This will depend on your company sick pay policy. However, if an employee is eligible for SSP they tend also to be eligible for company sick pay.

Yes – annual leave continues to accrue while an employee remains employed.

Since 1st August 2020, employers are responsible for auto-enrolment pension contributions once more.

Yes - lots.  An employer is responsible for an employee's welfare and health and safety.  Employers must conduct a suitable and sufficient risk assessment of all the work activities carried out by their employees, including homeworkers, to identify hazards and assess the degree of risk.

Our Coronavirus Health and Safety Obligations Guide and Top Tips for Home Working will help employers navigate what for many businesses, is a brand new way of working. See also Health and Safety for further guidance.

Yes – the Government has classified some individuals as ‘vulnerable’ and others as ‘extremely vulnerable’. The latter category are those who require to ‘shield’. It is strongly advised that anyone in the ‘extremely vulnerable’ category should work from home. However, Government advice remains that working from home should apply to all individuals where this is reasonably possible.

Further information can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/people-at-higher-risk/whos-at-higher-risk-from-coronavirus/

Contracts of employment tend to contain either or both of two types of variation clause – specific or general.

Workers are eligible for SSP as long as they earn over the Lower Earnings Limit of £120 per week based on the eight weeks prior to absence.

It is absolutely possible for a company to do so, based on the overarching duty of care on a company to protect the health and safety of its employees. It is important to note that the current pandemic is extremely serious, as s highlighted by the exceptional responses that the Government has deployed.

However, it is prudent to remember that some employees may seek to exploit such an approach in order to benefit from several weeks away from work and on full pay. It would be wise to approach this on a case by case basis.

Guidance from the Government confirms that this is permitted when on furlough provided that this is allowed by the contract of employment. Often, contracts will prevent employees from working elsewhere; where these clauses exist, an employer could waive this for the duration of furlough leave.

There is nothing to prevent this and many people are using their time to volunteer in areas which help the national effort to combat Coronavirus. Employers should be mindful of distinguishing between this situation and that of an employee applying for Emergency Volunteering Leave - for more on this, please see below.

This is possible, although employers cannot force employees to take annual leave. Given the difference in value between holiday pay and SSP, employees are likely to wish to take some annual leave during this time.

Yes. Government guidance states, in relation to how to calculate how much can be claimed in relation to a specific individual, that the scheme applies to “recruitment agencies (agency workers paid through PAYE)…” It is  for the agency itself to furlough the agency worker.

Yes – if an employee satisfies the definition of being incapable of work in answer one above), they should be treated as being sick for the purposes of sick pay. Eligibility for sick pay does not take in to account whether an employee is abroad or not.

Yes, but only days that are given in addition to the statutory minimum holidays. Workers are entitled to a minimum of 5.6 weeks annual leave per year. Annual leave in excess of that could potentially be brought forward.

Yes.

An employer may look to make changes to an employee’s contract of employment in the following circumstances:

  • The employee consents to the change:
    Employers could seek the written consent of the relevant employees to the contractual change. While normally employees are unlikely to agree to a change in terms that is not in their favour, they may be willing to do so where their agreement may help the employer stay in business.
  • The employee is dismissed and re-engaged:
    Where employees are unwilling to consent to a change in their contractual sick pay entitlement, an employer can consider dismissing them and offering them re-engagement on the revised terms. Even if the affected employees accept the new terms, they could be entitled to claim unfair dismissal in respect of the termination (assuming they have the requisite length of service) and wrongful dismissal, if the employer does not give them the required notice to terminate.
  • The employer unilaterally imposes the changes:
    Employees may respond to a change that is unilaterally imposed on them in a number of ways. They may ‘work under protest’ and bring claims for breach of contract or unlawful deductions from wages.  Alternatively, they may resign and claim constructive dismissal.  Of course, they may also do nothing and work as normal, having acquiesced to the changes.

If an employer wishes to vary the contracts of employees, and it intends to dismiss employees who do not consent to the change in their terms, those employees will be classed as dismissed by reason of redundancy.  This may lead to consultation obligations – if this is a possibility, please discuss this with your LexLeyton Employment Solicitor.

Casual employees have the same rights as other employees and are entitled to notice pay. Dismissing them carries the same risks as dismissing any other employees.

We believe that such a dismissal would be unwise. Please discuss any plans for dismissal with your LexLeyton Employment Solicitor.

Where an employee is willing and able to work, but their employer wants to send them home to self-quarantine, they should be sent home on full pay. However, if they fall in to a category for which the Government’s advice requires self-isolation, they would meet the eligibility criteria for sick pay and accordingly would be considered to be incapable of work and should receive sick pay.

Employers should be mindful of the obligations on employees to work from home where this is reasonably possible.  If an employee can carry out their role from home during lockdown they should do so.  Otherwise, employers risk asking their employees to break the law by coming to work.  The risk of this will lessen as the rules on lockdown are relaxed, but until then it is difficult to see how such an instruction could be reasonable.

In addition, employers have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment for their employees. If an employer forces employees to go into work, against government or medical advice and there is a genuine health and safety risk from being required to attend work, this could amount to a breach of the duty of care to those employees. This may also constitute a breach of the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, risking claims for constructive unfair dismissal and/or disability discrimination if any of those employees are considered to be ‘vulnerable persons’. In addition, if an employee contracts Covid-19 as a result of an employer requiring them to come into work, they could potentially have a personal injury claim against the employer.

These risks can be avoided where employers follow current guidance and allow employees to work from home where this is reasonably possible.

Yes.  Employers should remember that the minimum period for which an employee can be furloughed is three weeks and that employers can only submit one claim every three weeks.

From 1st July 2020, there will be no minimum length of furlough period.