Coronavirus Guidance for Employers 

The current situation with Coronavirus COVID-19 is unprecedented. Both businesses and employees have been affected by advice on social distancing, and need to know their rights. The best outcome will be one that supports both employers and employees to survive through this difficult time.  
This page is only general guidance, not legal advice. Please be aware that the situation is changing rapidly as the government introduces new measures and updates it's advice. If you need specific legal advice please get in touch. Many decisions will depend on your particular circumstances and employment contract, and so we would need to know more about your individual situation to give legal advice. 

How We Can Help 

Advise on your rights as an employer or employee, including issues around holiday leave, implementing government support schemes and changes to employment contracts 
Help update your policies, including working from home 
Ensure redundancies are fair and legal 
Advise on issues around Self-Isolation and Statutory Sick Pay 
Advise on whether whistleblowing protections apply in your situation 
Draft or advise on settlement agreements 

The Job Support Scheme 

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, better known as Furlough Leave, ends on 31st October. It will be replaced on 1st November by the Job Support Scheme, which will run until April 2021. 
The scheme is intended to support ‘viable jobs’ rather than jobs only being kept open by government subsidy. ‘Viable jobs’ are those current needed, with this need demonstrated by the availability of some hours’ work. 
Employers may not make workers redundant or put them on notice of redundancy whilst claiming for their role through the job support scheme. 

Who is eligible? 

All small and medium businesses are eligible for the scheme. Large businesses may use the scheme if they can show that their income has dropped since Covid-19. 
Employers do not need to have used the Furlough scheme to be eligible for the Job Support Scheme. Where employees have been on furlough leave, their payments through the Job support Scheme are based on their normal wage, not their reduced furlough income. 
Employees must have been on the company payroll since at least the 23rd September 2020 and must be able to work at least a third of their normal hours to be eligible. The Government will review this in January 2021 and may increase the minimum required hours. 
Workers on zero-hours contracts are eligible for the scheme, although the government has not confirmed how to calculate ‘normal hours’. Under the furlough scheme, wages for workers on zero hours contracts were based on pay from 2019. 

How does it work? 

To qualify for the Job Support Scheme, employees must work at least one third of their normal hours, with their wages being paid at the normal rate by their employer. For their remaining unworked hours, the government and employer will each pay one third of the normal wage, with the government contribution capped at £697.92 per month. The employee will not be paid for the remaining third. 
The hours worked each week may vary, and employees may move on and off the scheme. However, each working pattern must last for at least seven days. As with the Furlough scheme, employers will pay the employee and then claim the government contribution in arrears through The claims system will be available from December 2020. 
Employees on the scheme will receive at least 77% of their normal wage. Those working more than a third of their hours will see less of a cut to their income. 
As with Furlough, the employee and employer must both agree to the arrangement, and the employee must be notified in writing. HMRC may ask to see copies of this agreement. 

In Short 

Worked hours  
Must be at least one third of normal hours 
Employer pays normal wage 
Unworked hours 
One third paid by employer 
One third by government (up to £697.92 per month) 
One third not paid 

Support during Local Lockdowns 

In areas classed as very high-risk in tier 1 restrictions, some businesses will be required to close leaving employees unable to work. These employees will receive two thirds of their wage, up to £2,100 a month, which their employer may reclaim from the government. 
Employees must be unable to work for a minimum period of seven days to be eligible. Employers continue to pay National Insurance and pension contributions for workers on the scheme. 
Businesses required to open on restricted terms – for example, delivery only – may claim support, but only for employees who cannot work. For example, a restaurant offering takeaway food would still need chefs and servers to take bookings and would pay these employees as usual. They would not need waiting staff and may not need all of their chefs, and so could use the scheme to temporarily lay off these employees. 
Like the main scheme, this support begins on 1st November 2020 and grants will be paid in arrears from December. The scheme is scheduled to last for six months and will be reviewed in January 2021. 
These grants are only available for businesses legally required to close due to local restrictions. The scheme does not apply to businesses closed due to outbreaks in their workplace, or businesses that are allowed to open but have seen their income affected by restrictions. 

What other measures are there to help businesses? 

Statutory Sick Pay 

The government has extended statutory sick pay (SSP) for absence due to Coronavirus to apply from the first day of absence. Statutory sick pay will also be available for employees who are advised to self-isolate, as well as those who are ill.  
Businesses with less than 250 employees are able to reclaim two weeks’ sick pay paid to eligible employees. As with all statutory sick pay, the extended measures only apply to employees who earn an average of at least £118 per week. 

Help Getting people into work 

The government will pay businesses a £1,000 Job Retention Bonus for every furloughed employee who comes back to work until at least the end of January 2021. You may claim this bonus for employees who return to work on the Job Support Scheme. 
The government is also paying firms £1,500 for every out of work 16-24 year old taken on for a “high quality” work placement of at least six months, and up to £2,000 for every apprentice taken on until at least the end of January, depending on their age. 

The Working Time Regulations 

Amendments to the Working Time Regulations will allow employees to carry leave over to use in the next two years if they have not been able to take it due to COVID-19. 
The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 will allow employees to carry up to four weeks of unused leave into the next two years. Businesses usually face penalties for failing to encourage staff to take this time, but these will be relaxed for 2020. 
Whether the remaining eight days may be carried over still depends upon the agreement between the employer and employee. If parties agree to carrying these days over, they may only be carried forward one year. 
These regulations give businesses the flexibility to manage their staffing levels while protecting workers holiday rights. This is particularly important for businesses delivering key goods and services throughout the epidemic, who cannot spare staff while demand is high.  

Employees in Self-Isolation 

Employers who force or allow staff (including agency workers) to come into the workplace when they should be self-isolating will face fines of between £1,000 and £10,000. Even where an employer is not forcing the employee to come to work, simply allowing them to come into the workplace is an offence, and it is therefore important that employers take proactive action. 
Employees legally must inform their employer when they are told to self-isolate, as soon as practicable and before they are next expected at the workplace. Employees who fail to do so could face a separate fine. 
This includes workers who have not themselves tested positive but who live with somebody who has. 
A £500 support grant is available for people on low income who lose income while self-isolating. To be eligible, workers must be unable to work from home and in receipt of Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit. The grant will be paid on top of Statutory Sick Pay or benefits. 

Reopening the Workplace 

The government is now recommending that people should work from home where they can, but this decision is still between the employee and employer. People who cannot work from home are expected to travel to work. 
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 imposes a legal duty on employers to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all employees at work, so far as reasonably practical. Employers must provide a safe work environment with adequate facilities and without risks to health. 
Employees may report breaches of safety guidelines to the local authority and the Health and Safety Executive. Employees who report concerns will be covered by Whistleblowing protection, and so cannot be penalised for reporting the failings. 
The Employment Rights Act 1996 provides that employees who reasonably believe they are at risk of serious or imminent danger at work can leave work and refuse to return while the danger persists. 

What if employees are still reluctant to return? 

Refusing to work without a good reason is generally a disciplinary matter. However, if the employee does have reasonable cause to believe they face serious danger they would be protected by legislation and possibly whistleblowing protection. In these circumstances, an employee may be able to claim for unfair dismissal without needing the minimum period of service and may be eligible for increased compensation. This would be a risky path to take unless employers are entirely satisfied that they have taken every measure to reduce the risk to staff. 

Guidance from the Health and Safety Executive 

Risk assessments: Before opening you must carry out a COVID19 risk assessment, involving employees and trade unions where appropriate. Businesses with more than 50 employees must publish this assessment on their website. 
Social distancing: Maintain a two-metre distance between people wherever possible. 
Working hours: Help reduce the risks of commuting by allowing staff to travel at quieter times or providing additional parking so that staff can drive to work. 
Insurance: Under the Employers Liability (Compulsory) Insurance Act 1969 you must be insured against liability for injury and disease and so should consider the effect of coronavirus on your insurance. 
Vulnerable employees: Consider the additional risk to certain groups of people, including pregnant women, older people, and those with existing conditions. Failure to keep these employees safe could lead to age, sex, or disability discrimination claims. 
The government has also released detailed guidance by industry

Employment Tribunals 

Most tribunals are now operating remotely. 
There is currently a backlog of cases waiting to reach the tribunal, not helped by lockdown measures. The number of cases heading to the tribunal is likely to increase as more businesses plan to make changes to their workforce. 
Several changes are being made to help the tribunal work through the backlog more quickly. These changes include: 
More cases being heard virtually 
Non-employment judges hearing cases, where certain criteria are met 
Relieving judges’ workload by allowing legal officers to carry out some administrative work 
Allowing multiple claimants and respondents to use the same forms, where reasonable 
We can help you navigate these changes. 
Visit the courts and tribunal tracker for up to date lists of the status of each court. 
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Get in touch 

Do you have a legal matter you'd like to discuss with us? Get in touch using the details below or use the form here and a member of our team will be in touch to discuss your enquiry. 
Phone: 0121 452 5130 
Address: Spencer Shaw Solicitors Limited 
Vancouver House, 111 Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B16 8LB 
Opening hours: 
Monday - Friday 9:00AM - 5:00PM 
Saturday, Sunday & Bank Holidays - Closed 
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