Coronavirus Work

I’m worried about catching coronavirus, do I have to go to work?


On 23 March, the government said that everyone who can should work from home. You can only go to work if your work ‘absolutely cannot be done from home.’ Even if you are a key worker, you may still be able to work from home. The government has advised that anyone who can should work from home. If you absolutely cannot work from home and your workplace has not shut yet, then you may have no choice but to continue going to work. If you are worried about catching coronavirus, your employer might agree to let you take some time off. For example, your employer could consider letting you have annual leave or unpaid leave, unpaid parental leave, unpaid leave for a carer, a sabbatical or another type of leave. You should remember that your employer has a duty of care to protect your health and safety. If you are pregnant, or someone who is dependant on you, such as a child, a relative who lives with you, or you have an underlying medical condition which means that you or your dependants are vulnerable to coronavirus, then you could make the point that it would be a breach of your contract, specifically, the duty of trust and confidence to compel you to continue working. If you are a disabled person, then your employer is under a duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 which could include allowing you time off work during the pandemic.




What is furlough?


Furlough is open to all UK employees who were on a PAYE payroll scheme on 28 February 2020. Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, furlough is a temporary period of leave for at least 3 months starting from 1 March 2020. During furlough, your employer can claim for 80% of your wages, up to £2,500 a month. Your employer can chose to top up the extra 20% of your salary, but it does not have to. You need to agree to furlough, if you do your employment will continue, but you will be on leave and you cannot carry out any further work while you are on furlough. You can find more information about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme here.




I have just left my employment and I’m no longer working, what can I do?


The government have urged employers to do what they can and have agreed to pay 80% of employees wages (up to £2,500 per month) under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This applies to employees who were on PAYE on 28 February. The government have also confirmed that employees who have already been dismissed due to coronavirus can be re-instated and the period they have not worked can be re-classed as a leave of absence.




My employer has said they cannot afford to keep paying me, is there any help available?


If your employer cannot afford to keep paying you (for example because the business has closed), then instead of laying-off employees, your employer can apply to the Coronavirus Job Retention scheme to cover 80% of your wages (up to a maximum of £2,500 per month). You can find out more about this here. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is administered by HMRC and should be up and running within the next few weeks. Payments will be backdated to 1 March 2020 and last for three months, but the government has said it would extend the scheme for longer if necessary. Your employer can top up your pay by 20% if it wants to, although it doesn’t have to. If you are expecting a baby or adopting, then your eligibility for maternity (SMP), paternity (SPP), adoption (SAP), or shared parental pay (ShPP) can be based on these wages if they fall within your calculation period.




What can I do if my employer has made me redundant because of coronavirus?


Depending on the reason for your redundancy, it might be lawful for your employer to make you redundant. However, the government have urged employers to do what they can and not to act in haste in making redundancies. Employers have been urged not to dismiss or make employees redundant in response to a downturn of work due to coronavirus, and have agreed to pay 80% of employees wages (up to £2,500 per month) under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This applies to employees who were on PAYE on 28 February. If your employer makes you redundant, then it must follow a fair procedure, such as looking for suitable alternative employment and not selecting you for redundancy for a discriminatory reason. If any of this applies to you, and you have two or more years service, then you could consider raising an unfair dismissal claim to the Employment Tribunal. You will be entitled to notice pay if you are made redundant. The statutory minimum period of notice is one week’s notice for each continuous year of service up to a maximum of 12 weeks. You are also entitled to statutory redundancy pay if you have more than two years service. You can use a government calculator to calculate your redundancy pay here. Some employees are entitled to more than the statutory minimum, but you will need to check your contract to see if this applies to you.





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Gavin Booth

The Law at Work

19 Etive Court

Cumbernauld

Lanarkshire

Scotland

G67 4JA

The Law at Work is a not-for-profit Social Enterprise operated by Gavin Booth, specialising in employment rights advice, guidance, support and non-solicitor representation at Employment Tribunal and Regulatory Hearings in Central Scotland.

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