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Covid 19 effect on Employment Law FAQ’s

21st April 2020

With the implementation of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020, which came into forms on the 21st March 2020, there have been many uncertainties and frequently asked questions to clarify the responsibilities of employers and employees during this period of uncertainty. We have therefore put together a list of the FAQ’s and our responses in order to assist those that may require the same. Please note this Article does not provide advice, each circumstance may be different and therefore if you require advice to your particular circumstance please contact the writer. 

  1. What businesses must close during the lockdown period?

The following businesses MUST remain closed until advised otherwise;

  • Public Houses; 
  • Cinemas
  • Theatres
  • Nightclubs
  • Bingo Halls
  • Concert Halls
  • Museums and Galleries
  • Casinos
  • Betting Shops
  • Spas
  • Massage Parlors
  • Indoor Skating Rings
  • Indoor fitness studios, gyms, Swimming pools or other indoor leisure centers.
     Restaurants, Cafes and Bars are not required to close completely but they MUST NOT sell food or drinks for consumption on the premises, i.e. they can provide take out service only. 
  1. Can I visit homes to carry out work?
     
    We are asked by tradesmen in particular if they are still able to visit home to carry out work and would confirm that yes, they are allowed to do so but must do so under the public health guidelines, i.e. no work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual who is at particular high risk, unless the work is essential. Also, the two-meter social distancing guidelines must be adhered to at all times.   
  1. My business is still open, is there a restriction on what I can sell?
    No, although the public may only leave their house to purchase essential items and therefore consider carefully whether any pricing promotions you may be offering on non-essential items may be enticing the public unnecessarily. Also consider reviewing prices on sold goods to ensure prices are not being inflated which may be subject to the Competition and Markets Authority review and a breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.
  1. What Happens if there is concern about coming to work?
    Together with the new Regulation employers must also ensure that they are complying with the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and therefore they must ensure that the health, safety and welfare of their employees are being protected, such as providing handwashing and sanitary facilities. If an employee raises concerns about coming to work, we would first suggest that employers should consider what arrangements could be made to support their employees and whether there is an opportunity to offer annual leave or unpaid leave. Also, the employer should consider whether to furlough the employee. If an employee unreasonably refuses to come to work then they would not be entitled to sick pay. 
  1. What can employers do for those “very vulnerable” individuals?
    For those that have been asked to isolate for 3 months it would be prudent for employers to look for these employees to work from home, but if this cannot be achieved then employers may wish to consider furloughing these individuals and entering them into the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. 
  1. What care do employers need to take for employees working from home?
    Employers have a duty under the Health and Safety (Display Screen Equipment) Regulations 1992 to protect employees, even at home workers and therefore employers should be carrying out Display Screen assessments, making sure employees are taking breaks and have the appropriate training. We would also recommend that the stress and mental health of the employee is also being checked by the employer.
  1. Statutory Sick pay, when it applies?
    SSP can now be paid from the first day of an employee’s absence and where an employee is incapable of doing work for reason of coronavirus. If an employee self-isolates due to the illness there is a right to sick pay; if any employees is able to work but required to self-isolate then first it should be assessed if they can work from home and be paid as normal, if they are not able to work from home then SSP would apply. 
  1. If employees are enrolled onto the Coronavirus Job retention Scheme, what happens to pension payments?
    The latest Guidelines make it clear that you can reclaim the minimum mandatory employer pension contribution, this is on top of the £2,500 cap. The minimum contribution under the auto-enrolment regulation is 3% of the employee’s income above £520 per month. The rate stays the same but it is the salary determining the overall figure that changes. Pension contributions over and above this cannot be claimed through the scheme but you will need to maintain them, or get consent from the employee to lower them. 
  1. IR35
    The reforms that were due to come out this month have now been delayed until 6 April 2021. 
  2. Some helpful tips
    • Please keep up to date with Public Health Guidance and ensure you are recording any measures you are taking. 
    • Review insurance policies to see what risks are covered and inform insurance companies what measures are being taken. 
    • Conduct formal risk assessments and document all assessments, even for at home workers. 
    • Employers have a duty to make sure employees are not exposed to the virus and therefore make sure new measure, such as the need to wear PPE, are being followed.