In this coronavirus pandemic, there have been unprecedented affects on employees’ rights, including the right to get paid, and the right to health and safety.
If you have been unfairly dismissed, or had your pay cut/stopped, because you’ve refused to attend an unsafe work place, read our specific article here. For more general coronavirus employment rights, read on.
Links to our free coronavirus employee rights app and other practical coronavirus work-related material for employees is given at the end of this article.
This guide covers:
Can I be forced to attend work if vulnerable, or a danger to a vulnerable person?
If you are pregnant, old, or suffer from a disability or ill-health which your employer already knows about, then It’s to be hoped that your employer would be receptive to proposals for you to work remotely where possible, or to go on the government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on temporary ‘furlough leave’ (whilst there is still time for new entrants to be admitted – see below).
If you are living with someone in that category, but your employer is still forcing you to come to work, then your employer could be breaking the law.
Whilst the law on this is not yet entirely clear in relation to covid-19, we advise that it could be unlawful for your employer to insist on your attending work because by doing so they may be subjecting you to one or other of the following:
-breach of health & safety law
Furlough leave aka Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
If your employer’s business has been affected by covid-19, the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, also known as ‘furlough leave’, has been able to help. Under the scheme, your employer has been able to let you stay at home, knowing that the government would pay your employer 80% of your salary, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. Payments at these levels are to continue until the end of August 2020 (and see below).
It is important for you to note – whether you are already on furlough or about to be furloughed – that your employer should agree with you, in advance, about whether you are happy to accept only 80% of your wage up to a maximum of £2,500 per month, or whether you insist on receiving the full 100% (with no upper limit). They can’t just put you on the scheme without your agreement. They can make you redundant if you don’t agree, however. There is more detailed information and tactics for employees about this in our separate practical guide on furlough leave.
The Chancellor announced further changes to the scheme 0n 29th May which can be summarized as follows:
June 2020: The scheme closes to new entrants at the end of the month and employers have to register new entrants before 10th June.
From 1st July: Furloughed employees can work part time.
From August 2020: Employers required to pay the employers’ national insurance and pension contributions for furloughed employees.
September 2020: Government contribution to furlough pay reduces to 70% with a monthly cap of £2,190. Employers pay 10% (plus top-up to 100% if previously agreed).
October 2020: Government contribution tapers to 60%, with a monthly cap of £1,875. Employers pay 20% (plus top up to 100% if agreed).
Can I be dismissed for self-isolating and not coming into work?
No! Your employer might be allowed to discipline you, but they can’t legally dismiss you. If they tried to, it would amount to automatically unfair dismissal under s.100 Employment Rights Act 1996.
There is a case about this kind of dismissal between Harvest Press Ltd & McCaffrey 1999 ILRL 778. It doesn’t of course relate directly to the coronavirus, but it is a good example of automatically unfair dismissal.
Read our more detailed guide on coronavirus unfair dismissal here.
Can my employer reduce my salary?
Your employer can reduce your salary if they are justified in doing so. During these times of coronavirus, we are seeing employers telling employees to take a pay cut. Is that constructive dismissal? Can you refuse? If other people are also being asked to take a pay cut too, then it would be easy for your employer to justify it.
They can simply give you your notice and give you another contract of employment with the lower pay. Then they can tell you that if you don’t agree to work on the new contract, your employment will end when your notice period is over.
Self employed affected by coronavirus
On 29th May 2020 the Chancellor announced a second grant to help the self employed whose businesses have been seriously affected by covid-19 coronavirus. The main points are:
The first grant is a taxable single payment of 80% of average monthly trading profits, covering three months of profit, capped at £7,500 total. It can be applied for until 13th July 2020.
The second grant will be worth 70% of average monthly profits, capped at £6,570 and can be applied for in August 2020.
Recipients can work at the same time as receiving these grants. Both payments:
- are based on an average of your last 3 years’ income.
- are only for people on less than £50,000 p.a.
Am I entitled to pay when self isolating for coronavirus?
You are legally entitled to Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if you have symptoms, or been advised to self isolate by a doctor or other medical authority. You can get an isolation note online on the NHS 111 website
If you want to self-isolate because of Coronavirus, but you are not sick yourself, then the current legislation does not entitle you to SSP.
If you are a vulnerable person, for example old or with underlying health conditions, then again, the current legislation does not entitle you to SSP. Still, we would advise you to get an isolation note online on the NHS 111 website mentioned above. This would then entitle you to SSP.
If you are pregnant, then your employer must do a risk assessment. If it is unsafe for you to attend work, your employer has to suspend you on full pay. If that is within 6 weeks of your due date, then you are entitled to start your maternity leave at that point, as per the legislation here.
If, however, you are able to work remotely, and your employer agrees that you may do so, then in those circumstances, you will be entitled to your usual pay.
You should talk to your employer about your concerns before you decide to take any action, and see if you can agree on the best way forward.
This latest legislation is contained in The Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020.
Am I entitled to pay if my employer tells me to stay off work?
If your employer has good reason to ask you not to attend work (eg you have recently returned from a country badly affected by coronavirus, or had contact with someone with the virus), then they can ask you to stay away. You will be entitled to your contractual pay.
If your employer decides to reduce your hours of work or to close your place of work, then you are entitled to pay as normal, without any reduction. Millions of employers have been helped to achieve this by the government’s furlough leave scheme (see above).
(See S151 Social Security, Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 and S147-154 Employment Rights Act 1996 for relevant legislation)
What are my rights if I take time off to care for dependents?
On 4th April, the government announced that it would extend the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme mentioned above, to people with childcare responsibilities caused by covid-19 restrictions. This was great news for parents, but has had to be agreed with your employer, as furlough never has been an automatic right.
So, what are your automatic rights? Well they are set out in the pre existing legislation, Section 57A-57B Employment Rights Act 1996 . According to the legislation, in an ’emergency’, you have a right to ‘reasonable’ time off work to care for dependents. Your dependents may themselves be unwell, or their usual carers/school/other provider can’t operate because of the covid-19 restraints.
The time off is unpaid, unless you have an employment contract or insurance policy which provides for payment in such circumstances. What is a ‘reasonable’ amount of time off will depend on your particular situation. Your employer is required to consider your case without reference to any inconvenience or disruption to their business.
Undoubtedly the coronavirus crisis does count as an emergency, and what is ‘reasonable’ is an ongoing period of time for as long as the schools and nurseries are shut, at least. But your first port of call should be asking for full pay or at least for furlough leave, if you’re not already furloughed (and certainly before June 10th which is the last date your employer can register new entrants to the scheme).
If I get coronavirus, will I get sick leave and pay entitlements?
If you have been diagnosed as having contracted Coronavirus or are suspected by medical authorities as having it, you will be entitled to the usual sick leave and entitlements to pay, as with any other sickness and sickness absence.
If I am made redundant due to covid-19 does my employer still have to consult me?
Normally, where making over 20 employees redundant, the employer has to consult for a period of 90 days before making redundancies. But with coronavirus, there is probably a defence open to the employer due to ‘special circumstances’, which could compress this period, so they probably wouldn’t have to consult for the full 90 days. They would however probably need to consult for some reasonable time. What is ‘reasonable’ is not clear, but if they don’t consult, then it would be procedurally unfair dismissal.
If less than 20 people are being made redundant, then your employer has a duty to consult you. This duty is not defined by statute, but is generally said to include more than one meeting, and a chance for you to make some reasonable input into the decision.
If I have been laid off because of coronavirus but I want to leave my job can I choose redundancy?
If you are laid off for 4 weeks in a row, or for 6 weeks in any 13 week period, you can write to your employer and ask them to give you a statutory redundancy payment plus your notice pay. If they don’t reply, you can resign but you have to give notice, as per your notice period (which is the longer period of either your contract or statutory notice period). Then you have a claim for your statutory redundancy pay.
If you think your employer is unfairly treating you because of your absence or pay relating to coronavirus situations like those outlined above, Monaco Solicitors may be able to help.
In addition to our various relevant guides (see list below), you can also access our free coronavirus employment rights app which generates a written advice letter for you, plus 2 example letters to your employer.
- Furlough leave
- Coronavirus unfair dismissal or pay cut
- Unfair dismissal settlements
- Coronavirus letter templates
- Constructive dismissal
- Coronavirus self employed help scheme
- Coronavirus employee app on BBC Radio Surrey
- Coronavirus employee app on BBC Radio London
- Age discrimination
- Disability discrimination
- Mental health discrimination
- Pregnancy and maternity discrimination