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Covid-19 workplace guidance for Employers

View profile for Julie Temple
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Below is a summary of the current restrictions and guidance for employees in the workplace from an employer perspective. Links are included in each section to detailed government (and other) guidance.

Please note different guidance and legislation may apply in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The information below is specific to England.

Updated 22 March 2021

Employees attending the workplace

Some industries and workplaces are not permitted to open, but this continues to evolve and should be kept under review.

For other workplaces, lockdown 3.0 was announced on 4 January 2021. Under the legislation for lockdown 3.0 individuals may only leave cannot leave their house ‘without a reasonable excuse’. A reasonable excuse 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’. Under the guidance this is described as individuals may ‘go to work … if [they] cannot reasonably do so from home’.

This position is unchanged under the roadmap announced on 22 February 2021 until stage 4, which will be from 21 June 2021 at the earliest.

In many cases it is clear whether an individual can work from home or not. We are assisting in a number of cases where there is a dispute. The first and most important step for all employers is to discuss the individual circumstances with the individual and try to reach agreement.

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

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

Shielding employees

Until 31 March 2021 clinically extremely vulnerable individuals are recommended to not attend their workplace. If they are unable to work from home they are advised to discuss alternative approaches with their employer which would enable them to work in some capacity.

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

From 1 April 2021 previously shielding individuals who cannot work from home ‘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 have not been required to shield; they should continue to attend work if they are unable to work from home.

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 undergone various changes during the pandemic.

From 1 July 2020 flexi-furlough has been possible – where individuals work reduced hours and are on furlough for the balance of the hours. Full pay must be paid for hours worked. For hours not worked, employers can claim under the CJRS and pay to the employee a reduced amount.

The payment under furlough for hours not worked is the lower of 80% of wage costs up to £2,500 per calendar month. The employer must also pay employer national insurance contributions (NICs) and auto-enrolment pension contributions on furlough pay. From July 2021, employers must contribute 10% to employees' furlough pay (meaning they can claim 70% under the CJRS), rising to 20% for August and September 2021 (meaning they can claim 60% under the CJRS) and employees will continue to be paid 80% up to £2,500.

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. From 1 May 2021, employees must have been employed before midnight on 2 March 2021 and an RTI submission made between 20 March 2020 and 2 March 2021.

Furlough is mainly to support people who are unable to work at all during the pandemic as well as to support parents who have to look after children or provide care to others.

The CJRS is due to end on 30 September 2021.

https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/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 individuals are 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 for your employees

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

Other sources of guidance

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

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

Check if you can claim back Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees due to coronavirus (COVID-19) - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

 

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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