Coronavirus COVID-19: FAQ’s – 25.03.20
I do not have enough work for my employees due to the impact of coronavirus, what are the options available to me?
There are several options available to you depending on your circumstances.
If the downturn in work is likely to be for a short period of time, you could ask employees to take unpaid leave, with their consent or you could ask them to use annual leave. Unless your contract states otherwise, you can tell employees when to take annual leave, but must provide twice the amount of notice as the length of the annual leave.
If you have a lay-off or short-time working clause in your contract you could implement that. Lay-off refers to not providing work for a period of time and short-time working refers to a reduction in hours. If you do not have a clause in your contract you could seek employee consent to this but will need to ensure you properly consult. Be mindful that if your employee is likely to be laid off for four continuous weeks, or six weeks within a 13-week period, they may be entitled to statutory redundancy pay.
The government have announced a coronavirus job retention scheme, whereby if you do not have work for your employees, you could seek their consent to be changed to furloughed status. The employee could be paid up to 80% of their salary capped at £2,500. You would continue to pay them through payroll and claim the money back from HMRC using a repayment system which is in the process of being set up. The details on this scheme are still quite woolly at the moment and we are waiting for further guidance from the government.
Finally, if you have no alternative option then you may consider redundancies. The usual redundancy provisions will apply such as avoiding compulsory redundancies and consulting.
Who are vulnerable people and extremely vulnerable people and how should I support them?
The government has issued guidance on vulnerable and extremely vulnerable people.
Vulnerable people are defined by the government as aged 70 or over, with a specified underlying health condition or pregnant. They are advised to be particularly stringent when following social distancing measures.
Extremely vulnerable people are at a very high risk of developing a severe illness from coronavirus because of an underlying health condition. The government will be writing to these people by Sunday 29th March. They are advised to stay at home and avoid all contact for at least 12 weeks. If an employee thinks they are in this category but have not had a letter, they should contact their GP, or hospital clinician or consult the government website.
Following the latest government guidance on Monday 23rd March you should be allowing all your workforce to work from home if possible. It is particularly important that you support those people in the vulnerable and extremely vulnerable group with working from home if this is feasible for their role. If they cannot work from home consider alternatives such as using annual leave or unpaid leave, or perhaps alternative duties they can complete if reasonable.
Social distancing and shielding is not mandatory and it is the employees choice if they follow them. If the employee still wants to come to work understand why and try to agree a suitable alternative, carry out risk assessments, protect them as far as possible.