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Coronavirus : What does the latest announcement mean for employers?

The government has announced more restrictive measures in the fight against Coronavirus. The advice is now to avoid non-essential travel and contact with others.

Many employers will understandably be concerned about how the latest developments may affect their organisation from an employment law perspective. We take a general look at each of these areas below:

Attendance at work

It’s going to be important for employers to assess their environment and to  clearly communicate to all employees regarding the organisation’s position on them physically attending the workplace.

If you are going to introduce homeworking for the first time here’s a few things you might wish to think about:

  • Do your employees have the equipment they need and are they clear about the rules regarding its use? For example is a company laptop allowed to be used for personal purposes?
  • Do you need to remind employees about company policies and procedures that are in place and how they will apply in a home working situation – for example reporting sickness absence
  • Do you need any temporary adjustments to your policies and procedures? Employees need to be clear about any such matters to avoid performance or conduct issues arising
  • Are there measures in place if employees need support, for example with I.T problems or help with a piece of work?

If you have not used home working before and there is no home working clause in your employee’s contract you should contact your Employment Law Specialist for advice on introducing home working. In most cases, this should be straightforward as many employees will be happy to agree to the temporary change in light of the extraordinary circumstances.

Home working will be dependent on the role and business, therefore not all jobs are suitable for home working, if you are one of these employers you should be clear with employees about attending work. If employees are particularly vulnerable or are expressing concerns about attending work, it’s important to contact your Employment Law Specialist to discuss your situation.

‘Crowded places’

The government is encouraging people to avoid crowded places such as pubs, clubs and theatres. In reality the latest advice will affect many employers across the leisure, hospitality and entertainment sectors with customer numbers likely to significantly reduce. Other sectors may also find demands for their services reduce or work is disrupted by issues such as breakdowns in supply chains.

If you temporarily need to close your workplace or don’t have enough work for your employees on a short term basis what can you do?

You may be able to introduce short time working or layoff if you have the necessary clause in your employment contracts. Effective short time working and layoff clauses enable employers to give employees no work or a reduced amount of work and to reduce pay accordingly. The rules regarding short time and layoff and statutory minimum guarantee pay can be tricky. In some circumstances laying off an employee or placing them on short time working can give rise to the right to a statutory redundancy payment.  It’s important to seek advice on the facts of your case before taking action. When seeking advice it will be helpful if you make sure you know which version of your contracts of employment have been issued to your employee/s and the start dates of those who will be affected.

Some employers may wish to consider forcing employees to take holiday, as you would expect there are specific rules about this and you should seek advice.

Self isolation

With the rules regarding self isolation being extended you may see more employees unable to attend work. Those following public health advice who are unable to work as a result will be entitled to statutory sick pay. If someone who is self-isolating is not feeling unwell it may depending on the nature of their role be possible to agree a period of home working on their usual pay. You should contact your Employment Law Specialist if you require advice on the facts of your case.

If you would like advice on any employment law matter, please contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.