Employees affected by COVID-19

As a result of the government’s announcement that the country is to enter a state of lockdown, only “key workers” are to travel to work, many businesses within the hospitality sector are instructed to close and there is a decrease in client demand. What does this mean for you as an employee? Is your role at risk? Can you work from home?

What is a key worker?

The government has released guidance on individuals classed as “key workers” which includes:

  • Health and social care workers including doctors, nurses, midwives, social workers and other healthcare volunteers;
  • Education including teachers, teaching assistants and specialist education professionals;
  • Public safety and National Security including police, Ministry of Defence civilians, armed forces personnel, fire and rescue service;
  • Key public services including those essential to the running of the justice system (court staff, legal professionals), religious staff, journalists and broadcasters providing public service broadcasting;
  • Local and national government including those essential to the effective delivery of the COVID-19 response;
  • Food production, processing, distribution, sale and delivery;
  • Transport including air, water, road and rail passenger transport professionals; and
  • Utilities, communication and financial services including banks, building societies, oil, gas, electricity and water sectors, call centre staff, postal services, delivery drivers.

I am still going to work

People can still travel to and from work but only where the work that they do cannot be done from home.

You should discuss your working arrangements with your employer as soon as possible however sometimes it may not be possible to work from home as certain jobs require people to travel to their place of work i.e. construction, manufacturing or delivering front line services.

As long as you are well and neither you or any of your household are self-isolating, and it is necessary for you to go to work, travelling to work is consistent with advice from the Chief Medical Officer.

My workplace needs to close because of COVID-19

Are you in the hospitality sector now affected by travel restrictions? Are you in retail now affected by government ordered store closures?

Due to COVID-19 preventing businesses operating and many workers travelling into work and due to the fall in client demand, an employer may need to reduce their workforce or close their workplace temporarily. For the hospitality sector, this is no longer a choice following the government’s instruction to many cafes, pubs, restaurants to close.

If an employer needs to close down their business temporarily, or ask staff to reduce their hours, it is important that your employer discusses any changes with you as soon as possible.

Options for employees during COVID-19

You should check your employment contract during this time. We can be instructed to review contract and advise you on the various terms and your rights under your contract.

Can I work from home?

If you are in isolation or otherwise do not wish to go to work, you should discuss this with your employer. Where possible, employers should be making reasonable adjustments for staff to work from home. You can work with your employer to facilitate this.

Do I still get paid during this time?

Unless it says in the contract or is agreed otherwise, you are still entitled to your pay for this time.

Employees who are “laid off” and are not entitled to their usual pay might be entitled to a “statutory guarantee payment” of up to £29 per day for a period of 5 days from their employer.

Do I get paid if I have been off sick?

If you have been unwell or have had to self isolate, you should be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay. Employers might offer more than Statutory Sick Pay i.e. contractual sick pay however they do not have to. You should ensure you still follow the usual sickness policy your employer has in place.

Can I take annual leave or unpaid leave?

If you have concerns about coming in to work, you can request that you take time off as holiday or unpaid leave however your employer does not have to agree to this.

You may need time off to look after someone who has contracted coronavirus or if you live with an elderly relative. In this case, you may be entitled to time off work in an unexpected event or emergency but there is no statutory right to pay for this time off (unless offered by your employer at their discretion).

My employer is making redundancies

Employers should be discussing possible changes to the business with their employees at the earliest opportunity.

You should refer to your employment contract for your rights. Subject to what the employment contract says, or an agreed variation to the contract, an employer can lay off an employee (ask them to take unpaid leave or stay home) when it temporarily cannot give them paid work. This can help avoid redundancies but employers need to agree this with staff first.

If firms need to proceed with redundancies, they should arrange consultations with their employees and should ensure they are following the correct process.

Your employer may have its own policy on pay which is more generous than the statutory minimum however if this is not the case and you have worked for your employer for at least two years you should be entitled to:

  • Half a week’s pay for each full year you were under 22.
  • One week’s pay for each full year you were 22 or older, but under 41.
  • One and half week’s pay for each full year you were 41 or older.

If you are concerned your employer has unfairly dismissed you or not followed the correct process, we can be instructed to advise you on your rights before or throughout the process and we recommend you seek legal advice as soon as possible.

Coronovirus Job Retention Scheme

Your employer may sign up to the government’s Job Retention Scheme providing for furloughed workers, subject to eligibility. If your employer cannot cover staff costs due to COVID-19, they may be able to access government support to continue paying part of your wages. This will allow firms to keep employees on payroll and can avoid redundancies and lay-offs.

Good practice for employees during COVID-19

  • Check your employment contract;
  • Keep up to date with and follow government advice on COVID-19;
  • If you can, avoid attendance in the office as much as possible and liaise with your employer to work from home;
  • Follow your employer’s sickness policy; and
  • Stay in contact with your employer and your team including holding meetings remotely via teleconference or video conference .

Useful links

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Please note that your legal rights may be subject to limitation and thereby irreversibly time-barred if you fail to take legal action or defend a claim in time, in particular for Employment Tribunal and Court proceedings. You are strongly advised to seek legal advice prior to taking any steps in the employment tribunal or court procedural process. Do not delay in seeking legal advice.

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