COVID19 and your employment rights

In general, your employment rights during COVID19 are much the same as your employment rights at any other time. There may, however, be questions about how they should be interpreted in the current environment. Here is a quick guide to what you need to know.

The Job Support Scheme

At present, the Job Support Scheme is scheduled to run between 1st November 2020 and April 30th 2021. It’s actually two schemes in one since it comes in “open” and “closed” variations. The former is intended to support employees of businesses which are open but trading in a reduced capacity. The latter is intended to support employees of closed businesses.

The current guidelines for the JSS (Open) scheme are as follows. An employer must guarantee 20% of an employee’s normal hours and pay these plus 5% of their un-worked hours (up to £125 per month). The government will top this up by 61.67% (up to £1,541.75 per month). This means that the employee will receive up to 73% of their normal pay.

The current guidelines for the JSS (Closed) scheme are as follows. If a business has to close due to COVID19, the government will pay 67% of employee wages, up to a maximum of £2,083.33 a month. Employers just have to pay NI and pensions contributions. Both sets of guidelines are subject to change.

The JSS and childcare

Working parents can still claim free/tax-free childcare while on the JSS (either version) or the Self Employed Income Support Scheme. Any COVID19-related dips in their income will be ignored.

Parents continue to have the right to “reasonable time off” to deal with emergencies, including those related to childcare. This time off is, however, unpaid, unless there is a specific agreement to the contrary. There is also no “one-size-fits-all” definition of reasonable. Each case has to be assessed on its own merits.

Self-isolation

If you are isolating with symptoms, then you are automatically entitled to statutory sick pay. If you are isolating without symptoms, then you are not unless you get an isolation note from the NHS. Probably the most practical way to do this is via the NHS 111 website. If your employer asks you to stay off work, then you are entitled to full pay.

If you want to stay off work because you are living with someone in a vulnerable category, then currently you are in something of a legal grey area. In practical terms, a lot would probably hinge on the practicalities of remote working in your job role.

If it could be determined that you could work remotely but your employer insisted on you being on-site, then you might have a claim for constructive dismissal. If not, then the law might see your employer as being well within their rights to insist on your attendance at work.

Redundancy

If your employer decides to make you redundant, then they have to follow the standard consultation process. If you have been laid off for 4 weeks in a row, or for 6 weeks in any 13 week period, you can request to be made redundant.

Nannette Kendrick
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