This is a transcript of a broadcast interview with Alex Monaco of Monaco Solicitors on BBC Radio Surrey Breakfast show, hosted by Lesley McCabe, on 14th April 2020.
Alex discusses the impact on employees of coronavirus and outlines the help available to employees via Monaco Solicitors’ free Coronavirus Employment Rights App.
The interview follows on from discussion of the Passport Office staff being asked to return to work early during the coronavirus pandemic. In the transcript below, the initials LM indicate the show’s host, Lesley McCabe, and AM is Alex Monaco.
LM begins by asking the listeners:
‘What should you do if you are asked to return to work earlier than you perhaps feel comfortable with, or earlier than within the [government’s] guidelines?
‘Well, Alex Monaco is founder of the law firm Monaco Solicitors and joins us now. Good morning to you, Alex. Have you actually had any reports of companies perhaps not behaving themselves?
AM: Well, actually plenty, but I’d like to point out that everyone is doing great out there, sticking together and acting like a team. But of course, there are always going to be people who are the exception.
We have had thousands of people contact us, including people [employees] who were never sent home in the first place. They’ve just been forced to attend work the whole time, in unsafe conditions, because their employers frankly think that their pay packet at the end of the month is more important than people’s safety, so sadly it is going on, and it’s going on a lot.
LM: You say that they are being forced to carry on working. So what are the rules at the moment with regards to going to work?
AM: Well of course the rules are quite new, and that’s giving people this grey area to take advantage of in these cases. But at the moment you can self-isolate, you can stay at home and you can’t be dismissed for doing that. Even if you have got less than two years’ service under your belt – and by that I mean if you’ve been employed for less than two years where normally you could be fired for almost anything, so long as it’s not discrimination.
If you are fired for self-isolation or staying at home because you think your place of work is unsafe, you do have protection under section 100 of the Employment Rights Act which is effectively talking about health and safety at work.
But employers don’t know about [the law] and what we are seeing is that employees are being dismissed for this, which would be unfair dismissal, so you would have a right to claim against your employer in an Employment Tribunal.
We are not suggesting that you would want to do that as a first port of call, because – especially in these times – people aren’t always behaving in the most rational way. And it’s understandable that employers are panicking because their businesses are potentially going down the tubes as well.
So, what we would recommend that you do if this is happening to you, is to write a letter to your employer – even if you employer just wants you to come back and you are having a bit of an argument about it – and try to suggest an amicable solution that would sound good to them as well.
LM: Yes, rather than take the legal standpoint straight from the off. Can you tell us about this app as well that you have released. What is that?
AM: It writes your letter for you. We have been working on some artificial intelligence stuff for a while now and when this pandemic hit, we just converted it to work for coronavirus rights. So, instead of you trying to write a letter talking about the law, and talking about an amicable solution, and so on, which…
LM: Which for many of us would be a daunting prospect
AM: Yes, that’s right. Even for lawyers it would be a daunting prospect. But my team of lawyers – who are employment rights specialists – and I have got together and written all the letters for you. So if you just go and answer ‘yes’/‘no’ to a few questions and fill in your case details, it outputs a letter that you can then send to your employer to get the outcome that you deserve.
But [the app] is not just for people who are forced to attend work unsafely. It’s also for people who need to be put on furlough leave for other reasons – you know – the 80% government pay.
For example, if you’ve got childcare responsibilities and you obviously can’t go to work because your children are off school, and various other scenarios. So, it’s generally for people whose employment rights are affected.
LM: Yes, so that really helps. Where can we find [the app] then?
AM: You just go onto my website – which is monacosolicitors.co.uk, – and it’s on the home page there.
LM: Perfect. So it just does the job for you. Thank you so much. That’s Alex Monaco, founder of the law firm Monaco Solicitors.’
Your next steps
If you have issues with your employer about your absence from work, pay, dismissal or other matters arising from the covid-19 pandemic, Monaco Solicitors may be able to help you.
Our practical guides and articles listed below will further help you understand your employment rights in this time of coronavirus,
Our easy to use coronavirus employment rights app (discussed above) creates written advice for you and examples of legal letters addressed to your employer.
You may also be able to adapt our free coronavirus letter templates and use them as a basis for written communications with your employer.
If you think you need a lawyer to take your case, including on a no win no fee basis, please request a free consultation.