COVID-19 and Employment LawMarch 26, 2020
The recent virus outbreak has put a strain on all aspects of business and many franchisors are asking what the implications may be for their franchisees and employees. Whilst the government are taking action to prevent job losses, and put us all in a position to re-ignite the economy when COVID-19 abates, there are still many businesses having to make tough decisions. In this blog, Goldstein Legal will explore the recent government support, and offer some guidance for franchisors and franchisees concerned about their workforce.
What operational measures do I need to consider?
The government has introduced self-isolation, suspended all non-essential travel, and encouraged employees to work from home where possible. Franchise business owners may be concerned about how this will affect their business, and also what options are available to them in respect of managing absent employees. If you have found yourself in this situation, we suggest that you consider the following factors:
- Government Guidance – Keep abreast of all government updates and ensure these are disseminated to employees. Ensure that employees are aware of the self-isolation and social distancing requirements, and their overall social duty to assist in preventing the spread of the virus.
- Communication – It is important that franchisors and franchisees maintain constant contact with their employees as the situation progresses. Instigating regular conference call meetings with your workforce, or something similar, will help to maintain contact and a sense of normality in the working day. Also ensure that reciprocal communication measures are in place so employees are able to speak to you about their concerns.
- Home Working – In order to manage employees working remotely, employers should consider introducing new policies detailing the procedures for doing so.
How do I pay my employees?
Generally speaking, if an employee is able to continue to work from home then they will be entitled to their normal rate of pay. If they are not able to do so then employers will need to consider the terms of their contract as other forms of payment, such as the options below, may be applicable:
- Furloughed employees – To avoid redundancies, the government are in the process of providing a support package for employers so that they may continue to pay employee wages. The package will run for a minimum of 3 months from the 1st of March, and employers are encouraged to contact the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to classify their workers as furloughed. An employee is ‘furloughed’ if they are unable to work during the current virus outbreak. Instead of being laid-off, the employee is kept on the payroll and the employer can claim up to 80% of their wage (to a maximum of £2,500.)
- Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) – The government is currently legislating to change the rules governing statutory sick pay, meaning they will be extended to cover those that are required to self-isolate. This measure is set to apply retrospectively from the 13th of March, and will entitle eligible employees to a payment of £94.25 per week for up to 28 weeks.
- Self-employed workers and contractors – While Universal Credit is currently available to the self-employed, the government have also pledged assistance by way of a package similar to that of furloughed employees. The details of this have not yet been clarified but will likely become clearer in the coming days.
What action should I take?
All franchisors and franchisees should develop and adopt a contingency plan that adequately deals with employee management, shortages, and different ways of working. ACAS have release succinct advice on their website that clearly covers suggested measures and is updated daily – https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus
Where can I get more advice?
If you have concerns as to the longer-term implications of current employment matters, Goldstein Legal are able to help. Please contacts us on 01753 865 165.