How can you manage employees during the Covid-19 crisis?

Posted: Wednesday April 1 2020

By: Charlotte Ashton

How can you manage employees during the Covid-19 crisis? As the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) rises in the UK, the Government has now adopted a policy of social distancing. To do this, they have advised that everyone who can work from home should, but what does this mean for your company? And what can you do?

How can you manage employees during the Covid-19 crisis?

When should an employee work from home?

Initially the advice was that anyone showing symptoms of the virus should self-isolate, to help prevent the spread. This advice has now changed to anyone who can work from home should. This can cause a crippling effect for companies that are not ready for it.

During this time our advice is to be prepared. Work with your employees and carry out your own emergency assessments to determine whether they can work from home and in what capacity. If your employees do start working from home, you as an employer are responsible to ensure that the employee has the right equipment to work.

A review will also have to be carried out on your Employers Liability Insurance to determine whether or not it will cover home working.

What if your employees cannot work from home?

If you need employees to carry on working from an office or other workplace, you need to protect the health and safety of your employees. This includes following the latest guidance and ensuring you are able to practice good hygiene in the workplace.

Where you have pregnant employees who need to attend the workplace, you must consider whether there is a risk to their health and if you need to change their duties or job to eliminate the risk. In some cases you may have to suspend pregnant employees on full pay.

Do employees who are self-isolating get Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?

Employees who are self-isolating in accordance with guidance will be entitled to SSP. The usual waiting days have been removed and SSP will apply from the first day the employee is off work.

 

Can staff take time off work because they have to care for a dependant?

Schools have been shut and this has affected many employees who now have to try and balance work around caring for children. Employees in these circumstances can request to work flexibly, request parental leave or leave to care for dependants.

Parental leave and leave for dependants are unpaid but you might want to try flexible working in the first instance so the employee continues to do some work and receive pay.

Can we lay staff off due to COVID-19?

If there is a contractual clause in an employment contract which permits temporary lay-off of an employee, then you can give the required notice of lay-off and/or consult with the employee or any recognised trade unions, if relevant.

If there is no contractual right to lay-off, you can consider seeking the agreement of staff to a temporary lay-off or reduced hours. This will require consultation. If you do this without a contractual provision, this could lead to a number of employment claims for constructive unfair dismissal and unlawful deduction of wages.

Laying off staff under a contractual clause will mean staff are only entitled to a guarantee payment which is a maximum of £145 in total. You should therefore consider furlough leave in the first instance so that the employees can receive pay during the period of furlough.

What is furlough leave?

Employees who are furloughed are effectively laid off and not required to work for the employer. The government will reimburse pay up to 80% capped at £2,500 per month.

You can furlough employees under a lay off clause or by agreement. All contractual terms apply save for the requirement to attend work. Employees must not do any work for the employer whilst on furlough leave. You must consider any contractual changes you might need the employee to agree to, such as getting receiving reduced pay for the period or changing pay dates to help with cash flow, before implementing furlough leave.

In choosing which staff to furlough and which must keep working, you must be careful not to unlawfully discriminate.

The scheme will only apply to employees furloughed for at least 3 weeks.

Can we make staff redundant?

If a business is suffering economic loss or has a sudden reduced or lack of work; you may need to make immediate costs saving measures and employees may therefore be redundant. Specific rules apply however dependent on the number of employees affected, an employee’s lengths of service and other factors with regards to the precise processes to follow and financial entitlements. Where you face making 20 or more employees redundant there will be collective consultation requirements.

If you require any assistance or have any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact Farleys Employment Team on 0161 835 9513 or email me at charlotte.ashton@farleys.com

how to manage employees during the Covid-19