CORONAVIRUS – latest update 16/03/2020

ADVICE FOR EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES

 

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us: 01325 488425 or enquiries@wedohr.co.uk

Given the increase in the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the UK Government has recommended no unnecessary social contact and/or travel, with the recommendation that employees work from home whenever possible, please see the latest advice below, which The advice below regarding how to deal with the impact should help reassure you in managing any staffing issues. As always follow the NHS guidance and our previous update of 08/03/2020.

 

What to do with your employees – some scenarios:

  1. Employee required by the employer to work from home:

If the company can operate with employees working from home, then this should be adopted wherever possible, utilising technology as appropriate.

The employee should be able to and be required to demonstrate they are carrying out effective work on behalf of the company.

A “Home Working Policy” is also attached for your information.

Note that where attending the workplace is required, and/or it is not possible for employees to work from home, then the below scenarios may be helpful to understand how to manage such situations.

 

  1. Employee has been advised to self-isolate as they are presenting with symptoms:

The employee has been given medical advice by a GP, NHS111 or NHS Online to self-isolate for 7 or 14 days (or longer) then the employee MUST self-isolate and is entitled to sick pay from day 1.

If you pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) this is at standard Government rate and where the first 3 days would normally not be payable this is now to be paid and the government has stated the first 3 days will be reclaimable.

If you pay better than SSP as stated in their contract, then this is the amount you must pay from day 1.

Please note that the period of self-isolation cannot be cut short even though the employee may state they feel better, they still may be contagious.

 

  1. Employee chooses to self-isolate and has not been given medical advice to do so:

This is an employee who fears catching the virus, so it is important to be empathetic and supportive around this situation, however in most cases treat them as though they have been given medical advice to self-isolate and pay them sick pay.

If you believe the employee does not have the symptoms, then you may consider challenging the paying of sick pay meaning that the time off they are taking would be classed as unpaid. A sick note would normally be required which even though employees normally self-certificate for the first 7 days, sick notes should be obtainable if they have to request one.

As an aside you can always suggest the employee utilises holiday and therefore, they will still receive full pay, assuming they have accrued sufficient entitlement.

 

  1. An employee states that one of their family is presenting with the symptoms and as per Government advice feels they should self-isolate along with the whole household:

The employee is entitled to sick pay as per in point 2 above.

 

  1. Employee has the symptoms and is refusing to self-isolate:

The employee appears to have the described symptoms, whether they have sought advice from their GP, NHS111 or NHS Online or otherwise, however they are insisting they cannot afford to stay off work in self-isolation due to only being paid sick pay.

In these circumstances you should advise the employee that they are required to self-isolate and by not doing so are in breach of their basic duty of care to their fellow employees.

Although not necessarily the route you wish to take, you could consider suspension on full pay for gross misconduct followed within 2 days by a hearing at which you should listen to their mitigating circumstances and  consider the severity of risk to your business before deciding on the ultimate sanction.

Given that the person maybe unwell and not able to have contact an online solution such as Skype or Zoom would be reasonable in order to conclude the matter.

In such circumstances please speak to us for advice on a case by case basis.

 

  1. Employee insists they must stay at home for childcare:

Irrelevant of whether they have symptoms or have been advised to self-isolate or not some employees may choose to remain at home to look after their children and/or elderly relative and/or a person who they are the Primary Carer for.

All employees are permitted to take unpaid time off to deal with an emergency related to their child or where they are a designated carer for an individual, but please note this is to deal with the emergency only.

Once that emergency situation has been dealt with, such as putting in place alternative childcare, the employee would normally be expected to return to work.

If they choose not to then this is unauthorised unpaid time off which you may choose to deal with through disciplinary, or not. They may also be granted paid time off i.e. holiday if they have accrued sufficient entitlement.

 

  1. Schools close and all children are sent home:

If the decision is taken by the Government and/or Head teachers of schools and they are closed, then this will cause issues for employers and employees alike.

All employees are entitled to take unpaid time off to deal with an emergency but should seek to put in place appropriate childcare issues where they are required to attend work and are unable to work from home.

Where able to work from home, the “Home Working Policy” should be applied.

Where an employee insists on staying at home when the company is unable to offer this as a facility, then the time off would be unpaid, whether as a sabbatical or by other agreement.

Please note that all employers can pay better that statutory requirements if they choose to do so.

 

Redundancy/short-term lay-off:

If your business becomes at risk due to an economic downturn as a result of the current situation, then you may need to consider short-term lay-offs or redundancies.

Please speak directly to us for advice on a case by case basis, however in short:

  • Do your contracts of employment have a Short-Term Lay-Off clause that allows you to do this?

 

If so, then you will be able to lay off some of your employees for a period of up to 3 months.

They are entitled to a payment of £29.00 per day for 5 days only, up to a maximum of £145.00 unless they are paid less than £29.00 per day in which case the lower amount is payable for the 5 days.  Note this is only 5 days not 5 days each week of the lay-off period.

You may reduce the number of days per week that an employee works, so this is not necessarily 5 consecutive days laid off.

Note if they are off for a period of 4 consecutive weeks in a 3-month period they are entitled to redundancy.

 

  • If you need to make redundancies, wherever possible follow your standard redundancy processes.

In essence however, employees with less than 2 years’ service are not entitled to Statutory Redundancy Pay (SRP).

Such employees will only therefore be entitled to notice pay and any accrued but untaken holidays.

Employees with more than 2 years’ service are entitled to SRP, unless better terms are stated within their contract of employment as well as notice pay and accrued but untaken holiday.

SRP is calculated on age and length of service up to a maximum of £525.00 for each week of calculated redundancy pay.

Please contact us for further information prior to taking any action.

 

This advice is being reviewed and updated regularly and is currently in line with Government and ACAS guidance as updated 16th March 2020.

 

Should you require any further advice or guidance please call us on our usual HR number of: 01325 488425 or email: enquiries@wedohr.co.uk