Employment Law: Latest Updates to the Covid-19 Job Retention Scheme | January 2021

Employment Law: Latest Updates to the Covid-19 Job Retention Scheme | January 2021

In this new Employment Law update, we take a look at the latest changes from the Government (as of January 5th) regarding the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and areas such as furlough, redundancy and statutory sick pay. 

We last looked at this area in August 2020 and because of the current increase in COVID 19 cases and restrictions, the government’s latest guidance and advice to employers has been reviewed. The full governmental advice is contained in the link at the end of this update however the following highlights several key important areas/changes.

Furlough

In their most recent guidance, the Government outline that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended into a third phase from November 2020 until the end of March 2021, with another extension to 30 April 2020. The scheme can be applied to employees on any type of employment contract, including full-time, part-time, agency, flexible or zero-hour contracts and foreign nationals are also eligible to be furloughed. Employees on fixed term contracts that have not already expired can also be placed on furlough so long as they were employed on of before 30th October 2020.

Employers also need to note that on 8th January 2021, the government added a new section to its ‘Check which employees you can put on furlough guidance’ that states employees are eligible for the grant and can be furloughed if they are unable to work, including from home or on reduced hours, because they:

  • are clinically extremely vulnerable, or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus and following public health guidance;
  • have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus, such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing or caring for a vulnerable individual in their household.

The TUC is also urging employers to make use of this extension to the scheme for parents who were struggling to balance work and home schooling.

Redundancy

Nothing changes here in relation to process and the normal rules and legislation applies if you have to make any employees redundant. However, for employees on furlough and serving a contractual or statutory notice period - then the employer cannot claim for any days starting on or after 1st December 2020 and employers should continue to base statutory redundancy and statutory notice pay on their normal wage rather than the reduced furlough wage.

Employees on Sick-Leave

It may be that employees on furlough fall sick and or has to self-isolate – in these cases the employer may keep the employee on furlough however employees’ statutory rights means that they must be paid at least SSP as a minimum - it is up to employers to decide whether to move these employees onto SSP or to keep them on furlough, at their furloughed rate.

Employees Returning to Work (Public Sector)

There are several public sector trade unions attempting to invoke Section 44 of the Employment Rights Act 1996 to advise that its members can refuse to return to the workplace due to health and safety concerns. However, the government do not agree with this advice because section 44 is specific to each individual employee and cannot be applied in a blanket way to all school staff in the country. Latest information is that the TU advice has since been withdrawn following this challenge.

Further useful information:

CIPD - https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/fundamentals/emp-law/employees/furlough
ACAS - https://www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus/furlough-scheme-pay
Govt - https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-which-employees-you-can-put-on-furlough-to-use-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme#history

If you have any HR issues and would like to talk them through with our expert team, please don't hesitate to contact us.


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