PA-Life-Christmas-Party-2022
The Meetings Show
emirates-old-trafford-advert
Emirates Old Trafford
emirates-old-trafford-advert
Smart Group - Electric Xmas

Your employee rights during the pandemic

The team at Manak Solicitors provide a guide to your rights…

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed working life for a lot of people. Whether you’re still going to work but with new precautions in place, on furlough, or working from home full-time, things are very different to the norm. It’s a difficult time, but there are laws, guidelines and financial support in place to help you. Here’s what you need to know about your employee rights during COVID-19.

Going into work
Not everyone is able to work from home. It’s understandable that you might be nervous or scared of going to work, and travelling to work, during the pandemic. Employers must take action to ensure their employees are as safe as possible while working.

COVID-secure workplaces
Priority actions for your workplace will depend on which category it falls into. Some workplaces will be part of more than one category – for example, if there’s an office and also a warehouse. The categories are:

  1. Close contact services, such as hairdressers and barbers
  2. Construction and other outdoor work
  3. Factories, plants and warehouses
  4. Heritage locations
  5. Hotels and other guest accommodation
  6. Labs and research facilities
  7. Offices and contact centres
  8. Other people’s homes
  9. Performing arts
  10. Providers of grassroots sport and sport facilities
  11. Restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services
  12. Shops and branches
  13. Vehicles
  14. The visitor economy

Although there are differences in the approaches taken for each type of workplace, there are some steps that appear throughout the government’s guides.

  • Surfaces must be cleaned more often.
  • You must use hand sanitiser and wash your hands frequently.
  • You must wear a face covering, except in the case of exemption.
  • Everyone must comply with social distancing.
  • You may be asked to take part in NHS Test and Trace.
  • You should be turned away from your place of work if you arrive demonstrating symptoms of COVID-19.

During a national lockdown, you can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home.

Being put on furlough
In 2020, the government introduced the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, whereby employees could be put on temporary leave (‘furlough’). It has been extended until 30th September 2021.

Furloughed employees can be on any type of employment contract: full-time, part-time, agency, flexible, or zero-hour.

Once you’ve been put on furlough, your employer applies for a grant to cover 80% of your usual salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. They must have confirmed to you in writing that you have been furloughed, or reached an agreement with a trade union.

When they can apply depends on how long you have been working for them.

  • If you were employed on or before October 30 2020: Your employer can claim for periods ending on or before April 30 2021, if they submitted PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) to HMRC between March 20 2020 and October 30 2020.
  • If you were employed on March 2 2021: Your employer can claim for periods on or after May 1 2021, if they submitted PAYE RTI to HMRC between March 20 2020 and March 2 2021.

Equality and discrimination laws must be abided by when employers make decisions about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Your employer is responsible for paying you the amount you are entitled to. You cannot undertake any work for them during the time you are on furlough.

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme
Self-employed individuals cannot be put on furlough. However, you may be able to claim a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

There have been three previous grants. The fourth one was announced at this year’s Budget. This grant will be 80% of three months’ average trading profits. You receive it in one payment, which is capped at £7,500.

To receive the SEISS grant, you must:

  • Be a self-employed individual or a member of a partnership
  • Have traded in the tax years 2019 to 2020 and 2020 to 2021
  • Be trading but impacted by reduced demand because of coronavirus, or have temporarily stopped trading because of coronavirus
  • Declare that you intend to continue trading
  • Declare that your profits will be significantly reduced because of coronavirus

You will be able to claim from late April 2021 to May 31 2021 if you are eligible. HMRC will contact you with the date you can make your claim from.

What happens if you are employed but cannot work?

There are a number of instances where employees may not be able to work. The business you work for may be temporarily closed because of coronavirus, you may have caring responsibilities such as homeschooling children, or you may have to shield or self-isolate.

This can have a significant impact on your finances, which in turn can cause stress. However, there are a number of schemes and payments which you may be eligible for during this time.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
Your employer may be able to put you on furlough. They will receive a grant which means you will get 80% of your usual pay.

You could be eligible for furlough if:

  • You have less or no work because of coronavirus
  • You have caring responsibilities because of coronavirus, and cannot work all or any of your usual hours as a result
  • You cannot work because you are shielding and it is not possible for you to work from home

New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA)
You may be eligible for New Style Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), a contribution-based benefit paid every fortnight. You must be under State Pension age, work less than 16 hours a week and have made enough National Insurance contributions over the last two to three years.

Your savings or income do not affect how much you can get.

You could get New Style JSA if:

  • You have less or no work because of coronavirus

New Style Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)
New Style ESA is available to those who have a disability or health condition which affects how much they can work.

You could receive New Style ESA if:

  • You cannot work because you are shielding, or your child is shielding and you have to look after them
  • You cannot work because you have coronavirus or are self-isolating, you cannot get SSP, you are under State Pension age and have made enough National Insurance contributions over the last two to three years

Universal Credit
You may be eligible for Universal Credit, a monthly payment to help with living costs. You or your partner must be under State Pension age and have less than £16,000 in savings.

You could receive Universal Credit if:

  • You have less or no work because of coronavirus
  • You have caring responsibilities because of coronavirus, and cannot work all or any of your usual hours as a result
  • You cannot work because you are shielding
  • You cannot work because you have coronavirus or are self-isolating

Pension Credit
You may be eligible for Pension Credit, which is a top-up of your weekly income and an extra payment for people who have saved money towards their retirement. You and your partner must have reached State Pension age, which is currently 66 years old for both men and women.

You could receive Pension Credit if:

  • You have less or no work because of coronavirus and have reached State Pension age
  • You have caring responsibilities because of coronavirus, and cannot work all or any of your usual hours as a result
  • You cannot work because you are shielding
  • You cannot work because you have coronavirus or are self-isolating

Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
SSP is money you receive if you are too ill to work. This is £95.85 per week, or more if your employer has a sick pay scheme (also known as an occupational scheme). Your employer can pay you SSP for up to 28 weeks.

You could receive SSP if:

  • You cannot work because you are shielding
  • You cannot work because you have coronavirus
  • You cannot work because you or someone in your household has coronavirus symptoms
  • You cannot work because you are self-isolating

You must follow your employer’s usual sickness reporting policy if you are self-isolating.

You do not need a self-isolation note from your doctor or NHS 111 unless you have to self-isolate for more than seven days. You can get the note for your employer from the NHS website.

One-off payments
There are one-off payment schemes available if you cannot work from home and have been told to self-isolate. These are different depending on which UK country you live in.

England

The Test and Trace Support Payment is £500. You must:

  • Have been told to self-isolate by NHS Test and Trace or the NHS COVID-19 app
  • Have a Test and Trace account ID
  • Be employed or self-employed
  • Not be able to work from home
  • Claim within 28 days of your first day of self-isolation

You can apply through your local council.

Northern Ireland

The Discretionary Support Self Isolation Grant is available to people if they or a member of their immediate family have COVID-19 or have been told to self-isolate. You must:

  • Have a crisis situation which places the safety of you or your immediate family at significant risk
  • Live in Northern Ireland, and the crisis situation must occur in Northern Ireland
  • Be over 18 years old, or at least 16 years old if you do not receive any parental support
  • Not receive annual income above the national living wage (£20,405 per year). This includes the income of your partner
  • Have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or told to self-isolate, or a member of your immediate family must have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or told to self-isolate

You can apply by contacting the Finance Support Service.

Scotland

The Self-Isolation Support Grant is £500. You must:

  • Be told to self-isolate by Test and Protect or the Incident Management Team
  • Be employed or self-employed
  • Be unable to work from home (and therefore lose income)
  • Be on low income or receiving one of the qualifying benefits

You can apply by contacting your local council. What is considered to be low income varies between councils.

Wales

You could get £500 through the Self Isolation Support Scheme. You must:

  • Have been formally told to self-isolate, or be caring for a child who must self-isolate
  • Be employed or self-employed
  • Be unable to work from home
  • Claim within 21 days of your first day of self-isolation

You can apply through your local authority.