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Covid-19 workplace guidance for Employees

View profile for Julie Temple
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Below is a summary of the current restrictions and guidance in place for employees in the workplace.

In each section we include links to the late guidance.

Updated 22 March 2021

The position may differ between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The information below is specific to England.

Attending the workplace

In lockdown 3.0, which was announced on 4 January 2021, the legislation says that individuals should not leave their house ‘without a reasonable excuse’ and this includes where it is ‘reasonably necessary for a person … for the purposes of work … where it is not reasonably possible for them to work … from home’. The guidance translates this to individuals may ‘go to work … if [they] cannot reasonably do so from home’.

Some industries and workplaces are not permitted to open

Under the roadmap announced on 22 February 2021, this position remains the same until stage 4 which will not come into place before 21 June 2021.

For the most part it will be relatively clear whether an individual can carry out their work from home or not and there is a risk of dispute in cases where it is not. It is especially important, in these cases, for employees and employers to discuss the circumstances and, where possible, reach agreement.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-response-spring-2021

Shielding

Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals are recommended to not attend their workplace and, if working from home is not possible, to discuss with their employer alternatives which would enable them to do so. This remains the position until, currently, 31 March 2021. From 1 April, individuals are advised, if they cannot work from home they ‘should now attend [the] workplace’ as well as take extra precautions and keep social interactions low. 

Individuals living in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable are not required to shield and should continue to attend work if they are unable to work from home.

Individuals advised to shield may claim statutory sick pay (SSP) until 31 March 2021 and may also be furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). For further summary details on both please see below.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

currently, 31 March 2021. From 1 April, individuals are advised, if they cannot work from home they ‘should now attend [the] workplace’ as well as take extra precautions and keep social interactions low.

 

Individuals living in a household with someone who is clinically extremely vulnerable are not required to shield and should continue to attend work if they are unable to work from home.

 

Individuals advised to shield may claim statutory sick pay (SSP) until 31 March 2021 and may also be furloughed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS). For further summary details on both please see below.

 

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-lockdown-stay-at-home

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19/guidance-on-shielding-and-protecting-extremely-vulnerable-persons-from-covid-19

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/970375/Clinically_extremely_vulnerable_letter__guidance_from_010421.pdf

Furlough

The CJRS, commonly referred to as furlough, was announced 20 March 2020 and has gone through various changes throughout the pandemic.

Since 1 July 2020, employees on furlough may work reduced hours and be on furlough for the remainder. They must be paid in full for the hours worked and the employer can claim under the CJRS and the employee be paid a reduced amount for the time the individual is not working.

The payment under furlough is currently the lower of 80% of wage costs or £2,500 per calendar month (claimed for under the furlough scheme) with the employer paying national insurance contributions (NICs) and employer auto-enrolment pension contributions on the furlough pay.

To be eligible for furlough, employees must have been employed and on the PAYE payroll before midnight on 30 October 2020 in addition to a Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC made between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020. This changes for furlough claims from 1 May 2021, when employees must have been employed before midnight on 2 March 2021 and an RTI submission made between 20 March 2020 and 2 March 2021.

From July 2021, employers will required to make a 10% contribution to employees' furlough pay, rising to 20% for August and September 2021, with the CJRS due to end on 30 September 2021.

Furlough is commonly used to support people who are unable to work or in their workplace during the pandemic as well as to support parents who have to look after children or provide care to others.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-you-could-be-covered-by-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Sick pay

SSP is payable to an employee unable to attend work due to incapacity. During the pandemic, individuals are incapacitated if they:

  • Are shielding and unable to work (Until 31 March 2021)
  • Are self-isolating in certain circumstances and unable to work
  • Developed symptoms of COVID-19 while already self-isolating
  • Have been advised through the contact tracing system that they have come into contact with someone and are self-isolating
  • Have tested positive for COVID-19 and self-isolating
  • Are living with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and are elf-isolating
  • have been advised to self-isolate at home for a period of up to 14 days before their admission date to hospital for surgery or another hospital procedure and are staying at home in accordance with that advice

SSP is payable for absences of at least four days, but it will be payable from the first day (if absence started on or after 13 March 2020).

SSP is not payable to employees:

  • who are clinically vulnerable but not on the shielding list
  • returning from overseas and required to quarantine

SSP is paid at the rate of £95.85 up to 3 April 2021 and £96.35 from 4 April 2021.

Whether you will be entitled to enhanced or contractual sick pay will depend on any policies and procedures and contractual arrangements.

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-what-to-do-if-youre-employed-and-cannot-work

https://www.gov.uk/statutory-sick-pay/what-youll-get

Holiday and furlough

Employees on furlough continue to accrue statutory holiday entitlements as if they were working normally along with any additional holiday provided for under their employment contract. They may also take (and be required to take) holiday without disrupting furlough.

Holiday pay must be calculated and paid at your pre-furlough rate of pay and, if holiday is taken during a furlough period, the employer must pay the difference between the holiday pay rate and furlough rate.

https://www.gov.uk/calculate-your-holiday-entitlement

https://www.gov.uk/holiday-entitlement-rights/workers-furlough-coronavirus

https://www.birkettlong.co.uk/site/blog/coronavirus-blogs/taking-your-holiday-entitlement

Redundancy

If you are at risk of or have been made redundant we recommend you use our free to access redundancy kit which you can access at https://www.birkettlong.co.uk/site/mybl/restricted-employee-redundancy-kit.html. This will help you identify and make points to challenge your possible redundancy as well as any decision that has been made.

Other sources of guidance

https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/work/coronavirus-if-youre-worried-about-working/

https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus

 

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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