Q&A with Goldstein Legal – Covid-19 and Returning to WorkMay 28, 2020
As the pandemic continues to subside, focus has now turned to preparing the UK workforce to return to work. In this blog, Goldstein Legal address common questions asked by our clients in order to assist businesses with the transition. Please note, the government guidelines as at 28th May 2020 specify that only those that are unable to work from home should return to the workplace.
What is the current status of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?
The CJRS is officially set to continue in its current form until the 31st July 2020. Through the months of August, September, and until the end of October, the Scheme will continue albeit in a revised format. From 1st August 2020, employers will be required to contribute to the cost of salaries previously subsidized under the Scheme. While the government have promised more information by the end of May, employers should plan ahead by identifying the contributions their businesses can comfortably make and take further action accordingly.
Employers that are considering varying the contracts of their furloughed employees will need to do so by mutual agreement with each employee before bringing their period of furlough to an end. This will ensure that the employee recommences work on the new terms when they return.
Employers that are considering redundancies will need to enter into settlement agreements that incorporate the statutory and contractual entitlements of each employee. If you are considering making redundancies in your workforce, we strongly recommend that you seek legal assistance by contacting us on the details below.
How do I bring furlough to an end?
The letter you issued to employees confirming furlough should contain the process bringing the period to an end. If this is not the case, you will need to contact the employee to confirm the end of furlough and the date they are required to return to work. This is best done in writing, and a copy retained for your records. The letter should also detail any new ways of working developed during the past few months that may be beneficial to the employee, particularly if they will be required to work from home.
What if an employee is concerned or refuses to return to work?
Employers should remain mindful that employees may be anxious about returning to work as the pandemic eases. However, any decision regarding furlough is at the discretion of the employer, and an employee cannot demand to remain on the Scheme. If the employee requests to delay their return, or refuses to return, an employer may suggest that they take unpaid or annual leave. It is important that both parties discuss the concerns of the employee, especially if one of the below risk considerations are relevant.
Employers should also note that there are legal risks associated with not paying an employee who refuses to return to work, including rights available to the employee under the Employee Rights Act 1996. If you find yourself in this situation, contact Goldstein Legal on the details provided below.
What if an employee is high risk, pregnant, or shielding?
Employers are encouraged to maintain open communications with employees where an added level of risk is involved. Generally speaking, if an employee is in one of the situations mentioned above, and is able to return to work at home, they should be permitted to do so. In the event they refuse, unpaid or annual leave should be considered.
Employees that are required to shield will have received a letter confirming this from their GP and should also be eligible for SSP if they are unable to work from home.
Legally, pregnant women who are unable to work due to risk in a workplace should be sent home with full pay. Accordingly, employers may choose to consider continued furlough for such individuals, in addition to working from home and other options.
Do employers have new health and safety responsibilities regarding the workplace?
There is an expectation that all employers will have taken reasonable steps to guarantee their workplace is free from COVID-19. Suggested steps can be found in the government guidance at the following link, with a focus on risk assessments, enforced social distancing, and continued hand-washing – https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19/5-steps-to-working-safely.
Additional guidance is available at the following sites:
If you require legal assistance regarding employment matters, Goldstein Legal can help. Contact our experienced legal team on 01753 865 165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.