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Coronavirus: Workplace Considerations

Many employers are working hard to prepare as best they can to deal with the challenges the developing Coronavirus situation poses. For some employers this may mean making difficult decisions regarding their employees in challenging and sometimes rapidly changing circumstances.

Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd are committed to supporting our clients with the help and guidance they need when it comes to employment law matters. As part of our series of Legal Updates on the developing Coronavirus situation, we take a look below at some areas that will be of interest to employers.

Recent Developments

As you will no doubt be aware, schools across the UK will be closing from Friday until further notice (except for children of key workers and vulnerable children). Nurseries, private schools and sixth forms are also being told to follow the guidance and close. Further information from the government regarding this can be found here schools-colleges-and-early-years-settings-to-close

If you are a school, college or early years setting, in light of the closures, you may now need to take steps in relation to your employees, this may include measures such as:

  • Implementing short-time working or lay-off if there is no work because of the closure or a reduction in work. You would need to have an appropriate short time working and layoff clause in your contracts to follow this route.
  • If there is still work available for employees, such as preparing on-line lessons, you may need to think about homeworking or other variations to employees’ contracts.
  • Considering whether offering employees a period of unpaid leave would be viable – if employees were agreeable to this it may help you to retain them whilst reducing the financial pressure on your organisation.
  • As a very short term measure you may wish to allow any employee who would like to take holiday to do so. Be aware that if you wish to force employees to take holiday, there are rules regarding this and you should seek advice.
  • Identifying whether any employees in your organisation have under two years’ service. If so, you may have a bit more flexibility in how you address your situation as a minimum length of service is required for certain employment law rights/entitlements, such as statutory redundancy pay. That said, employees have significant rights from day one of their employment so it’s vital that you seek advice before taking any action irrespective of an employee’s length of service.

A further consideration is communicating with employees. The majority of employment law and HR matters, such as consultation meetings, would usually take place in person. However, depending on your situation and what action you wish to take, it may not be possible for all necessary steps to be taken face to face with employees in light of the speed of the closures and government guidance on social distancing. It’s therefore important to ensure that you have up to date contact details for all employees as alternative methods of communication may need to be utilised, such as phone calls or Skype. In many situations written communication is vital, so having up to date addresses and email addresses is also key.

Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd is here to help so please do contact us to discuss your situation before taking any action in relation to your employees or if you would like further information on any aspects of employment law covered in this update.

‘Other employers’

School closures will affect not just the establishments that are required to close but many other organisations as well as significant numbers of employees are working parents. We considered the implications for employers regarding this in our earlier Legal Update  – Coronavirus: Catch-up and Planning. If you have a query relating to this or any other employment law matter, please contact your Employment Law Specialist as they will be happy to help.

Potential Developments

At the time of writing the potential for tighter restrictions to apply in London (‘a London lockdown’) were not being ruled out, however the government was quashing some but not all of the measures it could involve.

If you are a London based employer, as part of your evolving contingency plans, one of the steps you may wish to consider is homeworking if it is possible and you have yet to implement this. Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd has a template homeworking policy available on request. If your employees don’t usually work from home and you don’t have a home working clause in your contracts of employment, you should seek advice from your Employment Law Specialist about introducing home working. In many cases introducing homeworking will be straightforward as employees are likely to be agreeable to it.

If you have any employment law matter you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd for advice and support with your particular case.