Covid-19: Latest Update 24.03.2020
Last night, the Prime Minister announced that from the evening of 23 March 2020 all citizens of England are to remain at home. There are four limited exceptions to this measure, one of which is “travelling to and from work, but only where work absolutely cannot be done from home”.
This point is the subject of concern and confusion for both employees and employers. There is still a lot that the Government needs to clarify in relation to the scope of this restriction but we have summarised below what we know employers and employees can do:
1. Key workers are permitted to travel to and from work and so fall outside of this restriction.
2. Construction sites are permitted to remain open but must follow the Government guidance on social distancing. We also recommend that they display to the public a notice outlining the steps that they are taking in relation to social distancing on site.
3. If your work cannot be undertaken at home then you can travel to and from work. However, the Government have been clear that if this is necessary then it is vital that the 2m social distancing rule is observed. For example, if your work is office based then you should not sit or come within 2m of any colleagues. We anticipate that the Government will tighten up on this but for now this seems to be the position.
4. All non-essential shops are now closed, along with bars, pubs, clubs and other leisure facilities that were closed on Friday 20 March 2020. If your business falls under this category then your staff will not be able to attend work.
If, because of these measures, your employees cannot attend work then the option of furloughing your workforce is something that should be considered. The details of the option to furlough staff are still patchy and we anticipate that we will receive further information on this later this week. For now, we recommend that the following steps should be taken:
1. Tell all employees immediately that they should not attend work.
This should be done by the most effective means of communication, whether that is phone, text or email. Explain that you will write to them to confirm the arrangements.
2. Write to employees who will need to be furloughed and seek an indication of their consent:
Technically placing an employee on a period of furlough without their consent following a consultation would be a breach of their contract. An employer requires consent to designate a worker as furloughed. Due to the immediate measures that the Government have imposed and the lack of available details of how furlough will work in practice, it is hard for an employer to give sufficient information to obtain informed consent.
If you need to furlough an employee please contact us so that we can advise you of the legal implications of this and guide you through the process. We recommend that employees write to affected works seeking an indication of their consent to be furloughed.
3. For those who consent:
Once more information is available in relation to the details of this you should write to them confirming that they have been designated as “furloughed workers” and explaining the details of this including any obligations that they must comply with and details of pay.
We are still waiting for clarity on the details of what HMRC will cover. However we know that furloughed workers should be paid up to 80% of their pay up to £2,500 (the exact details of what this includes are yet to be released). Employers can then reclaim this via a new HMRC portal.
Employers can choose to pay over 80 % but will only be able to reclaim up to the cap.
The Government have been clear that furloughed workers should not undertake any work.
Self- Employed workers
As it currently stands self-employed workers that are included in those advised to stay at home, can make a claim for Universal Credit (or new style Employment and Support Allowance in the event that they fall sick).
We have seen this morning that an amendment to the Coronavirus Bill has been proposed to Government for consideration. This introduces an additional provision providing for “statutory self-employment pay”. This, if implemented may provide additional support for self-employed individuals.
Please see the following link for more information: https://bit.ly/3am0s4Q
For any advice as to how this may apply to you or your business, please contact us here.