The Prime Minster’s announcement on 12th July, affecting the roadmap changes due on 19th July, has thrown up a whole heap of confusion. While we await some further clarity, and possible change again on 16th August, here is what we know so far.
Employment Law and HR Challenges with the Roadmap…
Four main topics are keeping our Employment Lawyers busy. This is what they advise:
Do I still need to consider homeworking for my staff?
From 19th July the Government do not expect any employers to consider homeworking as an effect of the Coronavirus pandemic. That said, many have seen immense benefit in hybrid working arrangements and are making changes to their contracts of employment. If an employee wishes to continue homeworking, then they must submit a Flexible Working Request in line with the Employers Policy. It is really important for employers to consider each application on its merits and understand the effect it could have on the business through consultation with the employee.
When a worker receives notification to isolate from the NHS test and trace service, what can we do?
Dealing with an increase in NHS Test and Trace isolation notices is one of these moot points. While an employee clearly is not symptomatic or ill with the Coronavirus they are still obliged to isolate at home for 10 days from the point of contact with the infected individual. If working from home is not an option then employers have three choices as to how best treat such circumstances;
- sick pay,
- unpaid leave,
- mutually agreed holidays, or
- furlough them (if they qualify and if there is a business reason for it).
It will be tricky to enforce holidays as the notice periods to do this would not fall in line with the period of isolation.
If the employer opts to treat this isolation period as unpaid then some workers may be eligible to claim the £500 Test and Trace Support Payment. The worker needs to make this claim themselves.
Staff refuse to have the jab or do lateral flow testing…can I make them?
In terms of the vaccination against COVID, then no. You cannot make them, and you certainly can’t punish them for it. Currently there is no law to make the jab mandatory, and those refusing to take it could well be covered by Human Rights or Equality laws affording protection against discriminatory treatment…which is automatically unfair in the eyes of said legislation.
The same can be said for insisting your workforce conduct lateral flow tests, there is currently no law making this mandatory. However, with clearly defined workplace arrangements, such as a COVID Risk Assessment, then testing could be seen as one of your legitimate measures to protect the wider workforce. In such cases, a worker refusing to test could be in breach of your health and safety policies.
Can I still use the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) to furlough staff?
The purpose of the CJRS remains to protect the employment of workers who otherwise would be at work if COVID restrictions were not in place.
If employees are sick, then they should be treated for sick pay in line with the contracted terms. That said, SSP when a person is sick with COVID is payable from day one, removing the normal three waiting days. Sick employees can obtain a medical certificate from the NHS.
That said, the CJRS remains available until 30th September, but as it scales down employers are now paying a contribution to the 80% employee payment. This is how it looks for the next few months:
|Government contribution: wages for hours not worked||70% up to £2,187.50||60% up to £1,875||60% up to £1,875|
|Employer contribution: employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Employer contribution wages for hours not worked||10% up to £312.50||20% up to £625||20% up to £625|
|For hours not worked employee receives||80% up to £2,500 per month||80% up to £2,500 per month||80% up to £2,500 per month|
Also, read our separate article which considers these changes from a Health and Safety perspective.