Coronavirus & Employment Law – For Employees | Howells Solicitors
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Coronavirus & Employment Law – For Employees

Howells Solicitors

23 Mar, 2020

There is lots of information online regarding your rights during the Coronavirus outbreak, much of it is hearsay and gossip. Our Employment Law department, answer some frequently asked questions in regards to your rights at work.

Advice updated 03.03.2021

Is the furlough scheme ongoing?

The furlough scheme, due to finish at the end of April 2021, will now continue until 30 September.

Can I be furloughed if I was not previously furloughed?

You can be furloughed whether you are on a full-time, part-time, agency, flexible or zero-hour contract, but you must have been on your employer’s payroll before the extension was announced, on Wednesday 3rd of March 2021. It is not necessary to have been furloughed before and you keep all your working rights, including annual and parental leave.

Will the government continue to pay 80% of my wage during furlough?

Under the extended furlough scheme the government will pay 80% of a furloughed employee’s wages up to a cap of £2,500 per month. From July 2021 employers will need to contribute 10% to an employees furlough pay, and 20% in August and September.

It is still open to your employer to top up the payment received from the government so that you still receive your full wage but they do not have to do so.

Your employer must pay employer national insurance and pensions contributions.

Can my employer require me to carry out work when I am furloughed?

Since last summer, employers have been able to bring back workers part-time, and furlough them for the rest. This will continue, and employers will have to pay employees’ wages for the hours they work as normal.

Can I take holiday to top up my pay during furlough?

If you are on furlough then you can request to take annual leave but your employer does not have to agree to this. Your employer must let you know if your holiday request is being refused by giving you at least as much notice as the leave you have requested, so if you have asked for a week off, your employer must give you a week’s notice if they are saying no (although clearly if you only ask for the leave one day before you want it this will be impossible and won’t apply).

If you book annual leave during furlough and this is approved then your employer can still claim the government contribution towards your wages but must top up your wages to full pay for the days when you are annual leave.

What should I do if my employer does not pay me when I am furloughed?

If your employer does not pay you then you should firstly raise this with your employer and try and resolve the issue directly. If your employer still does not make payment to you then you may have a claim for unlawful deductions from wages and should seek advice without delay. You will have three months less one day from the date of the deduction to pursue a claim.

If your employer has claimed a payment from the government and not passed it on to you then you can also report this to HMRC here.

Will I be paid if I self-isolate due to symptoms of coronavirus?

If you have symptoms, you should make your employer aware of this and rest, staying in isolation according to guidance.  You should be paid as you usually would be for sickness absence, as you are ill.  This may be contractual sick pay or statutory sick pay only.  If the latter, you should receive it from day 1 of your sickness, since the “waiting days” requirement has been removed for Covid-19 cases.  You do not need a sick note for your first 7 days absence . The government is asking employers to relax requirements for sick notes after that, but if your employer insists you get one, you should be able to get one online or via NHS 111.

You should NOT attend your GP surgery to get a sick note.  If you would normally be required to report your sickness absence every day, you should check with your employer whether this is still a requirement.  If you have any difficulty reporting your absence, you should keep a record of what you have done – take a screenshot of the “log” of your phone call on your phone, or of the text or other social media message you send.  Keep a paper diary of who you tried to call, when, and the outcome (e.g. phone engaged, left a message etc).

If you have agreed with your employer that you can work at home and you are well enough to work even with symptoms and able to do as much work as you usually would then you should continue to be paid for that work.  It would be a good idea to keep a note (like a diary) of what you are doing in case this is ever queried.

If there is a limited amount of work you can do from home  and you are well enough to work even with symptoms it may be possible to negotiate with your employer for a temporary reduction in hours or pay.  You may be able to maintain your usual pay by using up TOIL you have accrued, or taking paid holiday.  However this needs to be agreed with your employer.

If you become ill when you have already been placed on furlough your employer can (but does not have to) keep you on furlough rather than moving you to SSP. You should however keep your employer updated with the progress of your illness and recovery.

Will I be paid if I self-isolate due to a member of my household having symptoms of coronavirus?

If you are well yourself and able to work, then if you can work from home and able to do as much work as you usually would then you should continue to be paid for that work.  It would be a good idea to keep a note (like a diary) of what you are doing in case this is ever queried.

If there is a limited amount of work you can do from home  and you are well enough to work it may be possible to negotiate with your employer for a temporary reduction in hours or pay.  You may be able to maintain your usual pay by using up TOIL you have accrued, or taking paid holiday.  However this needs to be agreed with your employer and will mean you are not eligible for furlough.

If you are not able to work from home because of the nature of your job, not the fact you are ill, then you are not available for work.  In these circumstances you can receive SSP even though you are not ill yourself.  You could also ask your employer about furlough, although they are not obliged to agree to this.

What if I am sick generally (non-coronavirus related)?

You should deal with this as you would with any sickness absence whether you are working at home or still going in to work – report it to your employer in the usual way following the usual requirements – e.g. calling in every day if necessary. If you have any difficulty reporting your absence, you should keep a record of what you have done – take a screenshot of the “log” of your phone call on your phone, or of the text or other social media message you send.  Keep a paper diary of who you tried to call, when, and the outcome (e.g. phone engaged, left a message etc).

It may be harder than usual to obtain a sick note from your GP, who will be extremely busy.  You should check whether your employer will relax its requirements (they don’t legally need one until you have been off for 7 days anyway).  If not you should try to obtain one by calling your GP surgery and making a phone appointment, or via NHS 111.

You should be paid as you normally would be for sickness absence.

If you are already in receipt of sick pay for a Covid-19 related reason (even though you are not ill yourself – e.g. you are in a vulnerable group or household), you should still let your employer know if you become ill for a different reason so they can maintain accurate records.

If you become ill when you have already been placed on furlough your employer can (but does not have to) keep you on furlough rather than moving you to SSP. You should however keep your employer updated with the progress of your illness and recovery.

My employer has laid me off without pay rather than furlough me.  What should I do?

If your employer lays you off without pay then you should check your contract of employment to see if there is a clause which entitles them to do so. If there is no such clause then you should still receive full pay. You will have a claim for unlawful deduction from wages if you are not paid and should seek advice.

Alternatively, if there is a clause which entitles your employer to lay you off without pay then you may be entitled to receive statutory guarantee payment of £30 a day for 5 days in any 3 month period and should seek advice.

I am currently on furlough and my employer has commenced redundancy consultation. Are they allowed to do so?

Employers are able to commence a redundancy process at any stage including during furlough. They should follow a fair procedure in selecting employees for redundancy and include non furloughed staff in the pool for redundancy if their jobs are interchangeable with furloughed staff who are at risk of redundancy. If your employer has commenced a redundancy process and you believe that a fair procedure is not being followed then please contact us for advice.

I am being made redundant. Should my redundancy and notice pay be paid at my normal rate of pay or the rate which I received during furlough?

Statutory redundancy and notice pay should be received at your normal rate of pay. If you do not receive the correct payments then you will have claims in respect of this and should seek advice. From 1 December 2020 onwards an employer is no longer able to claim the furlough grant for any period when an employee is serving statutory or contractual notice and will have to make payment for these periods in full.

I was made redundant before the furlough scheme was extended. Can my previous employer rehire and furlough me?

An employer can rehire an employee in order to furlough them if they were employed as of 23 September 2020 and on the payroll on or before 30 October 2020. There is no obligation upon an employer to rehire employees to furlough them however.

Our Employment Team offer telephone appointments, and if you would like to discuss your business with them you can email Howells to make an appointment at enquiries@howellsllp.com, visit our website or call us:

Sheffield: 0114 249 66 66

Barnsley0122 680 51 90

Rotherham0170 936 40 00

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