave unless they were put on unpaid leave after 28 February
  • employees on sick leave or self-isolating should get Statutory Sick Pay, but can be furloughed after
  • employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance can be placed on furlough
  • pay can be less than national minimum/living wage
  • must be paid the lower of 80% of their regular wage or £2,500 per month
  • claim for the higher of:
  • the same month's earning from the previous year
  • average monthly earnings from the 2019-20 tax year
  • regular payments, including wages, past overtime, fees and compulsory commission payments are included
  • discretionary bonus (including tips), commission payments and non-cash payments are excluded
  • not include non-monetary benefits, including taxable benefits in kind or salary sacrifice schemes
  • employer can also choose to top up an employee’s salary beyond this but is not obliged to
  • employees can return to duties or their employment ended
  • employees return on same terms

In principle holiday can be taken (or required to be taken) during furlough but further guidance is hoped for to clarify if this is the case.

Self-employed Income Support Scheme

The Chancellor announced on 26 March 2020 direct cash grants to self-employed of 80% of average monthly trading profit over the last three years up to £2,500 per month for at least 3 months.

  • Claims will be by direct application to HMRC 'using a simple online form' and the money paid directly into people’s bank account.
  • The scheme will be open to those with a trading profit of less than £50,000 in 2018-19 or an average trading profit of less than £50,000 from 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 and more than half their income in these periods must come from self-employment.
  • HMRC will identify eligible taxpayers and contact them directly with guidance on how to apply.
  • The scheme will cover the three months to May.
  • Payments will be in a single lump sum instalment covering all 3 months.
  • Payments will start to be made from the beginning of June.
  • Individuals who pay themselves a salary and dividends through their own company are not covered. They will fall within the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
  • The scheme also applies to members of partnerships.

Emergency Volunteer Leave

The right

The Coronavirus Act 2020 has created Emergency Volunteer Leave; a new statutory right for workers to take emergency volunteer leave in blocks of two, three or four weeks.

Certification

This right is available to workers certified by an appropriate authority (a local authority, the NHS Commissioning Board or the Department of Health) to act as an emergency volunteer in health or social care.

Notice

To take the leave, workers need to give three working days' notice and produce the certificate confirming that they have been approved as an emergency volunteer.

Volunteer periods

Initially there will be one 16-week volunteering period beginning on 25 March 2020. Subsequent volunteering periods can be set by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

Workers can take one period of leave in each "volunteering period".

No refusal

There is no provision for employers to refuse leave, for example, because of operational need.

Exemptions

Some workers will be exempt from the entitlement to take emergency volunteering leave such as workers employed or engaged by businesses with fewer than ten staff, Crown employees, Parliamentary staff and employees of the devolved assemblies in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, employees in police service and other employees that may be defined in subsequent regulations.

Compensation

The leave is unpaid but a compensation fund provides compensation for loss of earnings, travel and subsistence only if they have suffered a loss.

Remain employees

During emergency volunteering leave, workers remain employees and all terms and conditions of employment except for remuneration.

The period of absence will not affect pension or benefit entitlements.

Right to return

There will be a statutory right to return to the job in which they were employed before the absence, on terms and conditions no less favourable.

Dismissal and detriment

Workers will be protected from detriment on the grounds that they sought to take, or made use of the benefits of, emergency volunteering leave, or that the employer believed that the worker was likely to take emergency volunteering leave.

Automatic unfair dismissal protection will be extended to cover employees dismissed for taking or seeking to take emergency volunteering leave or, where the employer believed that the employee was likely to take emergency volunteering leave.

Carry-over of holiday

Announced on 27 March 2020 workers who have not taken all of their statutory annual leave entitlement due to COVID-19 will be able to carry it over into the next 2 leave years with a corresponding right to be paid on termination if they have not had chance to take it. It can be carried over are where it was not reasonably practicable to take it in the leave year 'as a result of the effects of the coronavirus (including on the worker, the employer or the wider economy or society)'.Redundancy

There is a redundancy if there is a:

  • closure of the entire business
  • closure of the part of the business
  • reduced requirement for employees to carry out particular work.

If there are 20 or more employees at risk at one establishment a collective consultation process may need to be followed but special circumstances may also exist which means the employer does not need to comply in full with these requirements.

Employees with less than two years’ service are unlikely to be able to challenge any dismissal due to lack of process.

On redundancy, notice pay, holiday pay and statutory redundancy pay (if applicable) should be paid.

You may be able to claim any payments not made to you through the National Insurance Fund.

If you need advice, please call our specialist BLHR and Employment team. I am based in our Colchester office and can be contacted on 01206 217318 or julie.temple@birkettlong.co.uk.

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