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  • Writer's picture Lyndsay Salmon

Summary of employment law changes due to Covid 19

I am sick of covid 19 already and if I hear furlough once more I may well furlough myself... however I recognise that in this avalanche of information we are all receiving at the moment it might be useful to have a summary of where we are for employers and employees.

This is as of 16.30 on 31st March - it might change tomorrow (and we wont even know if its a April fool joke or not), so do make sure you check for the latest advice before taking any action.

Furlough - the government job retention scheme will enable employers to pay employees and claim back 80% or £2500 max, plus claim employer's NI and auto enrolment pension contributions on top. You may need the employee to agree to this, depending on whether they have a lay off clause in their contract or not. The employee is still employed whilst on this scheme and will still accrue annual leave. The employee can not undertake work for you ( but they might be able to do for others, we await guidance) but can undertake training. The employee must be on furlough for at least 3 weeks. See here for more details:

Changes to annual leave carry over so Bob's been furloughed for 3 months and now returns to work in late summer demanding he be allowed to take his 20 days annual leave (plus the 4 bank holidays he missed out on, albeit I am awaiting advice re bank holidays) before he loses it all at the end of the leave year - what will you do?

Luckily the government has foreseen this issue and published amendment to legislation which means you can allow Bob to carry over his untaken annual leave in to the next leave year. This does not mean Bob can now have 20 days, plus 8 bank holidays, plus an extra 24 (or however many he carries forward) and take off the whole of next summer - you can still decline his request and manage holiday as usual, particularly as carry over has been agreed for two years, so maybe split the extra days between the next couple of years to ensure the business can still deliver! More details are here:

Changes to sick pay - employees can claim from day 1 if its Covid 19 related, and SME businesses can reclaim SSP too. There's been other changes, such as employees self isolating being eligible for SSP which is all new ground for employers (we used to think self isolating just meant unsociable - right?!) and what evidence the employee needs to provide. Also of note - employees shielding (e.g told to stay at home for 12 weeks as high risk) can be furloughed instead.

Right to work checks: The government has relaxed the rules on how to carry out right to work in the UK checks whilst this crisis continues. Key points: (thanks to Clare hedges of Birketts Solicitors for this summary)

  • You can check photos/scanned copies of documents instead of originals.

  • Once you have the copy document, arrange a video call with the prospective employee and get them to hold up the document.

  • Record that it is an adjusted check carried out on [date] due to COVID-19.

  • You can still use the online right to work check service and Employer Checking Service as needed.

  • If everything appears to be in order, the employee can then start work.

  • You must still do the usual original document check within 8 weeks of the special arrangements ending (date to be confirmed of course) in order to have a statutory excuse = "retrospective check".

  • If the employee starts work but fails a retrospective check you will be expected to end their employment.

Employers don't have to report on the gender gap this year.

I recognise they may have bigger fish to fry, but this data should have been collated and ready to go before this all escalated and its only required from businesses who employ over 250 people so I would think most have the resource in place to deliver this still, so seems a shame to me - especially since we have seen the gender split of the real 'key workers' in the UK now...

There are also numerous other changes,including employment tribunals being held remotely and self employed people being able to claim a payment too but I've focused on the main changes that might affect employer immediately for now.

Please note - this blog is not legal advice and you are advised to seek professional advice before acting. Any questions, please feel free to call or email and I will endeavour to help!

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